Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014


Senator SESELJA: I thank Senator Bilyk and others for their contributions. I was taken by the latter part of Senator Bilyk's contribution, when she said that we were trying to take away the 'positive legacy'—I think those were her words—of the former Labor government in infrastructure. I think we are seeing that legacy being played out in today's front-page stories about the NBN and the way Labor handled that infrastructure project. Infrastructure development under the former government was a joke. It was done on the back of a beer coaster on VIP flights, it was done without cost- benefit analysis and it cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars extra—because this former Labor government simply did not do the work.

 

We take a very different approach to infrastructure and the bill we are debating today is part of that. The Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014 is part of our plan to fix the mess we have inherited and to deliver on the things we said we would deliver on. We said we would stop the boats, we said we would get rid of unnecessary and toxic taxes like the carbon tax, we said we would get the budget under control and we said we would build the roads of the 21st century— and that is what this bill is about. It is about rolling that out. It is extraordinary that the Labor Party are doing all they can to frustrate a roads agenda, an agenda of building infrastructure for the 21st century. It is extraordinary that a party that designed the NBN on the back of a beer coaster, costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars extra, now seeks to frustrate a government seeking to deliver infrastructure properly. That is what this is about.

Infrastructure is key to Australia's competitiveness. Our future depends on it. Better infrastructure underpins vital services, such as transport and logistics. Inefficient infrastructure networks are one of the key reasons Australia's productivity has declined. Inefficient infrastructure networks are also a key driver of the cost-of-living pressures affecting Australians. The government is committed to building the infrastructure of the 21st century and the changes in the Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill will help us to achieve this goal. Our ability to deliver more appropriate, efficient and effective infrastructure will significantly influence Australia's future growth and maximise our competitiveness.

The government is working with state and territory governments to deliver nationally significant infrastructure projects to maximise our productivity and improve living standards for all Australians. We are also working, where possible, in partnership with the private sector to maximise private capital investment in infrastructure projects. This collaboration between the Australian government, the states and territories and the private sector will enable the efficient and successful delivery of the infrastructure that Australia expects, that industry needs and that our communities deserve.

This bill, which amends the Nation Building Program (National Land Transport) Act 2009, is necessary to facilitate our ambitious land transport infrastructure agenda. We are committed to delivering the infrastructure of the 21st century. This bill continues the vitally important $2.1 billion Roads to Recovery program, which funds and supports local governments to carry out upgrades and maintenance on local roads.

We are committed to the Roads to Recovery program, which was established under the Howard government. It is through our commitment that we have allocated $2.1 billion over the next five years of the program, including a doubling of funding next financial year to every local government in Australia. The purpose of the additional funding to the program is to assist in addressing the backlog of local road maintenance across the country. Chief Executive of the New South Wales Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association, Andrew Higginson, was quoted by the ABC as stating that the delay in providing certainty about this funding could have significant flow-on effects for businesses. He said: It makes it impossible for people to actually go out and build the roads we want, even when the money is allocated.

You might have a local industry who could benefit greatly from an improved road and if that fund is not flowing through the local council, it could put that industry, or that particular producer, out of business. A month delay, two month delay—the compounding effects of that can be disastrous for any industry.

The amendments proposed by Labor and the Greens, which the government deems unacceptable, include wanting to enshrine the name of the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program in the act. These projects are already funded under the act and budgeted for, and including a new separate part is nothing more than unnecessary duplication. Labor and the Greens also want to further complicate things by inappropriately creating an additional role for Infrastructure Australia in this bill. This act has nothing to do with the administrative arrangements of Infrastructure Australia, and so this amendment makes no sense whatsoever.

The coalition government is committed to reducing red tape, as has been evidenced by our red tape repeal days, as well as our commitment to cut $1 billion in red tape every year. This bill works to assist our deregulation agenda by repealing three spent land transport infrastructure acts. The government understands just how important road safety is for all Australians and how important this funding is to local road improvement programs and to our economy. Both the Labor Party and the Greens refused to support this bill in the other place, but they were unable to point to a single aspect of the bill that was unacceptable. This is nothing more than deliberate obstructionism.

The primary intent of the Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014 is to continue vital funding to programs such as the Roads to Recovery program— something that the former minister for infrastructure, Mr Albanese, failed to provide for when he was the minister. The expiration date was left by Labor at 30 June 2014, leaving local councils with no certainty whatsoever. The Labor Party and the Greens need to stop playing political games and support the passage of this very simple legislation. If Labor and the Greens were serious about delivering for councils and reducing the amount of red tape interference, they would simply pass this bill unamended.

As the chair of the ACT Consultative Panel for the Black Spot Programme, I am very keen to see this bill pass as it also continues funding to this vitally important program. The Black Spot Program provides funding to address road sites that are high-risk areas for serious crashes. It is a key part of the commitment to reduce crashes on Australian roads, save lives and reduce road trauma by funding measures such as traffic signals, roundabouts and increased signage at dangerous locations to reduce the risk of crashes. These programs are incredibly effective, saving the community many times the cost of the relatively minor road improvements that are implemented. An evaluation by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics recently estimated that the program reduces casualty crashes at treated sites by 30 per cent.

I was pleased last month to be able to announce that the ACT would receive $1.1 million to upgrade and fix a number of dangerous black spots in our community. Here in the ACT additional funding of $452,000 has been made to install traffic signals at Jerrabomberra Avenue, Captain Cook Crescent and Sturt Avenue in order to fix a dangerous intersection, address a proven history of crashes and prevent the loss of life. Here in the ACT we are taking pre-emptive action through the Black Spot Program to upgrade signage at the intersection of Coulter Drive and John Cleland Crescent in Florey. We are installing animal fencing, additional reflectors and an upgrade to signage on the Tuggeranong Parkway, from Lady Denman Drive to Cotter Road Ramp East. And we are installing a high- angle approach for left-hand turns out of Well Station Road, as well as the upgrade of existing traffic signals at the intersection of Gungahlin Drive and Well Station Road in Mitchell. All of these measures are being put in place through the Black Spot Program to reduce crashes, to prevent road trauma, to save lives and to improve road safety.

I was pleased to see that the 2014 budget allocated an additional $1.6 million to the ACT for the Black Spot Program. I will continue to engage widely with the ACT community to investigate potential locations that could be fixed under the Black Spot Program in order to maximise its effectiveness and potential here in my community. Nationally, the government's commitment also provides an additional $200 million over two years for this program. This totals a record $500 million to the Black Spot Program allocated by the coalition in the 2014 budget.

Importantly—and this has been touched on by Senator Bilyk—this bill also renames the Nation Building Program (National Land Transport) Act 2009 to the National Land Transport Act 2014, removing the link between the name of the act and the name of the land transport infrastructure funding program. We should not be politicising the name of the Infrastructure Investment Programme from within the act. This change keeps the name of the act above politics. It also means that we will not need to amend the act should the name of the land transport infrastructure funding program change.

The bill also aims to streamline and enhance the operation of the act, which will directly benefit the states and territories and the Commonwealth. A new requirement is being implemented that the states and territories will notify the minister as soon as possible after the sale or disposal of land that was acquired using Australian government funding. By doing so, we will ensure a timely response to land sales and disposals from both the states and the territories and the Australian government. This will mean that the proceeds of the sale or disposal can then be allocated to new infrastructure projects.

This bill also introduces a new type of project that can receive funding. Under the bill, projects that involve research, investigations, studies or analysis of investment or black spot projects, previously funded Off-Network Projects and works funded under the Roads to Recovery program will be eligible for funding. Additionally, to help inform advice to government, this funding will also be able to be used for analysis of projects submitted for consideration for funding as investment or black spot projects.

Lastly, the bill adds two types of eligible funding recipients to the act. Partnerships have been added as eligible for funding, the purpose of which is to simplify funding arrangements for firms without a body corporate structure. Non-corporate Commonwealth entities whose functions include research relating to land transport research operations will also now be able to receive funding under these changes.

The bill ensures that local governments get their $2.1 billion in Roads to Recovery funding, providing certainty into the future. It ensures that we remain consistent with our red-tape reduction agenda and it also works to support a number of other measures, such as the Black Spot Program.

Labor and the Greens need to do the right thing by their electorates and their communities and pass this bill. As a government we will continue to stand up for local communities, we will continue to build the infrastructure of the 21st century and we will continue to fix Labor's debt and deficit disaster. I strongly support the passage of this bill.