Liberals fail to invest in infrastructure in the Illawarra

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (18:27): Like shadow minister Mr Albanese, I agree that the member for Forrest's sentiment in the original motion before the House is correct. I also agree that investment in infrastructure is critically important to regional development, economic diversification and jobs. However, I was very pleased to second the amendment moved by the member for Grayndler because I think this government, to be quite honest, has a lot to answer for when it comes to infrastructure in regional areas. It wouldn't surprise people to hear me say that, because they've been absolutely appalling in my area—in fact, absolutely absent from all of the issues and challenges we have around infrastructure.

Mr Andrew Pearson, who's a journalist with the Illawarra Mercury, explored the most recent budget. He reported that, when he searched for Wollongong or the Illawarra, he got the simple message: 'no results found to match your search'. This has been the story of this government since the very first budget after they were elected. In the last budget of the Labor government there was $42 million for the Mount Ousley Road upgrades and $50 million to progress the Maldon-Dombarton rail link. In the first budget of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott this government took away that $50 million for progressing that important rail link. That rail links connects south-west and Western Sydney to the port at Kembla.

For the information of the chamber, it's not just me as the Labor member who has acknowledged the significant importance of this rail link; councils, state members and federal members across all political parties who are involved in the seats in that broader region have acknowledged the significant importance of this rail link. We need to get it progressed. In fact, a state government report, which my colleague the member for Wollongong in the state parliament was able to get hold of, tells us that in the very near future if we don't take action there will be at most eight pathways available for freight on the current Illawarra line and potentially none on the eastern seaboard to the port of Kembla.

By contrast—and what frustrates me about this particular debate—these issues are well known, have been well canvassed and have been well reported on, so I'm absolutely at a loss to understand why this government, over all the time it has been in charge since 2013, has not invested anything in the transport infrastructure in Wollongong and the Illawarra more broadly. If it's just because the people had the temerity to elect me as a Labor member, I think that's an absolute indictment on a national government who should have the best interests of the whole nation at heart. By contrast, I just want to make it clear to the chamber that the former federal Labor government invested significantly in infrastructure in my area. There was the $42 million I mentioned for the Mount Ousley Road upgrade, $4 million for a new truck stop on the Mount Ousley Road and $4.67 million in improvements to the Picton Road. There was $28.8 million to progress the Maldon to Dombarton rail link and then a further $50 million added in our final budget. There was $15.7 million towards black spots and local roads. That was significant transport infrastructure. There has been nothing like that, nothing at all, since this government came to power.

Of course, infrastructure doesn't stop at transport infrastructure. There was also investment in communications infrastructure, in health infrastructure, in education infrastructure and in tourism infrastructure in my region, and particularly in my seat, when we were in government. For example, there was $6.6 million towards local parks, footpaths and cycleways; $863,000 towards upgrading the North Beach Bathers' Pavilion; $125,000 for CCTV on the Blue Mile project; and $100,000 for the Sumatran tiger exhibition at Symbio Wildlife Park. In health, there was $12.1 million for the Illawarra Cancer Care Centre at Wollongong Hospital, $5 million for a clinical teaching and training facility at Wollongong Hospital and $950,000 in upgrades to GP clinics. In addition to that, for community infrastructure, there was $457,000 to refurbish the Snakepit for the Illawarra Basketball Association and $3.9 million for repairs and maintenance of public housing. We invested, and it's time this government learnt where Wollongong is.

Watch Sharon’s speech here.