Private Members' Business - Infrastructure Growth Package

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (12:05): It is a pleasure to speak in this debate on the motion moved by the member for Hindmarsh. I will indicate to the chamber that it is my intention to support the amendment moved by the member for Grayndler. I was listening with great interest to the member for Robertson's contribution. So let me tell her about another big commuter corridor—that is, the Illawarra—and what has happened to us under this government in terms of infrastructure investment. I can assure you that it is not such a happy story.

In particular, I want to support the member for Grayndler's amendment, because in (2)(e) he talks about the failure to fund any new rail freight projects. This particularly impacts on my electorate. Obviously, infrastructure is a particularly important part of economic growth and development, particularly economic diversification in regions like mine that are undergoing some significant shift. Obviously, we continue to do reasonably well out of the mining sector that operates in my area, but the manufacturing sector has been undergoing significant change. I am sure that members would remember only a few years the major restructure of BlueScope Steel and the flow-on effects that had on our economy.

There are two aspects to the opportunity to economically diversify both industries and regions. They are infrastructure, not only the traditional forms of infrastructure such as road, rail, port but also the infrastructure of the future, the National Broadband Network. Sadly, both those have taken a hit since this government came to power.

Another thing that drives growth and opportunity for regions is investment in people, in skills, training and education development—if you like, the brain and the brawn—that contribute to growth and jobs of the future. Under this particular matter now before the chamber, I am obviously going to concentrate on the infrastructure side of the story in my own area. However, I would like to acknowledge that the partner to that story, if you really want to maximise the opportunity to be part of the industries of the future and to have the people in your local area have access to those jobs, is investment in people.

RDA Australia, the Illawarra branch, have been working very effectively for a number of years on a program of development for the region, under the very effective leadership of chairperson Eddy De Gabriele and chief executive officer Natalie Burroughs and her team. They have indeed worked with our community. Annually, they have a leadership conference on what needs to be done for the future. The investment in infrastructure is one of the priority areas for the RDA, representing the views of my whole area. There have been a number of action plans in place. But, in particular, I want to inform the House that they have reflected the ongoing commitment of my region to a rail link project, the Maldon Dombarton Rail Line. It is a freight-specific link that goes from Port Kembla and links us into the state-wide and nationwide rail infrastructure and, in particular, the growing Western Sydney corridor.

It is a project that, prior to us winning the election in 2007, we committed $300,000 for a pre-feasibility study, which was completed, then a further $3 million for a full feasibility study, which was also completed. As a result of that feasibility study we then committed $25.5 million to do all the preparatory work for the project. That was provided to the New South Wales government. They have commenced that work and it is due to finish, as I understand it, at the end of this month, if not early next month.

As a result of that work coming towards completion Labor and the then minister, the member for Grayndler, placed $50 million on the table to engage as a federal government with the private sector to see what the opportunities were to actually build the line. In MYEFO this government got rid of that $50 million. A major freight rail link that will significantly improve the commuter link on the rail by taking freight traffic off the commuter line and will significantly improve the impacts on our road has just been dropped and walked away from, despite the importance of the port of Kembla as one of the three major ports on the New South Wales coast. So it was a very short-sighted outcome.

Added to that we of course had the abandonment of the rollout of the National Broadband Network to the home across our region, which would have transformed the way the businesses in our region were connected to the wider world as well. It was very short-sighted and not an economic growth strategy at all. The minister and this government should look at reinstating those projects. (Time expired)