Parliament Infrastructure

Infrastructure Victoria Bill 2015

04 August 2015

4 August

 Ms  RYAN (Euroa) — I am pleased to rise to contribute to the debate on the Infrastructure Victoria Bill 2015. Earlier speakers for the opposition have already made it clear that the coalition will not be opposing this bill, but we do believe the bill requires substantial improvements, so we will be moving a number of amendments to that end.

Clause 7 of the bill provides that:

The object of Infrastructure Victoria —

the new statutory authority to be created under this bill —

is to provide independent and expert advice —

That is somewhat contradictory to clause 12, which sets up a board that includes three departmental secretaries. As we have already heard from the member for Malvern and others from the opposition, who have already contributed to the debate on this bill, departmental secretaries are unlikely to provide an independent form of advice when they are beholden to the government of the day.

The bill also fails to provide a guarantee of private sector experience or participation, and it includes no time frame for the release of Infrastructure Victoria's first 30-year plan. Members of the opposition are suggesting that Infrastructure Victoria should be required to publish its 30-year plan by 31 December 2016, and that that report should be made available in Parliament.

If, as it claims, this government is committed to transparency, it would agree to those very sensible amendments moved by the coalition, but the reality is that those opposite build infrastructure on politics not on need. We have seen that already in the first eight months of this government.

Those opposite have already cut the infrastructure budget by 24 per cent, and let me tell you, that is being felt in regional Victoria. Setting up a new statutory authority is not going to make a whole lot of difference to that if those opposite are not investing in infrastructure. This government has already demonstrated that it does not give two hoots about expert advice. Members need only look as far as its proposal to set up a 70-year monopoly lease of the port of Melbourne. That flies in the face of advice from Infrastructure Australia. Shall we hear that advice again? Infrastructure Australia said:

… demand for container facilities at the port of Melbourne is projected to exceed capacity before 2031.

Yet here we are setting up a monopoly lease for 70 years. Why should Victorians believe that this government is suddenly going to change its ways?

I turn now to the announcement made by the government on Sunday: just 3 per cent of the revenue — just $200 million of the $7 billion that the government plans to raise from the sale of the port of Melbourne — is proposed to be invested back into regional Victoria. That is less than the value of one level crossing removal that those opposite plan to fund in Melbourne, yet they are out there crowing that regional Victoria should be grateful for their largesse. I am sure that in coming days we will see that $200 million reannounced many times. Those opposite will do their best to get maximum value out of an absolutely paltry sum. They will try to make that $200 million all things to all people. It will be $20 here and $20 there.

Country Victorians would like to know what they have done to be treated so abysmally by this government. What have they done to be treated so poorly? It has been interesting to listen to this debate. It has been disappointing to see the few country members of the Labor Party fail to stand up for their constituents. They have fallen straight in with the party line. I would have hoped that they would have stood up in their party room when this legislation was proposed. Perhaps it did not go to the party room, but I would have at least hoped that the member for Bendigo East would have stood up around the cabinet table to protest against this government's shoddy treatment of country Victoria and to argue for a greater share than just 3 per cent of the $7 billion that the government proposes to invest in regional Victoria. It is an absolute insult.

What about the member for Bendigo West? I was listening to her contribution earlier today. She says that allocating $200 million of $7 billion is visionary of this government. She has sold out her constituents. Country Labor Party members have sold their constituents for two pieces of silver, like Judas. The truth is that those opposite do not have a good track record when it comes to major projects. Look at them all going silent now. During their last term of office they wasted billions of dollars on major projects, many of which were delivered over budget and well past the due date. The Leader of The Nationals has already spoken in the house about the desalination plant. Water customers will be paying $1.8 million a day for the next 28 years. Myki was promised at a cost of $741 million in 2004. By 2008 the cost had blown out to $1.35 billion.

The north–south pipeline is another project that demonstrates just how little those opposite care about country Victoria. It was a $750 million project designed to take water from drought-stricken communities to Melbourne. Not only that; those opposite could not get the engineering right. They built a $750 million white elephant and connected it to storage that is at the lowest point on the Yarra River and that 9 years out of 10 is full. What kind of madness was that?

I move now to the Melbourne wholesale market relocation. If you will indulge me here, Acting Speaker, I will dwell on this for a moment because Labor's failure on this project is now being felt across my electorate. The market was announced in 2004 at a cost of $300 million, with a promised delivery date of 2010. Here we are in 2015 facing a cost somewhere in the vicinity of $600 million, and the market is still not ready. It was botched from day one by those opposite. Labor designed and signed contracts to build a trading floor almost half the size of that of the current market. It failed to properly consult on the design of the market, and it made sure that its inherently flawed design was signed and sealed by the time we came to government.

On Saturday one of my constituents, Chris Shaw, closed his fruit and vegetable store having supplied the Campaspe shire with fresh fruit and vegetables for 50 years. After 50 years he gave it up because the market designed by those opposite had forced him out of business. The country hours that were proposed meant that he could not possibly get down to the market, buy his fresh fruit and vegetables, turn around and get home in time to deliver on his contracts. That is an absolute shame for my electorate, and it is a shame for the seven people, including Chris and his wife, who are now out of work as a result.

In conclusion, infrastructure is desperately needed in regional Victoria. However, the record of those opposite on major projects is not one they should be proud of. The bill as it stands is not going to improve independence or transparency, and we on this side of the house have very real concerns about that. I support the amendments that have been moved by the member for Malvern, and I would urge those opposite to do the same.


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