| May 21, 2018

Motion on Australian Infrastructure

This motion by the member for Forrest needs to be acknowledged as one that gives everybody an opportunity to talk about the opportunities for their electorates to revel in this unprecedented amount of $75 billion over the next 10 years in relation to infrastructure funding. It's a record amount of spending: an average of about $8 billion per annum in the forward estimates, increasing as this next decade goes on; $33.9 billion between 2018-19 and 2021-22. This ever-increasing amount of funding that the federal government is putting aside for infrastructure—nation-building infrastructure; infrastructure that has the capacity to create further investment—needs to be acknowledged for what it is, and the member for Forrest has done very well to move this motion.

It's also worth acknowledging that this historically high spending on transport infrastructure is happening at exactly the same time that the government is bringing the budget back into surplus. No more are we living in an era where we are spending $100 million a day more than we are actually making. The time has come to reduce our overall spending, when you compare it to GDP, and that's what we've been able to do. We can now show all of Australia that while we are going to have this enormously high level of infrastructure spending, we're also going to be able to return the budget to surplus as early as 12 months away. That is something that everybody in Australia should be rightfully proud of.

As I said earlier, we need to be looking at ways that we can actually take advantage of this situation for our own electorates. We have a $10 billion rail project called the Inland Rail generating this opportunity for our freight to hit the ports of Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne, whichever is the preferred option, via rail. This is where my electorate comes into being, because the Port of Melbourne is a very high-profile and high-throughput port. The Goulburn Valley certainly feeds the Port of Melbourne, as we produce so much food—82,000 tonnes of horticulture; 105,000 tonnes of pears, which is 86 per cent of Australia's total pear production; 70 per cent of Australia's total peach production; and over a quarter of Australia's dairy output. The vast majority of that is heading out through the Port of Melbourne. Into the future, we'd like to see that transport put through on a standardised gauge line. It might be emanating from Narrandera/Tocumwal right down through that food bowl of southern New South Wales, coming through the Goulburn Valley and then onto Mangalore, where it will join up with the Inland Rail to a distribution centre to the north of Melbourne, then finding it's then through to the Port of Melbourne.

These types of nation-building infrastructure need to have a fund that can be called on. We certainly need to have a vision, a very clear understanding about what we need to do, about the Goulburn Valley and the Southern Riverina. If it's not going to be the direct route that the Inland Rail is going to go through, then we need to have a very clear vision as to how we can facilitate the transport of all this produce, not to mention the burgeoning cotton industry that also needs to find its way to port.

It's not just rail that we are looking at; the Goulburn Valley has long been in the line for a better road network as well. You'll probably find more trucks registered Shepparton than in any other city in Australia, on a per capita basis. Primarily, that's because it's on all the main routes. Whether you're going east-west from Bendigo across to Wangaratta or whether you're going north-south down the Newell Highway from Melbourne to Brisbane on the Great Inland Way, you'll go through Shepparton. Literally thousands of trucks are registered there, and they're going to need a decent bypass. I know the state will need to do all the pre-work logistics, but once that's done there will need to be serious investment that this government can provide and that other governments have been unable to provide in the past.

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