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Bill - Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill, 2014, second reading

I am pleased to speak on the Infrastructure Australia Amendment (Cost Benefit Analysis and Other Measures) Bill, which is important to constituents Australia-wide who seek to progress the expansion of infrastructure to underpin the development of Australia in the 21st century. We all have visions—for our cities, for our communities and regions, and indeed for Northern Australia—for developing potential, and a critical factor underpinning the realisation of the vision is the development of good, solid, productive, sustainable infrastructure.

The 2014 Infrastructure Australia amendment bill will amend the 2008 act to clarify legislative and administrative arrangements for Infrastructure Australia—established under the Infrastructure Australia Act 2008 and which came into effect on 9 April 2008. The amendments will essentially clarify the role of Infrastructure Australia in assessing projects of over $100 million. It is seeking to include a qualification to include proposals that are seeking Commonwealth funding of $50 million dollars toward the total estimated capital expenditure, or in relation to other proposals as determined by the minister responsible for infrastructure. The amendment will ensure that Infrastructure Australia has the function of evaluating cost-benefit analyses as part of its broader evaluation function. In addition, the amendment will also include a definition for 'proposal', obviously providing clarity for all.

The government is committed to Building Better Infrastructure—the infrastructure for the 21st century. It is part of our economic action strategy to build a strong and prosperous economy that will boost jobs and liveability for our children's' children. The budget has laid out a $50 billion dollar infrastructure investment program, for development of essential infrastructure in rural, remote, regional and urban Australia—we need roads and bridges, rails and ports to underpin development and growth and to realise prosperity well into the future. Transport challenges had been looming for some time under the previous government.

Our government's policy agenda will: target investment in productive infrastructure; seek to complete jobs faster; partner with state governments; and leverage more private investor funding. We are already witnessing investment in better roads and I am pleased for my electorate of Durack to see the following infrastructure commitments: North West Coastal Highway, Minilya to Barradale section—$174 million for upgrades; Great Northern Highway, Waddington to Walebing section—$74.7 million for upgrades; and the Great Northern Highway upgrade at Port Hedland—works are completed on the $260 million section.

Notwithstanding current commitments to fund the economic artery of Australia—otherwise known as the Great Northern Highway, which links Perth, the ports and the Pilbara—the artery needs further attention.

Ms MacTiernan: Who made that decision? Who funded that?

Ms PRICE: We are continuing in that vein. It is the lifeline to the north—to iron ore, oil and gas, tourism and proposed new agricultural expansion. It is a lifeline to the national economy. Part of the Great Northern Highway, the road between Kununurra and Wyndham, in its current state represents both a productivity and a safety issue, thereby inhibiting development notably in pastoralism, tourism and mining and resources. We know there are many undeveloped mineral leases in the region. This poor road links with the Wyndham port, which also has latent potential, just like the Broome port—both of these are noted in Pivot north, the recently released report of the joint select committee inquiry into the development of Northern Australia. Only infrastructure planning and investment at a broad regional and national level can underpin the prospectivity of the ports as they relate to both regional and national economic potential.

Another example of much-needed infrastructure investment relates to the single lane bridges that still exist in north-west Australia, for example between Broome and Derby, again on the Great Northern Highway—not so great in parts, you are probably thinking. These seriously impact on development, including pastoral expansion and agriculture, again recommendations in the Pivot North report. Only last year I was personally impacted by the head-on collision on a single lane bridge of two cattle trucks en route to Derby from Broome. Not only does this poor infrastructure have an impact on development but also it is, of course, a significant safety issue for Durack communities.

The obligation of government is not just to fix up existing infrastructure; it is also to build the infrastructure needed to open up new areas of potential, especially in regional and remote Australia. By way of example, I refer to the proposed development of the Tanami Road, a priority recommendation for upgrade in Pivot North. This is one road that can open up areas by improving access. The west-east link section would link the Pilbara to the southern part of Tanami Road, creating a more direct route from Port Hedland to Alice Springs and giving access to mineral provinces, providing impetus to the sector. It would also support the Aboriginal communities along the road, who are often cut off from goods and services when the road is cut due to poor weather conditions.

The Tanami Road section from Halls Creek to Yuendumu would improve access to the Kimberley and benefit many industries, for example, by reducing costs to primary producers and the resources sector, creating better access to southern markets and opening a new avenue for tourism. It would create a direct freight corridor between the Kimberley and South Australia, shorten the journey by some 1,100 kilometres and 17 hours of travel between the south-east and the north-west, give greater access to the national rail network through Alice Springs, and enable more rapid resupply or reinforcement of the north-west for defence purposes, along a secure inland route.

We need to make sure that Infrastructure Australia is well placed to support the infrastructure agenda. The government has already set some priorities, including assessing project proposals that are deemed to receive government funding of $100 million or more, undertaking an audit of nationally significant infrastructure and developing a 15-year plan on infrastructure priorities. As a member of the Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications, we are currently undertaking an inquiry into government planning for infrastructure projects. I look forward to seeing the results of this inquiry, which I am confident will bring about positive changes with respect to how government plans to implement infrastructure in Australia.

Today I have highlighted the importance of infrastructure planning, evaluation, construction and some identified priorities. I reiterate my support for the bill, which shall clarify legislative and administrative arrangements for Infrastructure Australia. I commend the bill to the House.

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