Infrastructure Victoria Bill 2015

Written on the 16 September 2015

 

20 August 2015

 

COUNCIL 

Second reading  GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)

 

I would like to make a few comments in relation to the Infrastructure Victoria Bill 2015 and note that the purpose of this bill is to establish Infrastructure Victoria, a statutory authority that will provide independent and expert advice to the government about Victoria's infrastructure needs and priorities and accordingly establish a new strategic infrastructure planning process. That encompasses a number of things that have been outlined by my colleague Mr Rich-Phillips, who articulated very clearly some of the differences between this government and the previous government in relation to infrastructure planning and what was on the agenda of the coalition government.

As has been said, there are many infrastructure projects that an expanding and ageing state requires. The second-reading speech on this bill states:

In the past 15 years, Melbourne's population has grown by a third, adding more than a million people. The city's population is now 4.5 million, and on current growth rates will reach 5 million by 2020 and 8 million by 2050.

I am certainly not disputing those figures. I think they are accurate in relation to where the state is and what is happening in Victoria, but it just goes to show what is required. As we have those projections, surely we need significant infrastructure to cater for that growing population. In a minute I will come back to the eastwest link. The bill takes into account all the capital infrastructure put in place under the previous coalition government, and I note that the former Minister for Health, Mr Davis, understood very clearly that an ageing and increasing population needs more hospital capacity. The amount of health capital provided under the previous government for those infrastructure requirements in both metropolitan and regional areas should be commended.

Of course we need schools for our growing population as well, and we need transport infrastructure to increase our road and rail capacity. There were significant rail infrastructure improvements undertaken by the coalition government, but as we know, our state does not operate on one mode of transport alone. It requires road, rail and other forms of transport to get both people and produce around the state. And so it was that the coalition had a very clear undertaking to establish projects to serve the needs of this growing state, and the eastwest link was certainly one of those projects. I find it somewhat curious that the Labor government had agreed to the eastwest link project prior to the coalition coming into government and then for purely ideological reasons ripped up that contract and ripped up a road.

Mr Jennings interjected.

Ms CROZIER It ripped up the contract that would build the road. I thank Mr Jennings for looking curious; I agree. It was not quite the phrase I was looking for. They ripped up the contract that would build that significant road that would assist in moving both people and produce from all parts of our state.

As I said, we cannot not just rely on rail and road infrastructure there are airports and ports as well. The port of Melbourne, which lies in my electorate of Southern Metropolitan Region, is a critical piece of infrastructure and is certainly significant. It is alarming to know that New South Wales is taking over because it has increased its port capacity and port movements. I think that indicates the lack of confidence in what is happening here.

The coalition government had a plan to have a second port. The port of Hastings was a piece of infrastructure that was absolutely critical for this growing state. It bewilders me that the Labor Party went to the Victorian electorate saying it would build a second port at Bay West and now has scrapped it. It is another example of Labor saying one thing before the election and doing another after. Yet the second-reading speech states:

Victorians know too well that some infrastructure decisions have been rushed, haphazard, and without any ability for the community to scrutinise the often grandiose claims of the governments that make them.

What an outlandish statement from this government. It is a government that did not take the West Gate distributor to the Victorian electorate.

Mr Finn The shovel-ready West Gate distributor!

Ms CROZIER Well, is it? Mr Finn raises a very good point. The term 'shovel ready' is bandied about by this government. This government has been in place for nine months. We are nearly a quarter of the way through this term and I cannot wait until the end of the term to see the end of it and there has been a lot of rhetoric, a lot of media statements and lots of words going out into the community, but no action.

Mr Ramsay It is a lot of spin.

Ms CROZIER It is, Mr Ramsay. There is a lot of spin and there are lots of reviews it is a bit like being on a merry-go-round. There are lots of words but nothing is happening, and there is a lot of loss of confidence in the meantime. We have concerns about what this government is capable of doing. Of course we have the Metro rail tunnel, which virtually goes from Melbourne University to Melbourne Grammar School. It does not actually cater for a large part of this growing city; it caters for a very small part of our growing city. It was announced as a grand plan costing over $11 billion but with only $1.5 billion allocated. It again demonstrates a government that is very fluid with its words it does not mind putting things out there, but it cannot back them up. That is very important when we are talking about infrastructure.

We have already got Infrastructure Australia, which looks at national projects and the infrastructure needs across the country. I therefore question why we need two authorities. Nevertheless, if we are looking purely at Victoria's needs, I suppose that is acceptable, but we need to have a critical understanding of what those needs are, because we are dealing with Victorian taxpayers money. We know that this government has very little regard for Victorian taxpayers money. It is paying $640 million in compensation for a road not to be built, which is a clear demonstration of a disregard for hardworking taxpayers money.

I note that Mr Rich-Phillips has proposed amendments to this bill. They go to the heart of ensuring, if this authority is going to be set up, that it has some significant checks and balances in place. I do not want this new authority to be just about giving a few jobs for a few mates behind a few desks. We need significant projects, and at the moment there are no significant projects in the pipeline, so again I wonder why we are setting up this authority. As I said, Mr Rich-Phillips's proposed amendments are sensible. They are safeguarding large amounts of Victorian taxpayers money, which is absolutely critical because we know the history of Labor governments. They are very good at blowing taxpayers money. They do not understand the critical aspect of good fiscal management. The amendments that have been proposed by Mr Rich-Phillips look at the skill sets of the authority, at its policy strategy and at the funding, planning and delivery of major projects. They are very sensible amendments and require that the plan, which has a 30-year time frame, be updated every five years. They also require that we be given an understanding of what the plans of this authority will be.

Mr Rich-Phillips has gone through the bill and foreshadowed his amendments in great detail. I think it is sensible that the directors of the authority be required to have the experience and necessary skill sets and to be people with international experience, so that it is not just made up of union mates or ex-politicians. We will go a long way if we can have people with those abilities and capacity in place. The proposed amendments should therefore be included in this bill. I urge government members to support Mr Rich-Phillips's proposed amendments. They improve this bill by a long way.

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