Annual Ministerial Infrastructure Statement



01 December 2015

Parliament House, Canberra

I am very pleased to deliver the Government's second Annual Infrastructure Statement on behalf of the Prime Minister.

In my role as Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, I am particularly proud of the significant progress that has been made over the past twelve months delivering the critical infrastructure needed in every state and territory.

Today's statement continues to fulfil the Coalition's commitment at the last election to make an annual Infrastructure Statement to Parliament.

The purpose of the statement is to ensure that the People's House is kept informed and the Government is held to account for progress on major infrastructure projects.

Mr Speaker, throughout modern Australian history, Government has played an important role in the development of Australian infrastructure.

The Coalition Government is determined to match the energy and vision of our forebears and, where possible, exceed it.

We are building the infrastructure that will make our economy more productive. Infrastructure which will support innovation in business and help Australians on the move arrive at their destinations quicker, easier and safely.

As the Prime Minister has reiterated, the Government is more than ready to finance infrastructure, road and rail—and will not discriminate between one mode of transport over another.

We are determined to build on our partnerships with state and local governments, and the private sector, to deliver the critical infrastructure the nation needs, and we will do so while bearing in mind the need to put the Budget on a sustainable footing.

We see a very strong case for considerably more investment overall in infrastructure—but not just more investment, we need to look at more innovative investment arrangements than have existed in the past.

There is no magic pudding of funds.

If we are to have the infrastructure we need to meet present and future demand, then we need to encourage the private sector also to increase investment in infrastructure.

This is not the Commonwealth's burden to bear alone—the states and territories also need to ensure they are developing the right projects and thinking of new ways to fund and finance them within a national approach.

We are looking dispassionately at funding and financing options across all infrastructure, by exploring concessional loans, equity and value capture, where appropriate, while also pursuing a more equitable user charging system.

These processes will support the construction of the infrastructure that improves productivity and grows the Australian economy. Regardless of the financing arrangement a poorly chosen project is fiscally imprudent and can reduce productivity.

Helping this cause is Infrastructure Australia's rolling 15-year investment plan initiated by this government. For the first time, it is now a truly independent expert body.

Mr Speaker, I would now like to detail some the major projects underway in all states and territories.

In New South Wales, one of Australia's biggest projects, WestConnex has begun, with construction underway on two of the three stages.

Stage 2 of WestConnex, which will more than double capacity of the M5 East is beginning ahead of schedule because the Commonwealth is providing a concessional loan of up to $2 billion, on top of the $1.5 billion grant we have committed for all three stages of WestConnex.

This project will help ease congestion in our largest city and improve accessibility to jobs. The loan, finalised on 20 November this year, is evidence of our commitment to finding new funding and financing solutions to meet our growing infrastructure needs.

I am also pleased to report that, we are working cooperatively with the New South Wales Government and are on schedule and on budget to complete the upgrade of the Pacific Highway by the end of the decade.

I can advise the House that around 60 per cent, or 397 kilometres of the upgrade has been completed, and another 149 kilometres is under construction.

And following approval from the New South Wales Government in January, construction on NorthConnex in Sydney has also begun.

I can also report to the House that work is continuing apace on the preparations for the construction of the Western Sydney Airport with the government expecting to issue the Notice of Intent to Southern Cross Airports Corporation early in the New Year.

This is one of the most significant greenfield infrastructure projects in Australia for many decades. Combined with our Western Sydney Roads Package of almost $3 billion, the Airport will generate tens of thousands of jobs and spur economic growth in Western Sydney. These benefits will flow through to the whole national economy.

With New South Wales we have commissioned a major study to determine the passenger rail needs of Western Sydney, including the airport.

And we remain on track to see the Western Sydney Airport taking its first passengers in the mid-2020s.

Mr Speaker, I will now turn to Victoria.

The Government is committed to ensuring the state of Victoria can reach its full potential—and it's clear this simply cannot occur if Melbourne is trapped in an ever growing traffic snarl.

Following the disappointment of the Victorian Government's decision not to proceed with the massive East/West project, we are awaiting advice on what other projects might be possible in the state.

Projects such as the upgrade of the Western Highway, Tullamarine Freeway, the M80 and the duplication of parts of the Princes and Western Highways are positive steps that continue to progress according to plan.

We are also discussing other potential projects in Victoria and look forward to working with the Victorian Government over the coming months to develop a new infrastructure plan.

In my home state of Queensland, the Government has committed to a 10-year programme of works on the Bruce Highway, targeted at improving safety, flood mitigation and reducing congestion.

Eight major projects along the Bruce Highway have been completed. The Yeppen Floodplain project will be officially opened next week and work on the Townsville Ring Road is well ahead of schedule. Section A of the Cooroy to Curra four-laning is nearing completion and has commenced on Section C.

The Government is also funding a range of road safety infrastructure projects totalling around $1.3 billion through the Bruce Highway Safety Package, Overtaking lanes, and Pavement Widening works.

Work has also begun on the Gateway Upgrade North and early works on the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing in the coming months, so that major construction works for both projects can start next year.

The Government has also committed $508 million towards a package of works to upgrade the Warrego Highway between Toowoomba and Miles. Two major projects are underway, with a further two expected to commence in the coming months.

But our Queensland investment is not limited to road works. In October, the Prime Minister announced Commonwealth funding of $95 million for the Gold Coast Light Rail connection to the state's wider rail network.

This commitment will enable the second stage to be completed in time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Its legacy will last well beyond the Games, smoothing passenger movement between Brisbane and Gold Coast for decades to come.

Moving further north and into the NT, I am pleased to report that work on the next stage of the duplication of Tiger Brennan Drive in Darwin is progressing well. This work will ensure better traffic flow and safety in the Northern Territory's largest city.

Upgrades to regional remote roads are also underway, including Port Keats Road, Santa Teresa Road and the Buntine Highway, with the Commonwealth providing $90 million towards the $106 million Regional Roads Productivity Programme.

The Northern Territory has also enthusiastically embraced the Australian Government's commitment to seal the Outback Way, Australia's longest short cut, matching $20 million of Commonwealth funding.

Turning to South Australia, the Commonwealth has committed $1.7 billion to the first priority sections of the North-South Road Corridor upgrade.

This includes the Government's recent announcement of $788 million in funding to start work on the Northern Connector next year.

Torrens to Torrens is already underway, and Darlington is about to start in the coming months—and I note that, together, these projects will support about 1,330 jobs during construction.

And over in the West, I'm pleased to advise the House that the Gateway WA project, to which the Government contributed $676 million, is on track for completion, nearly one year ahead of schedule and under budget.

Planning for other major projects in Western Australia including the $1.1 billion NorthLink WA project are well underway, with construction to commence early next year. The Australian Government has committed $894 million to NorthLink WA.

Work is also underway on major upgrades in WA's north network following the Australian Government's $308 million contribution to the Great Northern Highway between Muchea and Wubin and $173 million to the North West Coastal Highway.

And in Tasmania, the Australian Government is making the Midland Highway upgrade a reality, with our $400 million commitment seeing six construction projects already completed and two more are underway.

We are also funding half of the cost of $119.6 million upgrade of the Tasmanian rail network.

The planning and design phase for the extension of the runway at Hobart Airport is nearing completion and we have also pledged $60 million for a number of new irrigation schemes to increase economic activity in Tasmania.

Mr Speaker, for many Australians, the infrastructure that matters most are the local roads that they use every day.

It is vital that these roads are as safe and well maintained as possible.

The Government has committed an additional $200 million over two years to the Black Spot Programme to improve road safety across the nation.

I can advise the House a total of 595 road safety projects have been approved for funding in 2015–16 alone.

In addition, the Government will invest $3.2 billion in the Roads to Recovery Programme, including tripling funding to local councils over the next two years for construction and maintenance where it is needed most.

The Government has also committed $300 million to the new Bridges Renewal Programme and an additional $200 million to the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity program.

Mr Speaker, naturally, as Leader of The Nationals, I would like to emphasise that Australia's regions are huge reserves of untapped potential.

The longest and largest mining boom in Australian history has transformed the northern economy and, indeed, the national economy.

However, as the construction boom tapers off many regional centres have recognised the need to attract new industries and new investment to harness the great opportunities that lie ahead.

Energy self-sufficiency and the potential for major export agricultural contracts, the development of gas reserves, renewables, uranium, oil and coal, are all real probabilities that capitalise on our natural advantages.

Water security is also critical to the future of our regions and to farming, accordingly, the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper included the Government's announcement of a $500 million National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.

I thank Minister Joyce for his tireless work on this important initiative.

Mr Speaker, let me now turn to Northern Australia—the vast part of our landmass above the Tropic of Capricorn.

The Government has a very ambitious agenda given expression in the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia.

We are offering $5 billion in concessional loans through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, we are investing $600 million on key northern roads and a further $100 million for roads critical to the northern Australian cattle industry. We are also upgrading important local airstrips to ensure access to remote communities.

Right across Australia, our $1 billion National Stronger Regions Fund is delivering vital money for local infrastructure, with over $200 million in grants announced in May this year.

Successful Round Two projects will be announced next week.

Projects already funded include the upgrade of Bendigo Airport, flood mitigation in Seymour and a new cattle sale facility at the Dubbo Regional Livestock Markets.

Unemployment in our regions is still higher than we would like, and sensible infrastructure investment such as I have described can help boost local economies keep people employed and improve sustainability and quality of life in communities adjusting to external change, including serious drought and floods.

Mr Speaker, I will now comment on the Government's cities agenda.

Apart from city states like Monaco and Singapore, Australia is the most urbanised nation in the world.

Some 80 per cent of the dollar value of the goods and services in Australia is produced on just 0.2 per cent of our landmass—and nearly all this share is produced in our cities.

We are working with the states and territories to make our cities more liveable, accessible and productive and in September the Prime Minister created a new Minister for Cities and the Built Environment to deliver a cities agenda.

Our cities agenda will be focus on the delivery of three key pillars: better integrated urban planning, creating greater productivity in our urban centres, and promoting and supporting environmental sustainability.

I look forward to working with Minister Briggs on this exciting new agenda and would also acknowledge the effort he has put in over the past few years in delivering infrastructure investment to our cities and communities as former assistant minister in my portfolio.

The government can play a key role working with state and local government to support nationally significant projects that make the most of the economic opportunities in our cities.

For instance, Commonwealth funding will see the completion of the Moreton Bay Rail Link in 2016, realizing a century-old dream.

Our $4.2 billion Asset Recycling Initiative is also helping to revitalise Sydney's rail system and support the first stage of the Capital metro in Canberra.

Next year will see completion of the Northern Sydney Freight Corridor, boosting the efficiency of both freight and passenger services running north from Sydney.

I would like to note, Mr Speaker, that rail is no longer only being viewed as just a long distance and bulk carrier. Indeed, freight rail will need to play an increasingly important role in the movement of goods across the short distances between ports and land freight terminals.

Effective rail connections to our national ports are vital for economic growth, and the Government is committed to enhancing these connections.

The Government's Moorebank Intermodal Company (MIC) has signed an agreement with the Sydney Intermodal Terminal Alliance (SIMTA) for the development of the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal.

The agreement will see SIMTA develop and operate an intermodal freight terminal and warehousing across both Commonwealth and SIMTA-owned land at Moorebank, with direct rail access to Port Botany via the Southern Sydney Freight Line. Combining the site into a single development optimises the outcomes and minimises taxpayer exposure.

The Australian Government also remains completely committed to delivering the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail, which carries clear benefits for rail freight movement across the continent.

The new freight line will reduce transit time between Melbourne and Brisbane by more than 10 hours—cutting the journey to less than a day.

It will remove 200,000 trucks, or 5.4 billion net tonne kilometres of freight, from roads each year and add $22.5 billion to the Australian economy.

We have received a detailed business case for Inland Rail developed by the Inland Rail Implementation Group, chaired by the Hon John Anderson AO.

This has been provided to Infrastructure Australia, and we look forward to seeing the outcomes of their assessment soon.

In today's world, high quality communications infrastructure is absolutely essential, and the National Broadband Network is the biggest and most complex infrastructure project ever undertaken in Australia.

Our goal is to provide Australians with access to fast broadband as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

By September 2018 the NBN build will be underway or complete for almost 9.5 million homes and businesses across the country.

The NBN is essential infrastructure for a prosperous and innovative economy.

It will help Australia become more competitive, more productive and more innovative.

In October 2015, NBN Co launched the first of two “Sky Muster” satellites, which will deliver better NBN services to the most remote parts of Australia.

The Prime Minister should be commended on his commitment to this game-changing project and Minister Fifield has continued this legacy.

While the Government has moved swiftly to get major projects moving on the ground, we are also focussed on reforming the decision-making process, to ensure investment decisions are based on sound expert advice, and offer the greatest social and economic dividends.

Following on from the reforms made by the Government to Infrastructure Australia last year to improve its ability to provide independent and evidence-based advice, IA has delivered The Northern Australia Audit and the Australian Infrastructure Audit, Australia's first top-down assessments of nationally significant infrastructure.

Following extensive consultations with the states, industry and the community, Infrastructure Australia is finalising its first 15-Year Plan.

It will help identify the top priorities for investment and reform.

I expect Infrastructure Australia will release the Plan in the coming months, and the Government will lead a mature debate on how we achieve its objectives.

Mr Speaker, I conclude by noting that this Government has embarked on the biggest infrastructure investment in Australia's history. It eclipses all that has come before us.

We are fixing the worst bottlenecks in our cities and upgrading the key routes in our regions. I can assure the House that we will not rest until we are certain that every city and every region is well equipped to harness the immense opportunities before us as a nation.

Mr Speaker, the next financial year will see the single biggest Commonwealth infrastructure investment to date with over $9.7 billion in Commonwealth funding flowing across the nation.

In closing, I want to emphasise that Australia is open for business and the Government remains focused on delivering the infrastructure Australians expect and need to embrace the opportunities before us.

Thank you.