Infrastructure needs of the South West

I commend the member for Brisbane for her articulation of the issues surrounding the NBN. Everybody in the House will understand how important the Infrastructure Australia Amendment (Cost Benefit Analysis and Other Measures) Bill is, given the issues that surrounded the NBN.

The bill will amend the Infrastructure Australia Act 2008 to clarify the legislative and administrative arrangements for Infrastructure Australia as soon as possible after commencement of the Infrastructure Australia Amendment Act 2014. The bill will amend the provisions in the act relating to the function to evaluate proposals for investment in or enhancements to nationally significant infrastructure to include the requirement that Infrastructure Australia undertakes evaluations of proposals that involve Commonwealth funding of at least $100 million. The NBN is a prime example as to why this is so important.

The bill will also move provisions currently under 5B of the act relating to cost-benefit analysis to a new section, 5AA. The bill also provides that a proposal must not be included in an Infrastructure Priority List unless a cost-benefit analysis of the proposal has been prepared in accordance with the approved method.

When I think of nationally significant infrastructure I think of my electorate of Forrest, which is a $15 billion GDP region. It has exponential growth and the need is there for infrastructure to drive further investment and opportunity.

The South West of Western Australia is a driver in the state’s economic and cultural development. It is also an environmental icon, being listed as one of the world’s international biodiversity hotspots.

The South West region is the tourism and holiday destination of choice for the majority of people from the Perth metropolitan area. We have a wide range of activities, including agriculture, mining, resources, tourism and construction. These activities, coupled with the significant population growth of the region—it is 2.1 per cent per annum, compared with the state’s average of 1.8 per cent and the nation’s average of 1.4 per cent—has put significant pressure on the transport infrastructure of the region. It is one of the fastest growing regional areas in Australia, with a current population of 163,000.

By 2026, this is expected to increase to at least 230,000. The area holds around 25 per cent of the state’s population, the greatest proportion outside the metropolitan area.

The South West is frequently underestimated for its economic diversity and stability. It is a key engine room of the state of Western Australia, providing much of the state’s energy, industry and manufacturing, which underpins the region’s $15 billion economy.

It is a mining region that produces $2 billion a year in minerals, a number that will soon grow, with additional exports planned. It is an agricultural region, with a turnover of over $600 million a year in food, mainly in milk, vegetables and beef production. It is also one of the world’s premium wine producing regions. So there is a real need for nationally significant infrastructure to manage this growth and future economic development.

Planning for and investment in transport infrastructure has not kept pace with growth or demand in the South West. There has been considerable state and federal investment in roads leading to the South West.

These important assets have improved travel between the South West and Perth, but the outcome is that even more traffic is entering the South West, putting even more pressure on local roads.

Time is of the essence here. The completion of the Perth to Bunbury highway was the first step in meeting the road needs of the area. There is now dual lane access from Bunbury north to Perth and beyond.

However, this has moved the bottleneck to Bunbury itself. The Bunbury Outer Ring Road has been partially completed, with both state and federal funding. But it is basically now like a T-junction without the ends connected. It needs each end to be completed to link it to the South Western Highway in the north and Bussell Highway in the south. This critical last third needs to be funded and built.

The model that the federal coalition government has put in place for infrastructure funding is a sound one and it is the largest in Australia’s history. I am looking forward to the Bunbury Outer Ring Road being prioritised on the Western Australian state government infrastructure agenda, given that federal funding is directly linked to state priorities in the new collaborative model of the Abbott government.

The construction of this road is a key need of the region. Once completed, it forms the hub from which a number of important highways radiate out into the South West, servicing the region.

I well understand why capital needs to be spent particularly carefully and why there is a need for a cost-benefit analysis. It is so that projects like this can be assessed in the proper way. I understand the capital needed for projects around Australia to link us to the world. The Business Council of Australia said that we have an infrastructure need of over $760 billion.

The coalition government is driving an innovative asset recycling program with incentives to the states and territories to privatise assets and infrastructure. The Minister for Trade and Investment, in his presentation on investment to this House today, advised that he has chaired two meetings of the Commonwealth and state and territory trade and investment ministers.

These meetings identified national investment priorities of tourism infrastructure, agribusiness and food, resources and energy, major infrastructure, and advanced manufacturing, services and technology. I note that the minister is appointing five investment specialists to work with Austrade to identify inward investment opportunities and to help make them happen across these five areas.

The government is working hand in hand with state and territory governments to attract investment, particularly for major infrastructure.

The Minister for Trade and Investment today said that this initiative of the government has sparked interest from international investors such as the $500 billion major pension funds of Canada and the five US investments funds with $l trillion under investment that he met during round table meetings with the fund managers. Investment is one of the four pillars of the coalition government’s recently outlined economic diplomacy program.

We need cost-benefit analysis for us to build sound projects so that we do not end up with the NBN, which was nothing better than a dog’s breakfast. It really reinforces the need for this cost-benefit analysis type of approach. I note that even in my part of the world our rail system, particularly in freight transport, has been under pressure.

The Collie-Brunswick Junction-Port triangle is the key hub of freight in the region and this has long been recognised as having capacity constraints. Highlighted in the submission by the WA state government to Infrastructure Australia to duplicate the line to that area to increase capacity, this additional expansion will be required on the Collie to Brunswick Junction line, especially with expansion of the Worsley Alumina refinery.

The Brunswick Junction to Picton part of the rail line is a principal bottleneck, and this has been one of the priorities for the region. We have got other railway lines such as the Greenbushes to Bunbury railway line as an alternate for freight over time.

There is one thing I really want to talk about regarding infrastructure and the need for sound planning and processes and why this government’s approach is so important. I look at infrastructure such as the regional airport that is needed in the South West based in Busselton.

This is the gateway to that wonderful part of the world—the Margaret River and South West regions. We need an airport that is large enough to take direct flights from interstate and overseas so that tourists can get to our region easily and in comfort. The whole region is behind this proposal, which is very important.

We know how much the region has to offer and we have a whole lot of small businesses operating throughout the South West engaged in a whole lot of different offerings for tourists and for visitors alike. People need to be able to get there efficiently and safely, and that is why the important process of being able to assess projects and invest in projects that have national significance is so important. I support this bill before the House.