Infrastructure SA Bill

Mr DULUK (Waite) (11:36):

I also rise to make a contribution on the Infrastructure SA Bill 2018. It rolls on from a long list of new initiatives that this government is bringing in. We have now tipped over the first 100 days of government; nevertheless, our desire is to continue to reform, to bring sensible legislation to the house and to change the trajectory of government policy that has come in off the back of 16 years of failed Labor policy in so many areas. Today, with the debate on the Infrastructure SA Bill, this Marshall Liberal government is once again showing the right leadership in essentially bringing South Australia to where the rest of the nation is.

Infrastructure Australia does a very important job in looking at the funding of infrastructure projects at a national level across the federation. There is Infrastructure Victoria, Infrastructure NSW and finally, hopefully with the passage of this bill through the parliament, we will have Infrastructure South Australia.

Infrastructure SA will be established as an independent body to develop a 20-year infrastructure strategy for South Australia. I think it is so important that government, public policy setters, departments and especially private investors and those who generate and provide private capital to fund projects know the funnel and the pipeline of infrastructure being proposed by government, industry and various sectors, as it is across the board.

A really good question is: why are we doing this? The reason we are doing it is to get funding certainty and to get project certainty as well. I am reminded of the debate we have had over the last 12 to 18 months about the on-and-off funding of the electrification of the Gawler line, a very important line. I recall sitting on the other side of the house last year when the then Labor government was whingeing and complaining that no money was being allocated by the federal government to the electrification of the Gawler line only to find out that no business case in regard to that project was put to Infrastructure Australia by the then minister and the Labor government.

We all know that the model the federal government works on for the funding of large infrastructure projects is by and large through Infrastructure Australia. There is an expectation that government does a body of work to put a proposal forward. Obviously, that is then allocated on a needs basis. Infrastructure Australia, an independent body, then makes recommendations on the way projects are funded.

That is the sensible way to do it because it does not lead to pork-barrelling. One only wonders, if we had had Infrastructure SA last year, the year before or the year before that, whether the $160 million investment in the O-Bahn would have passed that feasibility study back then. I do not know if it would have or would not have, but it would have been interesting to see.

Infrastructure SA will promote the provision and management of infrastructure for the benefit of the South Australian community and economy, and that is why we are establishing this body. Infrastructure SA will look at the funding of road, rail, port, airport, water augmentation and electricity augmentation. Future infrastructure for the state needs to be justified and sustain long-term economic growth.

The bill proposes to appoint an independent Infrastructure SA board to oversee the development and implementation of the state's infrastructure strategy. The body will have the ability to maintain its independence and ensure that the politics is taken out of infrastructure planning and development. As I said, that is so important in terms of the needs of the investment community and finance authorities to ensure that there is not that politicisation of these important decisions.

I think it also focuses us, importantly, on the need to spend taxpayers' money wisely. Quite easily, on big infrastructure projects, every now and then they do get carried away while delivering those projects. Having that rigorous assessment proposal ensures—or plays a part in ensuring—that taxpayer funds are used in a wise and conservative manner. Essentially, we want to take the politics out of infrastructure investment decisions.

As I have constantly said in this place, jobs are the most important things that a government can oversee, especially jobs creation. I think that the delivery of an infrastructure plan will deliver more investment, more jobs and greater prosperity in the long run for South Australians. Our infrastructure plan will be renewed every five years and will set the long-term vision for South Australia's infrastructure, providing policy advice relating to infrastructure planning, delivery and use.

This will also include advice on appropriate funding and financing models. As part of this obvious assurance role, Infrastructure SA will be able to provide advice to government on unsolicited infrastructure proposals as well. There are quite a few powers within the bill to allow for this. In the establishment of Infrastructure SA and in the drafting of the legislation before us, the new government has sought advice from Sir Rod Eddington, who was the first chairman of Infrastructure Australia, and former Victorian Liberal minister the Hon. Mark Birrell.

Mr Picton: Oh, but there's no politics in it.

Mr DULUK: No, actually. The member for Kaurna interjects. Though it is very unparliamentary to respond to interjections—

The SPEAKER: Order! As it is to respond to interjections, member for Waite.

Mr DULUK: Extremely unparliamentary to respond to interjections, but if I could just elaborate on the need for this body not to be politicised. That is exactly the reason why we are getting these two very well-respected people. In fact, I believe that Sir Rod Eddington—

Mr DULUK: —when former prime minister Kevin Rudd set up Infrastructure Australia, headed up that body. Sir Rod Eddington is a very well-respected person on both sides, as is the Hon. Mark Birrell, who I believe actually plays a role in Infrastructure Victoria as well, within the socialist Labor government that we have in Victoria—the one that the member for Kaurna loves to support.

It is bipartisan, and it is important that governments actually get the best advice. It really does not matter where that advice comes from, as long as it is good advice. I have no doubt that there are some members opposite and across the nation who at some point may have a positive contribution to make to public debate. When that is there, I think any wise government would take it. But, as I said, Sir Rod Eddington and former Victorian minister Mark Birrell, who were longstanding and well respected chairmen of Infrastructure Australia, have been providing their guidance and advice on the establishment of this body here.

So the question is: why? Why do we need this, and what are we looking to get out of it? As I said, economic growth and job creation are important, and I believe we need to have modern, efficient and reliable infrastructure if we are to grow this state, if we are to grow our reputation within the federation and if we are to see growth levels that we are seeing on the eastern seaboard, whether that is infrastructure growth or population growth as well. Investment in infrastructure improves our ability to trade as well and provides especially our farmers and people in the regions the ability to export.

The member for Flinders knows how important export is for his community; providing that ability to expand markets is absolutely critical. In the lead-up to the election, we listed a number of projects that we would be referring to Infrastructure SA as a bit of a priority. They include the completion of the north-south road corridor through metropolitan Adelaide and a grain/minerals port on Eyre Peninsula to ensure the optimum location for this facility.

Of course, there is also our proposal to get rail freight out of the Mitcham Hills and the Adelaide Hills and, in the long term, to get heavy trucks off Cross Road and the South Eastern Freeway. It is a big policy. It is going to be a big outlay of capital, but if we do not get a plan for our long-term infrastructure right in terms of exports, with respect to road and rail freight, we are going to be behind the rest of the nation.

Other projects include the completion of the Gawler rail electrification, and we are going to look at the extension of the O-Bahn between Tea Tree Plaza Interchange and Golden Grove, which I would have liked to see as the first step of the upgrade of the O-Bahn because it is actually the step that increases the most amount of patronage, which is vitally important.

Another project is grade separations at major metropolitan area intersections to enable removal of level crossings. Grade separations is a big issue in my electorate and my community, obviously with the ones at Cross Road, Hawthorn and up through Blackwood and Glenalta as well.

There is also infrastructure development on Lefevre Peninsula, including light rail, commercial, retail, residential and recreational development, to accommodate the needs of the naval shipbuilding program at Osborne; the sealing of the Strzelecki Track; an underground rail link in the CBD between the northern and southern train lines; as well as a long list of non-transport infrastructure projects in terms of affordable housing, increased capacity of South Australia's prisons, and looking at new technologies and the like and how they can be incorporated into infrastructure flow.

More capital means more infrastructure investment for the future, and we cannot expand our ports, our roads and our rail infrastructure if we do not have capital. Access to capital and to markets is so important, and Infrastructure SA will play its role in ensuring that there is a pipeline of work for people to invest in and for long-term funding projects.

As we are looking at new financing and new projects, I think this is a good way of looking at what the role of the superannuation industry is in funding long-term assets, and the return there, and the investment of public funds in infrastructure through superannuation financing of low-risk government-backed projects as a way of accessing what is now a $1 trillion superannuation industry, which the retirement savings of Australians and South Australians have been locked up in. We are looking at that benefit and accessing that flow of capital.

As I mentioned earlier, the federal government obviously has Infrastructure Australia, and the federal Coalition, through that body, has been investing in our state. We have seen recent announcements around federal government funding for the Pym Street to Regency Road section of the north-south corridor, $220 million for the completion of the Gawler line electrification, $160 million for the Joy Baluch Bridge and another $1.2 billion for further sections of the north-south corridor. These are all issues that have come through Infrastructure Australia and that process as well.

So what happens across the federation in other jurisdictions? Well, in Victoria, they have Infrastructure Victoria, which is an independent authority that provides expert advice on Victorian infrastructure needs and the like. The Victorian model looks at nine key sectors. Within that body, they look at energy; water, including wastewater; transport, including public transport, freight, ports, airports, cycling and walking and roads; education and training; human and health services; justice services, including courts, police, corrections and emergency services; cultural, civic, sporting, recreational and tourism services; science; agriculture; and ICT. So it is a very broad body with a 30-year infrastructure plan for Victoria.

Queensland also has a state infrastructure plan that outlines the Queensland government's position. New South Wales established an infrastructure body in 2011 to develop their 20-year state infrastructure strategy and five-year infrastructure plans. We are not reinventing the wheel here in South Australia; all we are doing is recognising what is best practice. We are saying that projects over $50 million in value will go to Infrastructure SA. I am not sure what this does for the member for Kavel's Public Works Committee, but in reviewing that I know that there is a statutory function as well. The importance of public works and working together will be so important.

As I said, the composition of this board is as an independent board appointed by the government and responsible to the Premier and his team. I am really looking forward to being able to promote Infrastructure SA: going to the market, to industry, to the big corporations and construction firms and to those who employ and build and sitting down and saying, 'Come work with government. What is your 30-year plan for South Australia? What is your vision going forward? How can we work on this together? How can we get these projects funded? What are our priorities?'

With this bill and our productivity bill, which we discussed in the last sitting of parliament, I am very excited that these two key pieces of legislation are being brought through the parliament, and I know that they will have a long-term economic benefit for this state.