It’s so important that I rise to talk about this issue today, because our national economy is clearly showing signs of slowing down. The warning signs are clear. Wages are stagnant. Median household income is going backwards. Living standards are declining. There are increasing levels of insecure work, underemployment and youth unemployment. Yet listening to this government today you’d think there was no problem at all. I remind those on the other side that they’re the third-term government, they have two ministers for infrastructure and they need to get their act together.
They need to get their act together because the people in my electorate of Jagajaga are worried about the future, worried about their wages, worried about their jobs and worried that, no matter how hard they work, they just can’t seem to get ahead. I certainly heard that loud and clear as the Labor candidate for Jagajaga, and now as the federal member.
The people of Jagajaga noticed during the election campaign that the Liberal Party did not make a single commitment in Jagajaga.
Not one that would boost local infrastructure, increase our transport options or create any jobs at all. They certainly noticed that Victoria has seen barely any of the national infrastructure spend from the federal government for the past six years. Funnily enough, the current minister for infrastructure is Victorian; you’d think that would count for something. Clearly not!
Victoria will only receive 17 per cent of the federal infrastructure budget in 2019-20, despite being home to 25 per cent of Australians. This is outrageous! As we’ve heard from my Victorian colleagues today, Victorians are lucky that we have a Victorian Labor government that has invested so heavily in roads, rail and removing level crossings. The minister was just crowing about the North East Link. The people of Jagajaga know that this project will be delivered thanks to the Andrews Labor government. North East Link, the removal of the level crossing at Lower Plenty Road in Rosanna, the Melbourne Metro project, the Hurstbridge line duplication and the historic Suburban Rail Loop project are all huge examples of what is happening under the Victorian Labor government. We are not seeing anything like this level of investment from Canberra—and I will let the minister know that it’s Rosanna Road, not Rosanna Drive!
Of course, the chorus of those now calling for urgent action is not reserved to the Labor benches. The Reserve Bank, economists and state governments—even state coalition treasurers—have implored the government to urgently lift infrastructure to give our economy the shot in the arm it badly needs. We do need to fast-track infrastructure projects now to stimulate this sluggish economy, to create jobs and to reduce our commute times.
They’ve talked a big game on infrastructure, but many major projects are still off on the never-never. And in Victoria they continue to include the East West Link project, which the Victorian government and the community have not supported at two consecutive state elections, as evidence of action. Less than 30 per cent of the government’s so-called $100 billion, 10-year infrastructure program is budgeted for the next four years. It doesn’t add up; it’s a con. They include projects like the East West Link, and it will not proceed. In their six years in government they’ve spent less on infrastructure than they promised. Projects have been announced but delayed, postponed or cancelled.
Of course, the data released today in the HILDA survey confirms just how poorly they are failing when it comes to busting congestion. We see now that Australians are spending on average 4½ hours a week getting to and from work. That’s a rise of 23 per cent since 2002. That’s parents who are sitting in traffic rather than spending time with their children. Too many Australians are facing longer commutes, with one in six Australians now travelling more than two hours each day, up from one in eight in 2002.
So today I call on the government to bring forward funding for infrastructure projects in Victoria to stimulate the economy, to improve safety and to boost productivity. If the government were serious about big congestion-busting projects it would get on with work in Victoria. The people of Jagajaga are sick of the spin. They see through the con. They know they’re sitting in traffic for too long. They want to be home with their children, not stuck on the road. They want action; they want real improvements in their lives and they see through this government that is failing to deliver for them.
I call on the government to put in the proper level of spending to deliver for the people of Jagajaga, for the people of Melbourne—our fastest-growing city—and for Victoria.