My question to the Prime Minister

25 February 2020

My question to the Prime Minister:

Thank you to those who commented on my question to the PM during Question Time yesterday. The response from Hansard follows.

Ms McBRIDE(Dobell) (15:14): My question is to the Prime Minister. Why did 94 per cent of the Central Coast package from the Urban Congestion Fund go to one seatthe marginal Liberal seat of Robertson? Is traffic congestion in the rest of the Central Coast not a problem?

Mr McCORMACK(RiverinaDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure,Transport and Regional Development and Leader of the Nationals) (15:14): Here by popular demand, obviously, from those opposite. The Urban Congestion Fund

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER:Members on my left! The Deputy Prime Minister has the call.

Mr McCORMACK:I'll start again so they can hear me properly.

The SPEAKER:No, we can always hear you.

Mr McCORMACK:I'll speak slowly so they can understand. The Urban Congestion Fund is busting congestion and ensuring vital road projects are getting built. This $4 billion fund is bringing to life 166 crucial projects: 70 will start construction this year, four are already underway with geotechnical investigations and there is other preparatory work underway on many, many more. We took these projects to the Australian people on May18remember that date? May 18. And guess what? We got elected. In the same way that Labor, to our knowledge and our understandingI'm not quite sure of all their policies and all their promiseshad 66 election commitments in small-scale urban projects, 100 per cent, means that every single one of them was in a Labor or targeted seat.

The SPEAKER:The Manager of Opposition Business on a point of order.

Mr Burke:On relevance. The question's in two parts. All parts refer to the Central Coast, and the Deputy Prime Minister's yet to refer to it at all. I don't know how it can be directly relevant if both the first and the second part of the question only refer to the Central Coast. He's been asked by a Central Coast member. It's reasonable that he be relevant to it.

The SPEAKER:Just before I call the Deputy Prime Minister, I was listening very carefully for that very point because I thought when the question was asked that that particular point of order was at risk of being invoked. But listening to the Deputy Prime Minister when he's explained essentially that they were election commitments and that is really the answer

Mr Albanese:But they weren't; that's our whole point.

The SPEAKER:If you want me to take on the added responsibility of vetting every fact that's said in this place, I'm going to be looking at a lot of copy. But I think the Deputy Prime Minister, in answering the question, is giving an answer to the member for Dobell. He doesn't have to mention the Central Coast or the seat of Robertson. I think he is being relevant to the question. The Leader of the Opposition on the point of order?

Mr Albanese:On the point of order, the Urban Congestion Fund was in the government's budget. These were not election commitments. This is something that was announced in a budget and then allocated. These were not election commitments. That is our whole point.

The SPEAKER:Sure, but the point the Deputy Prime Minister's making, nonethelessput it this wayin answering the question is giving an explanation for how the projects were decided.

Mr McCORMACK:I'll be very quick. These are decisions of government; they're not competitive grants. We took into account other spending within the infrastructure programthat's $100 billion over 10 years, a record amount of money, thanks to the Liberal and Nationals government, thanks to the fact that we get our books balanced unlike those opposite. When was the last time there was a surplus? 1989 under those opposite. We take into account demand. We take into account population growth appreciating and the fact that the Central Coast is a large growing population. And this is important

Mr Albanese interjecting

Mr McCORMACK:I hear the Opposition Leader screaming out, but this is important.

Mr Albanese:This is a joke!

Mr McCORMACK:No, it's not a joke; it's the truth. Nearly all road and rail projects are decisions of government as they have been for decades under both coalition and Labor governments.