Page 2139 - Week 06 - Thursday, 26 June 2008
A number of my constituents in Gungahlin, in my dealings with them just in the last couple of weeks, have told me that they are back on Northbourne Avenue because Gungahlin Drive is, unfortunately, so slow. So that is a great disappointment and it is a great disappointment to my constituents in Gungahlin. The people of Gungahlin have been let down in a number of ways in terms of infrastructure and services and they see the GDE as symbolic of that failure, of the failure of this government to be able to deliver infrastructure that would improve their lives, the failure of this government to be able to get the job done on major infrastructure projects.
We asked the question: what structural changes are going to be made? And we have seen nothing. That stands in marked contrast, of course, to the Liberals’ policy in relation to infrastructure in Canberra. We have announced a range of measures that will certainly make a difference. We will establish an infrastructure plan, have an infrastructure commissioner to give high-level advice on infrastructure priorities and have a capital works committee that will oversee some of these projects and impose some of the disciplines that I think have been lacking in relation to infrastructure development and implementation.
It was interesting talking to representatives of Engineers Australia just this week. They were highlighting some of the issues and we were noting some of the problems with the delivery of capital works and the delivery of infrastructure. They raised a number of issues. They talked about maintenance, which is, of course, something that most governments do neglect over time because it is not one of those issues seen as getting you a lot of votes. But of course it is very important. They highlighted the deskilling or the lack of specialties, particularly in engineering and other areas, within government departments and the challenge that that presents. This is a nationwide problem, I think. We have seen in the Commonwealth public service the move to more generalist officers—there are fewer specialists in the public service now than there were several years ago—and I am sure that is the case also in the ACT public service. So perhaps that is one of the structural issues we need to look at, to address. But we need a plan.
We need to have an infrastructure plan and we need to be putting things in place that will actually see things improve, rather than just saying: “We’re going to spend $1.4 billion. We do not know quite how we’re going to do it. We haven’t been able to spend that over the past few years; in fact our underspend has been between 36 and 48 per cent over the last five years.” We put very direct questions to the government on those issues. We were given very brief answers which really did not address any of those issues in any substance. So we are very sceptical of the government’s ability to deliver.
Of course we have seen their infrastructure record. We have seen the resistance to building the dam for so long, and we know that Canberrans will continue to suffer through water restrictions for perhaps many years as a result of that failure to see what most people can see—that we do need more storage; that we do need to plan for the future. We should not just be responding many years after the drought starts; we need to get out in front of these issues.
We have seen the debacle around the airport and certainly the airport road, some of which is belatedly now being upgraded. But the bottleneck that is at the airport is