Page 1556 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 10 May 2017

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It was branded as a big infrastructure budget with figures of $70 billion being bandied about. That figure is in fact over 10 years and represents a reduction in the level of commonwealth funding for infrastructure across the country over the 10-year period when compared with the previous 10 years. But even more disappointing was the complete absence of any significant funding for projects in the ACT or, indeed, in the surrounding Canberra region. Even important election commitments like funding for the Barton Highway were overlooked.

We have already heard the line of questioning from Mr Wall about the impacts on the education sector and that, overall, Canberra schools, all schools in the territory, will receive less commonwealth funding, it would appear at this stage. The Deputy Chief Minister is right. There is an absence of detail and we look forward to hearing more from the federal government on that question.

Our tertiary education sector will suffer further cuts. The $2.7 billion being taken out of universities certainly will hurt our territory’s single largest export earner, and that is the higher education sector. The ANU, the University of Canberra, the University of New South Wales, Canberra, and the other higher education institutions will suffer from this budget. (Time expired.)

MS CHEYNE: Chief Minister, what will the ACT government be doing to ensure that Canberrans get their fair share of new policies announced in last night’s budget?

MR BARR: We will look to work with the New South Wales government on an opportunity for the Sydney-Canberra rail corridor. There is a commitment within the federal budget to allow state and territory governments to put forward bids for major rail projects that connect capital cities and major regional areas. A dedicated fast rail link between Sydney and Canberra certainly would bring major benefits for both cities and the major towns along that route. So we hope that with support from New South Wales the three governments could work together and play a constructive role in delivering an important transport infrastructure project for the region.

We will also look at opportunities that emerge from the city deals initiative, and the new investment that has been foreshadowed for metropolitan rail could indeed deliver for our city. Clearly, stage 2 of light rail is a major infrastructure project that the ACT government will be pursuing in this parliamentary term. Its direct route through the parliamentary triangle and areas of significant national importance mean that the commonwealth government, through the National Capital Authority, will be a partner in the delivery of this project.

We will work closely with the commonwealth and the New South Wales government on those regional and local rail initiatives. I think they do present an opportunity for Canberra to attract even just its population’s share of the national infrastructure spend.

MS CODY: Chief Minister, given that infrastructure and rail were significant features of last night’s commonwealth budget, how does this align with the ACT government’s priorities? Are there any alternative views?

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