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December 1, 2015

Mr CHESTER  (Gippsland—Assistant Minister for Defence) (15:26): What a sad and embarrassing spectacle we have just witnessed. It is with overwhelming sadness that I see before me the hollowed-out wreck of what was a grand old party of Australian politics.

Mr Husic interjecting—

Mr CHESTER:  We will get to that one, Member for Chifley. In this, Labor’s year of big ideas, they have descended right into the gutter, with a litany of smear and innuendo. The contrast between this side of the House and that side of the House has never been clearer. While we have a nation-building program, they have a gutter-building program. I am an optimist by nature and I always try to look on the bright side. The benefit for those opposite of being in the gutter is that they get a great view of the roads that Warren Truss is building—sorry, the minister for infrastructure is building—right around Australia. To sit here and get a lecture on integrity from the party of Eddie Obeid and Craig Thomson is more than a little bizarre. It is like getting a lecture—I do not know—on marriage advice from Tiger Woods. It is like getting a lecture on hairstyling by Donald Trump. It is even more bizarre—and the member for Chifley will like this: it is like comparing the member for Gippsland to George Clooney. It is completely implausible. We are seeing some truly bizarre behaviour by those opposite.

There are so many important issues that Australians are focused on, so I genuinely appreciate this matter of public importance because it goes to the heart of how this government is acting in the public interest and delivering for all Australians, particularly regional Australians, who have been so often ignored by those opposite. The contrast between the government and those opposite has rarely been so stark. While on this side of the House we have been focused on matters of genuine public importance—national security, economic prosperity and building infrastructure for the 21st century—all we see from those opposite are more scare campaigns and gutter politics. Australians deserve so much more from Her Majesty’s opposition than they are receiving at the moment. This matter of public importance could have been on national security; it could have been on job creation; it could have been on infrastructure; it could have been on economic prosperity.

This government is getting on with the job of delivering. Just today, we had the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development delivering his annual ministerial statement on infrastructure, and it was an extraordinarily impressive list. I am disappointed the member for Grayndler is not here, because he actually thinks the world started with him. The member for Grayndler thinks he invented fire; he thinks he created the wheel; I think he even believes he built the pyramids. What else does the member for Grayndler think he—

Mr Coleman:  Stonehenge?

Mr CHESTER:  Stonehenge—the member for Grayndler did Stonehenge as well. What else did the member for Grayndler build?

I tell you what the member for Grayndler should build—the member for Grayndler needs to build a bridge and get over it!

Minister Truss has been part of this very successful coalition government that is building for the future. We are working with other levels of government—as you would expect, as the Australian people would expect—and getting on with the job. We are building infrastructure that will create jobs during construction and well into the future. Instead of building gutters and taking cheap political shots, using political tactics, we are focusing on the issues the Australian people want us to be focused on. We are building the roads, the bridges, the mobile phone blackspot program, rolling out towers—

 Mr Mitchell interjecting — 

Mr CHESTER:  Come in spinner! In seven years there was not one mobile phone black spot tower built by the previous government—in seven years not one. The member for McEwen comes in here and talks about infrastructure—he wants a mobile phone black spot program. I could not hear him when Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister. I could not hear him when Julia Gillard was Prime Minister. Because they did not build any mobile phone black spot towers. You could not complain about the program, Member for McEwen, because there was no program. There was nothing to complain about; there was no Mobile Black Spot Program. This government is getting on with the job of building the infrastructure of the 21st century—exactly what the Australian people expect from us.

An opposition member interjecting—

Mr CHESTER:  The matter of public importance refers specifically to the public interest in Australia’s political system, and we are acting in the public’s interest by building the infrastructure of the 21st century. The minister himself, today—for those who missed the ministerial statement by the member for Wide Bay—pointed out that in the next financial year will see the single biggest Commonwealth investment to date, with over $9.7 billion in Commonwealth funding flowing across the nation.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr CHESTER:  I am loving the interest being shown in infrastructure by those opposite! It is a pity they did not show it when they were in government. In New South Wales, WestConnex has begun with construction underway on two of the three stages. It is a very popular program; I am not surprised the member for Banks is a strong supporter. This government is on schedule and on budget to complete the upgrade of the Pacific Highway by the end of the decade. And construction on NorthConnex in Sydney has also begun.

It is not just New South Wales. In Victoria there are projects such as the upgrade of the Western Highway, the Tullamarine Freeway, the M80 and the duplication of parts of the Princes Highway in my electorate, and the western highways. They are all positive steps that continue to progress according to plan.

Ms Butler interjecting—

Mr CHESTER:  I am glad the member for Griffith is suddenly interested in road-building programs in my electorate. It is going very well, Member for Griffith, and I am impressed that you are deeply interested in the safety of the people of Gippsland!

In Queensland as well, this government continues to build the infrastructure of the 21st century. Eight major projects on the Bruce Highway have now been completed. For those who have not had the opportunity to drive on the Bruce Highway, I had the great pleasure—the member for Chifley will enjoy this—of driving the entire Bruce Highway with the member for Wide Bay.

 An opposition member: That would have been a long trip!

Mr CHESTER:  He is a really zany guy. You would enjoy time with the member for Wide Bay! We were cracking jokes all the way to Cairns. It was a terrific road trip. All the way along he was making plans for the roads he was going to build when he had the chance and when he was the minister, and that is what he is delivering right now.

Mr Husic interjecting—

Mr CHESTER:  I would encourage the member for Chifley, if given an opportunity to take a road trip with the member for Wide Bay, go along with the member for Wide Bay. You will learn something, Member for Chifley. You will learn about regional Australia, about how if you invest in infrastructure, then you increase the productivity and the prosperity of those regions, and you save lives.

Mr Husic interjecting—

Mr CHESTER:  I will arrange the invitation for you, Member for Chifley. I will arrange for the member for Wide Bay to take you on a road trip.

Ms Butler:  They don’t want him in Queensland!

Mr CHESTER:  I take up the interjection, Member for Griffith. I know you would not want him in Queensland, but every now and then he has to broaden his horizons and move outside of the sheltered life he leads. Bring him to Queensland to see a little bit more of the country.

Also in Queensland the Yeppen floodplain project is going to be officially opened next week. Members opposite will be happy to hear that, I am sure. Work on the Townsville Ring Road is well ahead of schedule. The enthusiasm of those opposite for these great infrastructure projects being delivered by the coalition is something I greatly appreciate.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr CHESTER:  I greatly appreciate the support you are showing. There are more infrastructure projects in Queensland. The government has committed $508 million towards a package of works to upgrade the Warrego Highway between Toowoomba and Miles. There are some rough roads around!

Ms Butler:  Are they ‘Brough’ roads?

Mr CHESTER:  No, they are rough roads. The Outback Way, Australian’s longest shortcut, which has a $20 million Commonwealth funding commitment, is being supported by the Northern Territory government. In South Australia, the Commonwealth has also committed $1.7 billion to the first priority sections of the north-south road corridor upgrade. These are the real issues that the Australian people are raising with the government. These are the real issues of genuine public interest that the Australian people are raising with us as members of parliament as we go about our jobs in our electorates.

In Western Australia the Gateway WA project is well underway. The federal government contributed $676 million. It is on track for completion nearly one year ahead of schedule and under budget. In Tasmania the Australian government is making the Midland Highway upgrade a reality with our $400 million commitment seeing six construction projects already completed and two more are underway.

Mr Stephen Jones:  Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We have the deepest sympathy for a member of the National Party who has been sent in to defend a Liberal Party minister. He has one minute left. Do you think in that one minute, Mr Deputy Speaker, he might try and defend the minister?

Mr CHESTER:  As we continue to act in the public interest, as we roll out these important programs—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr CHESTER:  I am sorry, members opposite, that we do not have the gutter-building program you so desire! As we are out there building the future for regional and metropolitan Australia, these are the issues that Australian mums and dads are raising with us on a daily basis. Members opposite will be interested to know that employment surged by 58,000 in October, taking this year’s tally to 231,000. What we are seeing today is further proof that those opposite are simply not ready to govern the greatest nation in the world.



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