A highway near Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. The lack of dual carriageway roads in WA is detrimental. Photo: Andrew Quilty
I am in Western Australia. In Perth, an average hotel room costs $400 a night. The south-west is bursting out of its seams with the money from the central and north-west of the state.
Nondescript beaches north of Perth are becoming new beachside suburbs. It feels like the Sunshine Coast 30 years ago.
South of Perth, it is done and dusted, and chock-a-block.
What is incongruous in this prosperity is that as you go north to where the wealth comes from, along the inland Great Northern Highway, it is only 20 kilometres from Perth and you are on a two-lane road.
At Bindoon they have to basically shut down the main street, and all the shops, as heavy machinery is hauled through the town at snails' pace because the overhead power lines have to be lifted.
The people on this road see the wealth of their state and the nation go past their door, but they have run out of water.
They ask why those closer to the source of the wealth seem to be further from its benefits, even though they deal with more of its afflictions. They ask why $50 million for a road north became $50 million for a railway south under the previous Labor government.
To be honest, they are not bubbling over with excitement when my side of the political fence promises to put two overhead power lines underground, but leave another 13 where they were. They wistfully show plans for bypasses amid the eternal rumble of trucks.
If you travel north of Melbourne, you do not get off a dual carriageway until you get to, well, Sydney, about 900 kilometres away. North of Brisbane, you can now basically travel to Gympie before you descend back to the previous century.
But on the road that connects Western Australia's biggest service centre to our nation's biggest export earner, you travel merely kilometres and you are back to two lanes.
The local newspaper talks of plans to close more heavy haulage railway lines for wheat so more trucks can travel on the roads.
There is a prevailing attitude that has been at the forefront of the political debate in Australia: wealth comes from commuters getting home quicker.
No, it does not. That argument is a convenience in a dodgy productivity disguise. Worse, it is the political imperative of urban votes impersonating economic reason.
Wealth comes from the fluid movement of those items directly connected to export dollars, and this reality is reinforced when our debt is overwhelmingly borrowed from overseas. Wealth comes from investment in infrastructure, such as rail moving heavy haulage off roads, moving raw product to bankable outcomes quicker, providing services to the areas that put export dollars on the table.
Connecting the Pilbara to the ports in the short-term pays for the new road to pick the kids up quicker from school over the longer term.
As our debt races ahead under the tutelage of the Treasurer of the Millenniums, we will have to focus our attention on those who will provide the income to pay it back.
In all corners of our nation, the affliction of having to spend an extra 20 minutes on the road to pick up the kids from childcare is something we will have to live with in the short term. The resources will have to focus on real-dollars-in-the-bank outcomes for Treasury, or we are going to make a bad situation worse. Ask yourself: where is the money to pay off this cursed debt? We are the global door-to-door salesman of resources, and if we spend money on the carpet before we spend money on the car, on the spurious argument that the carpet makes more money, then we are only fooling ourselves.
Meanwhile, the Australian people are asking when this crazy lodger is going to get out of the house. Latest domestic observations have seen a big green rat running away from a half-chewed government agreement.
There is absolute apprehension of whether the bond will even start to cover the cost of the damage. The idea that they will enforce their right to stay until the end of the lease in September gives no comfort whatsoever. The yard is a mess of half-completed political wrecks scattered all over what used to be the lawn. What we will find inside the house when they finally leave?
Barnaby Joyce is the Nationals' Senate leader and the opposition spokesman for regional development, local government and water.