Jun 19, 2014

Asset Recycling Fund Bill 2014 – Pacific Highway

I cannot let the comments of the parliamentary secretary go unchallenged, given that he failed to address the substance of the amendments.

He made statements about the Pacific Highway that simply do not stand up to scrutiny.

The fact is that during the period of the Howard government the federal contribution to the Pacific Highway was $1.3 billion and during those same years the state government contribution from the New South Wales Labor government was $2.5 billion—almost two-thirds of the funding for the Pacific Highway came from the state government.

The previous federal coalition government took for granted the people who live in electorates along the Pacific Highway.

I did not, as a minister, and nor did the federal Labor government. As part of the economic stimulus plan, we invested massively in the Pacific Highway.

During the six years I was a minister, there was additional funding for the Pacific Highway in every single budget from 2008 through to 2013, totalling $7.9 billion.

Page 13 of the 2013-14 budget papers shows a graph that outlines Pacific Highway projects.

This year’s coalition budget papers, on page 17 of the ‘Building Australia’s infrastructure’ document, also contain a graph of Pacific Highway projects. They are exactly the same—every single project. There is not one extra dollar from this government for the Pacific Highway in the budget.

What is worse, it has let state governments off the hook.

The coalition’s colleagues in New South Wales have withdrawn funding that they had allocated for the Pacific Highway, along which they hold every single seat in New South Wales.

Every metre of the highway, from the Harbour Bridge to the Queensland border, is held by a New South Wales coalition member.

They cut funding in their midyear forecast because they got the green light from a National Party minister, the member for Wide Bay, who is asleep when it comes to this issue.

Have a look at the list of projects in the coalition’s own budget papers: Banora Point upgrade, completed late 2012; Ballina bypass, completed in 2012; Devils Pulpit upgrade, completed; Glenugie upgrade, completed; and Kempsey bypass, completed and opened in 2013—fully funded, 100 per cent, by the Commonwealth government as part of the economic stimulus plan and involving the largest road bridge in Australia.

Herons Creek to Stills Road was completed in 2013 along with the Bulahdelah bypass.

Then there are the projects under way.

Tintenbar to Ewingsdale is more than half completed—it is funded by previous budgets and will be completed next year. Sapphire to Woolgoolga is just about completed, and perhaps it has been completed by now.

It was due for completion now. It was fully funded. Construction on the Nambucca Heads to Urunga and Warrell Creek to Nambucca Heads sections has all begun.

They were funded in previous budgets. I turned the first sod on the Frederickton to Eungai construction last year.

Kundabung to Kempsey and Oxley Highway to Kundabung construction is commencing this year, funded in previous budgets.

There is not a single new project on the Pacific Highway from this mob opposite—not one.

We have the ridiculous circumstances of the member for Lyne asking questions about this.

The previous member for Lyne delivered on the Pacific Highway, as did members of the Labor Party.

The coalition did not. All they have done is give a free pass to their coalition colleagues in New South Wales.

They will maintain existing federal funding but because of a reduction in state government funding the project will be completed later than it would have been otherwise.

It is to the National Party’s shame that they have allowed that to happen.