May 30, 2012

Budget Speech – Consideration In Detail – Pacific Highway

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (16:42):  I thank the member for Page not just for her question but for her strong advocacy of the Pacific Highway.

For example, we had the pleasure of being at the sod turn, construction milestones, and the opening of the Ballina bypass. This was a very challenging engineering project indeed. It was one promised, funded and delivered by the Federal Labor government. We also have, of course, underway a range of projects on the Pacific Highway right now.

What is astonishing for the Leader of the National Party is that 92 per cent of the funding for the construction for projects currently underway on the Pacific Highway are in coalition seats. The $618 million that we committed to the Kempsey bypass during the economic stimulus plan is completely within the electorate of Cowper. It is a vital project, which will be extended with the Frederickton to Eungai section, the section where the Clybucca bus crash occurred in 1989. Australia’s worst ever road accident had not been fixed. That is an indictment on the entire political system, that that had not been fixed. Not just Labor or coalition, state or federal—all of us. So let us get rid of this nonsense and get it done!

    I have not played politics with the Pacific Highway—92 per cent of it is in coalition seats. If that is playing politics, then that is just pathetic. The funding has been allocated with absolutely no reference to partisan politics—three per cent in the electorate of Lyne, four per cent in Labor held seats of Richmond and Page. We have not said, ‘Let’s do Page first before Cowper.’ Most of the money is going into Cowper right now into big projects—Sapphire to Woolgoolga, the Kempsey bypass. We get this nonsense: ‘You admit that 100 per cent of the funding for the Kempsey bypass is from the Commonwealth government.’ Of course we do. It is part of the economic stimulus plan. I am proud of it. This project will save lives and will make a more productive Australia. And the opposition is opposing this funding—amazing.

   Of the remaining projects on the Pacific Highway, 48 per cent are in coalition seats. If you are fair dinkum, Leader of the National Party, I say this to you. Go out there and commit today to fund all of it, the $7 billion plus, over the forwards—our funding goes until 2016-17. The Leader of the National Party needs to understand the complexity of the funding—that 2016-17 is the annual year 2016 in terms of the milestone payments. That is why the final amount—because we pay on milestones, as I explained before—is in that year. Go out, stand up now and commit to $7 billion from the coalition by 2016. It will just add to the black hole you have! If you do not do that, you are a fraud on this issue.

   You should be saying to your New South Wales coalition colleagues, ‘Get on board. Do what you said you would do.’ There is not a single project on the Pacific Highway under construction or committed that has an 80-20 agreement, not one. There is no 80-20 agreement between the Commonwealth and the state government—there was not under us, there was not under you. The fact is, we have provided additional funding. To argue that that should be continued is like arguing that the BER or a range of other projects that were stimulus projects should be continued ad infinitum. If the Leader of the National Party is at all fair dinkum, he must stand up—he has until five o’clock—and commit to that $7 billion. (Time expired)