JANELLE SAFFIN (Page MP) – My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. Will the minister please outline to the House how the government’s record investment in duplicating the Pacific Highway is creating jobs today while building the nation for the future, and are there any obstacles to achieving full duplication of the highway by 2016?
ANTHONY ALBANESE – I thank the Member for Page for her question. I am glad I can get a question on infrastructure and transport from this side of the House because, no matter what I do, it is pretty hard to get one from the other side of the House. They just simply will not ask a question on these issues because they (the Liberal and National parties) are not interested in infrastructure and transport.
Right now, today, there are more than 1,600 workers on site working on the Pacific Highway, finishing the Ballina Bypass, Devils Pulpit; Tintenbar to Ewingsdale; Sapphire to Woolgoolga; Bulahdelah Bypass; Kempsey Bypass; Banora Point; and Herons Creek to Stills Road.
This is a vital road on which more than 800 people have lost their lives over the last 20 years. It is an important national priority for us and it has been a priority for the NSW Government in the past. I wrote to the NSW Roads Minister [Duncan Gay] last month and included a works plan to achieve duplication by 2016.
I table my letter to Minister Gay and the work plan [ATTACHED].
Both Minister Gay and NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner have acknowledged that 2016 is achievable. That is why I was disappointed that Minister Gay responded to my correspondence not by writing to me but by giving a letter to the newspapers saying that they would not continue with 50-50 funding for the Pacific Highway.
This week the NRMA has called them out. NRMA President Wendy Machin said this in calling for NSW to meet its fair share:
“It was the Howard Government that set the 50-50 funding split for the Pacific Highway from 2006 and the NRMA has supported this approach since day one.”
She should know – a former National Party Member for Port Macquarie who knows the highway well and is out there taking a principled position. I table the NRMA release [ATTACHED].
Whilst we have been getting on with the job, what we see from those opposite – including the Member for Cowper [Luke Hartsuyker] – is first, they said it was not a federal problem, labelling the Pacific Highway as a “state road”. Then they said dollar for dollar funding should be provided by NSW. Then when we put in an extra $1 billion, they said there wasn’t enough for construction.
But now, this week, in defending the inaction from his state Coalition colleagues, the Member for Cowper said:
“Go to Sapphire, to Woolgoolga or to Kempsey and look at the scale of the work that is happening and ask yourself where you are going to replicate that six more times.”
That’s right – now they say there is too much work taking place on the Pacific Highway, and it is not possible to do anymore at this time.
I say to those opposite they should stand up for their electorates and the communities of the North Coast.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.