Aug 23, 2011

Question without notice – Pacific Highway Duplication

ROB OAKESHOTT (Member for Lyne) – My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. As the minister responsible on behalf of the Commonwealth and following ongoing negotiations with the state of New South Wales, can you confirm that election promises from both levels of government and both political persuasions will be upheld—that is, the joint promise of completion of dual carriageway of the Pacific Highway by 2016, just five years away?

ANTHONY ALBANESE – I thank the member for Lyne for his question and for his commitment to representing constituents on the Pacific Highway up the NSW coast. He would be aware that we have committed some $4.1 billion to the Pacific Highway, more than any government has ever committed to any road in Australia’s history over such a period of time.

The fact is that work is proceeding apace. The Ballina bypass will be open early. It will be open by Christmas, six months ahead of schedule and on budget. Work has also commenced on the longest bridge ever constructed in Australia, which is a part of the Kempsey bypass. The builders for the Devils Pulpit upgrade have been selected and work will commence by the end of the year.

The building contract for Tintenbar to Ewingsdale in the electorate of Page was also awarded in the last fortnight. Work is forging ahead on the Bulahdelah bypass, the Banora Point upgrade and the Sapphire to Woolgoolga duplication.

All up, today there are more than a thousand Australians at work upgrading the Pacific Highway. Our last budget saw an additional billion dollars injected into the Pacific Highway so we could meet that objective. I was there with the member for Lyne and the member for Page [Janelle Saffin] with the Deputy Premier of NSW [Andrew Stoner], following our commitment announcement in May, and I was encouraged by the very direct commitment that the Deputy Premier gave on behalf of the NSW government to meet our shared objective on the full duplication of the highway.

Just last month he said the date “remained plausible as long as both governments commit to it”.

There is no doubt this is a big challenge. All of the planning work had not been completed, which is why we needed to put that extra funding into the budget. I look forward to the NSW government on 6 September stumping up its share of the money in the $750 million that it has committed.

NSW Minister for Roads Duncan Gay has “staked his reputation on securing a major funding boost for the Pacific Highway in this year’s state budget”. He said:

“My first target and task is to fulfil that commitment in this year’s budget … unless we can keep with them—the federal government—we are falling out of the game.”

This is a vital upgrade. That is why we have contributed $4.1 billion, which stands in stark contrast to the $1.3 billion committed over 12 long years by the former government. We have committed more than triple the money in half the time because we are absolutely committed to delivering on this project.

I look forward to working with the NSW government to meet our shared objective.