ROB OAKESHOTT (Member for Lyne) – My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. In last year’s NSW budget the matching funding of $3.5 billion for the completion of the Pacific Highway by 2016 was not allocated – in the same NSW budget where $9 billion was allocated for Sydney transport. Minister, in light of this, what urgent steps are you taking now to re-engage NSW and finalise a signed and formal agreement to complete the Pacific Highway by the agreed and promised bipartisan date of 2016?
ANTHONY ALBANESE – I thank the Member for Lyne for his question and for his ongoing commitment to upgrading the Pacific Highway.
Indeed, in the Federal Budget this year we did announce an additional $3.56 billion funding for the Nation Building Program and we indicated that it would be available for the Pacific Highway on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis. We also indicated that it was possible to achieve the joint objective, first put down by the Howard Government, of a full duplication of the Highway by 2016.
So I was very disappointed by the fact that the NSW Government failed to step up to this opportunity in spite of the fact that year after year they made promises that they would deliver matching funds for the Pacific Highway, and that they were committed to the full duplication by 2016. They failed to deliver.
Premier O’Farrell, Deputy Premier Stoner and Minister for Roads and Ports Duncan Gay are all on the record time after time saying they would make it a top priority. They now say the reason why they can’t is because there has been a $5 billion fall revenue expectations. But the fact is this Government found space to provide increased funding through our Nation Building Program even though there has been a $140 billion drop in Federal revenue as a result of the Global Financial Crisis.
The NRMA came out calling for NSW to match the funding.
But it gets even worse. Last year, the State Treasurer, Mike Baird, said in his budget speech:
“In its last Budget, the Commonwealth allocated $750 million … we are determined to provide the funds needed to match the Commonwealth offer.”
In their Budget Papers last week that figure had become $468 million. That is, they have cut funding for the Pacific Highway by $300 million on what they promised just 6 months ago.
What does the Federal National Party say about this? Their leader [Warren Truss] goes out there and says that 2016 cannot be achieved and that he would be “very disappointed” if the duplication was not completed by 2020. But he would not commit one cent of additional funding.
The fact is we have already committed $4.1 billion compared to their $1.3 billion over the 12 long years of the Howard Government.
ROB OAKESHOTT (Member for Lyne) – Madam Deputy Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, in light of your answer, the very public dispute of the last week between the Commonwealth and the State of NSW, and that the Pacific Highway has been historically funded 80/20 or 50:50, will you right now agree to release all documents and all correspondence on the history of the Pacific Highway between the two governments so we can all establish who on earth is telling the truth?
ANTHONY ALBANESE – We certainly will. The fact is the Government introduced additional funding for the Pacific Highway through our Economic Stimulus Plan, including for the Kempsey Bypass. The longest bridge in Australia will be constructed there.
Indeed, on the weekend Senator Thistlethwaite, the duty senator for Cowper, along with the State National Party member opened an interchange on the Bypass. There is not one cent of State government money going into that section of the Highway. They are happy to turn up to the openings but they do not want to actually put the money in.
I table for the benefit of the House my letter to Michael Daley, the then NSW Minister for Roads, indicating my disappointment with the amount of funding that the former State Labor government was putting in at the time [attached].
I table the Sydney Morning Herald article ‘Rees bungle costs state $50 million’ about how I reduced funding for NSW due to their failure to deliver [attached].
I table the letter from David Campbell, the then Minister for Transport and Roads in the NSW Government, asking for 80-20 funding for the Pacific Highway, and my response rejecting the proposition from Minister Campbell [attached].
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.