SUBJECTS: Labor’s investment in the Barton Highway
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s great to be here with Mike Kelly this morning, the Member for Eden-Monaro. Mike has been a great fighter for regional New South Wales and, in particular, the south east corner of New South Wales and right here on the Monaro Highway. This is a critical issue. This is the major route between Yass and Canberra; it sees some 12,500 vehicles a day use this highway. And yet investment has fallen under the current Government from more than $5.5 million when we were in office to just over $1.5 million dollars under the current Government. What we need is to step up that investment, which is why we will, a Labor Government, invest $100 million additionally on the Barton Highway, lifting total investment to almost $250 million. This is a vital issue for road safety, it also of course is good for productivity and reducing travel times. It’ll be good for all who live in the city of Yass and all who live in the communities that use this route.
DR MIKE KELLY: Look it’s absolutely fantastic to be here with Anthony Albanese today. I think history will look back on the time that Anthony Albanese has been working on behalf of this nation and say it was one of the greatest periods, the greatest contributions, to nation building that this country has ever seen. And what I particularly love about what Albo has done for us is he’s seen the issues in rural and regional Australia and the potential that can be unlocked with investment in value added infrastructure. And this example today is one of the best. I remember when we were in Government, it was Albo, we committed $40 million to do immediate safety and upgrade work. He also instituted the strategic study that pointed us in the right direction for duplication.
So he’s got skin in this game. He’s been serious. He’s the only Minister who has put serious money into this road for decades. So now we need to move on and implement the strategic study, get this duplication done. But Albo right from the start understood this is important for the whole region. By taking care of this inland infrastructure we will unleash the full potential of the Port of Eden, for example.
Also with Canberra’s international airport sectors opening up we’ll be able to move tourists around the south-west area of our region more readily. The industries that are growing rapidly on the south west slopes, the timber industry most particularly, are going to be using much larger trucks particularly when Labor implements its full carbon farming initiative and the plantation sector grows rapidly. They will be using this highway more regularly. The killer tonnage that will be crossing this road will escalate dramatically. So that potential is there, but it’s also a huge safety issue. We will begin work on this section of the Barton Highway, which has been responsible for 60 per cent of the accidents on this road. We’ve had a number of fatalities, six since 2012, but a large number of accidents with serious injuries beyond that. So this is a safety issue, it’s also reflecting the nature of the growing population here.
The (inaudible) effect around the ACT has been enormous. It’s the fastest growing area in New South Wales, one of the fastest in the country and so we’re going to get ahead of that curve by catering for that growing population. Also Albo, in his work on doing the Majura Parkway, has enabled us to plug this Barton Highway work into that work to make sure we have that seamless road going down through to the Port of Eden. So I really want to thank Albo, this will make a huge difference to the entire economy of south-east, south-west New South Wales and also help to support the renewable energy projects that will be springing up associated with Snowy 2.0 as we bring in componentry through the Port of Eden to support that effort. So the impacts will be long felt, a long boost to this economy and a visionary input from Albo and I really thank him greatly for that.
ALBANESE: Thanks Mark. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: So in a practical sense how exactly will this funding be used?
ALBANESE: What it will be used for is to complete the duplication of the Highway. What all the studies have shown is that the biggest thing that you can do, in terms of upgrading a highway to improve road safety, is to get that separation of the traffic from one side to the other. Common sense tells you that that’s the case, but of course it requires investment. And what this will do is deliver that investment that’s required. Last time round we did do the immediate work that was required to deal with the real black spots. But we’ve continued to see accidents on this Highway. We commissioned the study, the study made it clear that full duplication is what’s required we’re stumping up investment to ensure that can occur.
JOURNALIST: And when you say full duplication, I assume you don’t mean the entire Barton Highway, where will this stretch to?
ALBANESE: On the key areas fromthe border here, towards Yass. It will allow for the duplication, that’s where the heavy traffic is right here and we’ll be able to make an enormous difference. And what exactly will this funding do to improve safety on this road? Well what it will do is mean a separation of traffic so that you won’t have the fatalities that by and large have occurred due to due to head on collisions. We know that speed is a major issue on our roads but so too is fatigue and what the separation will do is to really improve road safety. This Highway is shared not only by passenger vehicles but by many heavy vehicles. We expect that to continue into the future. And just like our investment, our partnership to deliver the Majura Parkway some $288 million in total that project, made an enormous difference. This works in sync with that investment to deliver a much safer road network.
KELLY: Can I also add to that, our opponents here, the Liberal and National opponents, have been full of weasel words ‘ifs’, ‘buts’, ‘maybes’. They haven’t really committed to duplication. All we have seen when you get down to the detail is talk of upgrades and safety improvements not full duplication. We know that obviously there’s a lot of work to be done for the complete duplication in terms of land purchase and future design, engineering and study work that has to be done. But this will get this on the road then we can do that work as future years progress and that work is completed to enable the rest of that job to be done.
JOURNALIST: Are there any other safety measures that you would expect to be put in place, like bike lanes?
KELLY: We’ve been in discussions with the bike enthusiasts in this region and we’ve had a number of serious accidents and fatalities of the keen cyclists that we do have. We’ve been talking about how we will make sure when the construction proceeds that there will be sufficient width to make sure that there is safety for those bike riders particularly who will enjoy commuting and touring around on weekends and the like. (Inaudible) and the Sutton area as well. So that will be factored into what we do and the care we take on the verges of this road.
ALBANESE: The other thing is that we’ve announced already during this campaign our $260 million National Bike Path strategy. What that’s about is making sure that when projects are done like this one we include a consideration of active transport. Just like when Labor invest in infrastructure at least 10 per cent of the workforce have to be apprentices. These are conditions that Federal Labor would impose or negotiate with state and territory governments when we roll out infrastructure. It is far easier to build it in than to go back and retrofit. And we know that when it comes to cycling, both for people travelling to work or travelling for recreational activities, we need to increase the number of people, of all ages, who are able to cycle. They’ll do so if they can do it safely and that is why we’ll look for any project the issue of bike paths.
JOURNALIST: Community members have said that this was needed 10 years ago and when Labor was in power, why now?
ALBANESE: Well we did the work when we were in Government last time. We contributed $40 million, they were important safety upgrades. We can always do more. What Labor is doing today is making it very clear that we will do more; we believe and support the full duplication of the Highway. But this is a considerable investment almost a quarter of a billion dollars: $248 million dollars from the national Government. What that shows is that this is an absolute priority. I mean when we were last in Government we doubled the roads budget. We did the Bega Bypass. We completed the full duplication of the Hume Highway. By bringing forward projects like the Woomargama bypass. We increased investment in the Pacific Highway from $1.3 billion under the Howard Government to $7.6 billion under the Labor Government. We increased investment in the Bruce Highway in Queensland from $1.3 billion to $6.7 billion over half the time, six years compared with twelve. So we invested right throughout the country including here on the Monaro Highway. We also made substantial investments in the New England Highway, projects like the Hunter Expressway. You can go anywhere in Australia and you will see the impact that we had in just two terms of Government. What this current Government can’t do is point to any major infrastructure projects that they’ve actually funded and has been completed on their watch. Because they haven’t done it, they haven’t done the investment. What they have they’ve done is sit and watch as Federal Labor’s projects have been completed but they haven’t made the initiatives. They haven’t come forward with new investment, with new projects and that’s a tragedy. In their current budget of course they make big numbers but it’s all off in the never-never. It’s all outside the forward estimates with very few exceptions. Well what we’re saying here too is that overwhelmingly the majority of this money will be available during the next term over the Forward Estimates. And we want to really step up. The work has been done. The studies have been done. We know what has to be done here. All it requires is the investment and the political will. And Mike Kelly has ensured that the political will is there by campaigning so strongly along with the community for these updates.
KELLY: Just to add to that too. It was Anthony Albanese who initiated the strategic study to guide us on the road forward to doing this duplication. Initial immediate work to do immediate remediation of key safety issues but that work that was initiated by Anthony Albanese was the first time a strategic study had been done. All of those Howard years were completely wasted in that respect. So after Anthony Albanese initiated that strategic study, it took some time to complete and was not delivered until after we left Government. It was delivered under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government. And of course they’ve spent six years just doing nothing. You can’t see any work having been done in six years on this road and that strategic study was ignored. But now Anthony Albanese if we’re elected, as a Minister, will be able to draw on that strategic study that he initiated that hasn’t been acted on.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.