Pacific Highway Upgrade

About this Item
SpeakersFraser Mr Andrew; Deputy-Speaker (Mr Thomas George); Furolo Mr Robert; Gulaptis Mr Christopher; Watson Ms Anna
BusinessDivision, Urgent Motion, URG MOT

Page: 8732

Motion Accorded Priority

Mr ANDREW FRASER (Coffs Harbour—The Assistant-Speaker) [3.42 p.m.]: I move:

      That this House calls on the Commonwealth Government to agree to maintain the historic 80:20 Commonwealth-State funding formula to ensure the completion of the Pacific Highway upgrade by 2016.

I start by saying how disappointed I am that Labor members and a number of Independents in this Chamber voted against this motion being accorded priority. I think they fail to recognise that their constituents are being killed, maimed and injured in accidents on the Pacific Highway. Their constituents are having accidents because they are less familiar with the Pacific Highway and its accident black spots. Their failure to support having the existing funding formula applied to this major transport route in Australia is beyond my comprehension. This highway carries about 30,000 heavy vehicles a week through small villages and towns. On 8 January this year young Max McGregor of Urunga was killed whilst sleeping in his bed when a vehicle driven by a person with a blood alcohol reading of 0.245 collided head-on with a B-double.

The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George): Order! There is too much audible conversation in the Chamber. I am having great difficulty hearing the member for Coffs Harbour.

Mr ANDREW FRASER: The driver of the B-double lost control of his vehicle, which veered off the highway, narrowly missed two houses and smashed into the home in which young Max was sleeping. It is not right that an 11-year-old child should die in his bed because a highway upgrade has remained unfinished since 2006. The only way that we can complete these works on this highway is to apply to it the current level of funding. Mr Albanese, prior to our election and last budget, challenged this Government to increase its funding. We did. I thank the Treasurer and the Minister for Roads and Ports, the Hon. Duncan Gay, for providing an extra $468 million in an effort to fast-track the upgrade of this highway. However, I believe we cannot meet the 2016 deadline if the Federal Government fails to meet its funding commitment under the arrangement originally put in place by the Howard Government in 2005 and continues with that funding arrangement until the upgrade of the highway is completed.

I have called on numerous occasions, in this House and publicly, for a meeting of State and Federal Ministers so that we can put in place a funding arrangement beyond 2014, when the current arrangement expires, to ensure the upgrade is completed by 2016. Unfortunately, every time the matter is raised Mr Albanese launches a personal attack on me, my Federal colleague Luke Hartsuyker and other Nationals members from the North Coast simply because he wants to play politics. I say to him and to those opposite: Politics is about people. As I said in the lead-up to this debate, 555 people have been killed on this highway, and thousands more have been maimed and injured since 1997. If those statistics were of casualties in Afghanistan or any other theatre of war I guarantee that people would be marching on this Parliament asking that the war be stopped.

As I think Dr Ray Jones said at a rally at Urunga two weeks ago, if the money spent on our overseas military commitment were spent on the Pacific Highway, the upgrade would be completed in no time at all. We must have a commitment from the Federal Government to continue the current funding arrangement. We must ensure that this major transport route, which brings food to the tables of the people of Sydney as well as delivering other goods and services to people along the North Coast and into Queensland, continues to be funded so that those goods and services can continue to be delivered. Anything else is totally unacceptable. I commend the motion to the House.
    Mr ROBERT FUROLO (Lakemba) [3.47 p.m.]: I am very pleased to speak in this debate. The motion moved by the member for Coffs Harbour is the biggest own goal of the year. It highlights that the member is not a student of history. He is unaware of the genesis of this issue. The funding formula that he criticised in speaking to his motion is not a construct of the Labor Party or of a Labor Government. It is of course a construct of former Liberal Prime Minister of Australia John Howard. The Federal Labor Government is asking nothing more of the New South Wales Coalition Government than was requested by the Howard Government of the former New South Wales Labor Government. The Howard Government's AusLink white paper of June 2004 established the 2016 target and the principle of matching Federal and State funding. I quote the former Prime Minister, who said:
        The Government's objective is to duplicate the Pacific Highway by 2016, in partnership with the New South Wales Government. The New South Wales Government will be expected to at least match this level of funding.
      That is the hero of the member for Coffs Harbour, not my hero. This is not a Labor construct. This is what John Howard said when he set the target of 2016. He also said:
          My Government's preference remains for the duplication to be completed by 2016, in line with our 2004 commitment …

          The Coalition Government is willing to provide our share of the additional funding needed to fully duplicate by 2016, if the New South Wales Government will match our funding commitment.

      I consider the request of the current Federal roads Minister to be no more onerous than the request of the former Liberal Prime Minister. Let us consider the facts of Pacific Highway funding. In John Howard's time as Prime Minister, from 1996-97 to 2007-08, his contribution to funding for the Pacific Highway was a princely $1.3 billion. During that period the New South Wales Labor State Government provided funding of $2.5 billion. My maths may not be as good as that of the member for Coffs Harbour but that works out roughly at one-third Federal funding and two-thirds State funding for the period of the Federal Liberal Government. But it gets worse for the Liberals. From 2008-09 to 2014-15 the State Government will be investing $1 billion and the Federal Labor Government has committed $4.1 billion. If we talk about a commitment to fixing the "black ribbon of death", as the member for Coffs Harbour has labelled the road, there is only one party that has backed up its commitment with real hard cash—and that is the Labor Party. I will quote some of the comments made by those opposite about this very issue. The Deputy Premier said:
          Only the NSW Liberals & Nationals are committed to completing the upgrade of the Pacific Highway by 2016.
      So one would think that would happen, but when given the opportunity to fund this project the Deputy Premier has walked away. We cannot see the Liberals and The Nationals for dust at the moment because they are running as fast as they can from the offer of a commitment to fund this project; they do not want a bar of it. The Deputy Premier also said:
          We've committed an additional $5 billion on top of the infrastructure money already in ... state budget to fast-track vital projects – and I can't think of any more important than the Pacific Highway.
      The Liberal-Nationals talk the talk but they fail to stump up with the money when the opportunity presents itself. When the current Minister for Roads and Ports, the Hon. Duncan Gay, was the shadow Minister for Roads, Ports and Waterways he called on the former New South Wales Government to match the Federal funding that was on offer at the time. He said:
          And I would hope this time [the former State Labor Minister for Roads would] say, "Yes I will match that money and save the lives of people in NSW that have to use this highway".
      That is exactly what we are asking the current Government to do: match the money that the Federal Labor Government has put on the table and help to save the lives of people in New South Wales. If the member for Coffs Harbour were serious about this he would lobby his colleagues to make sure that the money is made available. [Time expired.]
        Mr CHRISTOPHER GULAPTIS (Clarence) [3.52 p.m.]: This issue is a priority in my electorate, as it is in all the electorates that the Pacific Highway traverses. As the member for Coffs Harbour said, 550 lives have been lost on the Pacific Highway, and lives continue to be lost. Surely completing the upgrade and saving people's lives deserves a bipartisan approach. Surely people's lives are worth more than playing politics in this place, because every day people's lives are being put at risk. The stretch of highway in the electorate of Clarence will be the last to be completed. Why should people in my electorate suffer because the Federal Government wants to play politics and is supported by those opposite? This is a major piece of infrastructure that will save lives and that is long overdue. Federal Labor is spending $36 billion on the information highway, yet it will not spend money to save lives on our number one transport highway.
          The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George): Order! The member for Lakemba has had his opportunity to contribute to the debate.
            Mr CHRISTOPHER GULAPTIS: We do not want $36 billion spent on the information highway; we want our number one transport highway completed. When the former State Labor Government left office there was an 86:14 funding split between the Federal Government and the State Government. Coincidentally, as soon as the former State Government was kicked out in March last year suddenly that funding arrangement changed. That is playing politics and it is playing with people's lives.
              The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George): Order! The member for Lakemba has already made his contribution.

              Mr CHRISTOPHER GULAPTIS: The New South Wales Government supports the Prime Minister's 2016 completion date target for the Pacific Highway, but that target was not going to be met because the former State Labor Government cut $300 million from the project. It was the Liberal-Nationals Government that coughed up $468 million in last year's budget to ensure that the shortfall in funding was met in order to save lives and meet our commitment to the 2016 deadline. Let us ensure that there is not a deadline every day and adopt a bipartisan approach to saving lives. Those on the other side should be encouraging their cohorts in the Federal Parliament to agree to the 80:20 split so that we can meet that 2016 deadline. I commend the motion to the House.

              Ms ANNA WATSON (Shellharbour) [3.55 p.m.]: As the old saying goes, "I think they doth protest too much". To me, this smells like another broken promise from those opposite. The member for Coffs Harbour has the hide to talk about Federal Labor's commitment to funding the Pacific Highway.
                Mr Christopher Gulaptis: It is about saving lives.
                  Ms ANNA WATSON: I agree it is about saving lives, and that is a priority for us all. I will give a little bit of a history lesson so Government members can take notes for future reference. Back in 1996-97 the Howard Coalition Government committed $1.3 billion to the Pacific Highway while the former New South Wales Labor Government committed $2.5 billion. So far, the current New South Wales Government has committed $1 billion while Federal Labor has committed $4.1 billion. In opposition Andrew Stoner said:
                      Elect us and we will get the job done by 2016. Only the NSW Liberals & Nationals are committed to completing the upgrade of the Pacific Highway by 2016.
                  As I said, this smells of another broken promise. There is always whingeing and whining about what it is going to cost. It is about time those on the other side put their money where their mouth is. Anthony Albanese has committed to a 50:50 partnership.
                    The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George): Order! The member for Shellharbour will refer to members by their electorate or their positions.
                      Ms ANNA WATSON: Duncan Gay received—

                      The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George): Order! Who is Duncan Gay?

                      Ms ANNA WATSON: He is the Minister for Roads and Ports.

                      The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George): Order! That is how he will be referred to.

                      Ms ANNA WATSON: The Hon. Duncan Gay, the Minister for Roads and Ports, received a letter from the Hon. Anthony Albanese, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, and Leader of the House. Mr Albanese wrote to the Hon. Duncan Gay in January and said in relation to the Pacific Highway:
                          ... in order to achieve this objective, additional funds from both the Federal Government and State Government will be required. Consistent with the views going back to the AusLink program it is the Federal Government's position that this should be achieved with joint funding on a 50:50 basis.

                          As you would be aware, during the period of the former Howard Government only $1.3 billion was committed federally ...

                      [Time expired.]

                      Mr ANDREW FRASER (Coffs Harbour—The Assistant-Speaker) [3.58 p.m.], in reply: I thank the member for Clarence for his contribution. I merely acknowledge the contributions by the members for Lakemba and Shellharbour. I challenge them to go back to their electorates and tell the people who have relatives that have been killed, maimed or injured on the Pacific Highway that they will not stand up to Mr Albanese and ask him to continue the funding arrangement—

                      Mr Robert Furolo: Point of order: Mr Deputy-Speaker, you have asked members to address other members by their official titles.

                      The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George): Order! I have heard enough on the point of order. The member for Coffs Harbour will refer to members by their correct titles.

                      Mr ANDREW FRASER: I am amazed by the hide of the member for Lakemba to tell us that we should fund it 50:50 because the Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Mr Anthony Albanese, says so. The member for Lakemba's party left government with a $6 billion debt and removed $300 million funding for the Pacific Highway from the 2009 budget. The member for Lakemba should know all about car accidents. If he had pranged that Lamborghini on the Pacific Highway he would not have survived. Members opposite are trying to defend a Federal Labor Government that cannot even decide the leadership of this country and is prepared to throw billions of dollars into a technology highway, but will not fund the largest road in Australia.

                      The Pacific Highway was a State road under the last Labor Government and was made a federally funded road by Prime Minister John Howard. The road has historically attracted 80 per cent of its funding from the Federal Government. I am disappointed that the member for Shellharbour and the member for Lakemba are playing games and politics on this issue. I again challenge them and their colleagues to go to their electorates and apologise to their constituents who have known people that have been killed or maimed on the Pacific Highway. I am amazed at the arrogance and ignorance of members opposite about a road that has taken 555 lives since 1997. Go and tell those families and tell Mr Albanese— [Time expired.]

                      Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.

                      The House divided.
                      Ayes, 62
                      Mr Anderson
                      Mr Annesley
                      Mr Aplin
                      Mr Ayres
                      Mr Baird
                      Mr Barilaro
                      Mr Bassett
                      Mr Baumann
                      Ms Berejiklian
                      Mr Bromhead
                      Mr Brookes
                      Mr Casuscelli
                      Mr Conolly
                      Mr Constance
                      Mr Cornwell
                      Mr Coure
                      Mrs Davies
                      Mr Dominello
                      Mr Doyle
                      Mr Elliott
                      Mr Evans
                      Mr Flowers
                      Mr Fraser
                      Mr Gee
                      Ms Gibbons
                      Mr Gulaptis
                      Mr Holstein
                      Mr Humphries
                      Mr Issa
                      Mr Kean
                      Dr Lee
                      Ms Moore
                      Mr Notley-Smith
                      Mr O'Dea
                      Mr Owen
                      Mr Page
                      Mr Patterson
                      Mr Perrottet
                      Mr Piccoli
                      Mr Piper
                      Mr Provest
                      Mr Roberts
                      Mr Rohan
                      Mr Rowell
                      Mrs Sage
                      Mr Sidoti
                      Mrs Skinner
                      Mr Smith
                      Mr Souris
                      Mr Speakman
                      Mr Spence
                      Mr Stokes
                      Mr Stoner
                      Mr Toole
                      Mr Torbay
                      Ms Upton
                      Mr Ward
                      Mr Webber
                      Mr R. C. Williams
                      Mrs Williams
                      Mr Maguire
                      Mr Williams

                      Noes, 21
                      Mr Barr
                      Ms Burney
                      Ms Burton
                      Mr Daley
                      Mr Furolo
                      Ms Hay
                      Ms Hornery
                      Ms Keneally
                      Mr Lalich
                      Mr Lynch
                      Dr McDonald
                      Ms Mihailuk
                      Mr Parker
                      Mrs Perry
                      Mr Rees
                      Mr Robertson
                      Ms Tebbutt
                      Ms Watson
                      Mr Zangari

                      Mr Amery
                      Mr Park
                      Question resolved in the affirmative.

                      Motion agreed to.