Mr PAUL McLEAY (Heathcote) [5.54 p.m.]: I start my comments by reading from a press release dated Friday 30 June 1995 issued by Michael Knight, then Minister for Public Works and Services, Minister for the Olympics, and Minister for Roads. The press release is headed "Savings for Illawarra Families and Business" and reads:
The State Government today lifted the toll on the F6 Freeway in a move that will save Illawarra families and business hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars each year.
In a ceremony to commemorate the removal of the 20 year old toll, the Minister the Roads, Michael Knight, and the member for Bulli, Ian McManus, accepted the last toll from a motorist and then removed a banner to unveil a sign saying " NO TOLL—PROCEED WITH CAUTION".
"The removal of the toll brings to an end discrimination against Illawarra and South Coast road users who had been paying toll when at the same time there was no toll on the Sydney to Newcastle Freeway," Mr Knight said.
At the time the new driver aid system was fully operational, something that freeway users, the NRMA and local members of Parliament had consistently called for. That was in June 1995. Last week a forum for local government representatives was held by the NRMA. One of the proposals that came out of this forum was that a toll be placed on the F6 freeway. My predecessor, Mr Ian McManus, and many other constituents were shocked to hear that the Wollongong lord mayor, Councillor Alex Darling, supported the reintroduction of the toll on the F6 freeway. That would be a shock to most residents of the Illawarra, particularly those in my electorate, and it came as a shock to the former member for Heathcote.
The headline in the Illawarra Mercury on Friday 5 November was "F6 Toll: Not Again." The former member of Parliament, Mr McManus, returned from his holidays to talk about why he was so opposed to the toll. In this place on 17 November 1992, he talked about the death of some young university students who died when they avoided the F6 tollway and used the old Princes Highway. He called for the government of the day to remove the toll, and finally in 1995 Labor did so. I am shocked to hear that Wollongong council supports the move to reintroduce the toll.
Other local issues complicate the matter. The Helensburgh interchange has been built by Labor, so it would be easy to go around the toll gates at Waterfall. The closure of Lawrence Hargrave Drive until early 2006 will have a further impact on residents. We do not want a toll on the F6. This afternoon I again spoke with the Minister the Roads. He has reconfirmed that the Government has no intention of putting a toll on the F6, and that is good news for people in my electorate.
The State Government has committed $380 million over 12 years to upgrade the Princes Highway. We have called on the Federal Government to come to the party. The F6 toll was removed in the first place to lessen the burden on workers and students in the Illawarra. However, 25 per cent of the students at Wollongong university come from the Sutherland shire. If a toll is reimposed it will be an additional burden on those students as well as on the workers who are forced to commute between Sydney and the Illawarra every day. Although the editorial of the Illawarra Mercury of 6 November had mixed feelings, it finished by saying:
The introduction of a toll would be an additional burden on an already over-taxed community but it might just be the only answer.
I believe that in this instance the editor is wrong. A toll on the F6 is not appropriate for Waterfall or the surrounding areas. The Government is committed to its 12-year $380 million plan for the road, which is about halfway completed. All we need is the Federal Government to come on board. The people of Heathcote do not need a toll at Waterfall.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL (Keira—Minister for Regional Development, Minister for the Illawarra, and Minister for Small Business) [5.59 p.m.]: The honourable member for Heathcote raised a valid issue in the Chamber tonight. In his contribution he referred to the ceremony that took place in 1995 when the toll on the F6 was removed. In my former role as Lord Mayor of Wollongong I attended that ceremony and joined with the community in its celebration of the removal of the toll by a Labor Government. Ian McManus, a former member for Heathcote, Bulli and Burragorang—who was present in the gallery at question time today—has been very vocal in his opposition to the reintroduction of the toll. I spoke to him today and he reaffirmed that opposition.
Unfortunately, the present Lord Mayor of Wollongong, councillor Alex Darling, seems to have given legs to the NRMA report, raising community concerns. The honourable member for Heathcote, who is attuned to the local community's wants and desires, knows full well that the broader community of the Heathcote electorate, Wollongong, the Illawarra and the South Coast will not accept the toll. I have spoken to the Minister for Roads about this matter. He told me that a Labor Government took away this toll and this Labor Government has no plan to reintroduce it.
It was suggested that the toll be reintroduced because the Federal Government refuses to offer financial support for the major upgrade that is under way on the Princes Highway. The work on the Princes Highway would be completed more quickly if the $380 million that the Carr Labor Government has committed to the project were matched dollar for dollar by the Federal Government, as it has done for other roads project throughout the State. I renew the call on the Federal Government to come good with the money and support the upgrade of the Princes Highway south of the city of Wollongong. With Federal funding there would be no need for a toll on the F6, which this State Government has no intention of reintroducing.