Bells Line Expressway



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SpeakersStoner Mr Andrew; Deputy-Speaker; Martin Mr Gerard; Turner Mr Russell; Whan The Hon Steve; Acting-Speaker (Mr Wayne Merton); Williams Mr Ray; Fardell Mrs Dawn
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BELLS LINE EXPRESSWAY
Page: 2905

Mr ANDREW STONER (Oxley—Leader of The Nationals) [11.33 a.m.]: I move:
      That this House:
(1) welcomes the Federal Government's commitment of $10 million towards a planning and engineering study of the Bells Line Expressway; and

(2) calls on the State Government to contribute matching funding so this much-needed transport link to the Central West can progress.
The Nationals have long championed a new and safe expressway over the Blue Mountains. Over the years Ian Armstrong has continued as chair of the Bells Line Expressway Group. The member for Orange is strong in his support for this route, as are the member for Upper Hunter and former Leader of the Nationals, the Hon. George Souris, and John Cobb, the current member for Parkes, who is seeking election in the electorate of Calare. John Cobb has represented Dubbo for quite some time and is familiar with the stretch of road. Yesterday I was surprised when the Government agreed to this motion being given precedence.

Mr Gerard Martin: You are about to find out why.

Mr ANDREW STONER: The member for Bathurst should refrain from interjecting as there are schoolchildren in the gallery and he is setting a very bad example. He will have an opportunity later to contribute to debate on this motion. Yesterday I spoke about the many benefits of this proposal, not the least of which is road safety. The Great Western Highway and the current Bells Line of Road are amongst the most dangerous roads in this State per kilometre of highway. The Great Western Highway adversely affects the amenity of the villages it traverses in the Blue Mountains area and beyond. Clearly, the current road is simply not up to the task.

Economic issues also have to be addressed. Currently there is no B-double route for road freight to come from the Central West and the Western Plains to the container port in Sydney. Unlike the State's other highways, individual semitrailers are being forced to bring that freight into the city at a massive additional cost to producers. Fletchers International is just one of those producers. Manildra flour mill exports a lot of flour and flour products out of the Port of Sydney but many other businesses would benefit from having a safe and faster route for road freight. It is scandalous that in the twenty-first century there is no B-double route to the west of the State. In an economic sense it would bring other benefits, including tourism. Tourists would visit the Central West and other delightful parts of the State if they were made much more accessible, which they would be if there was an expressway instead of the long and tortuous route they currently have to traverse.

Decentralisation would occur. Over the decades we have witnessed the benefits of the F3 with the expansion and growth of the Central Coast and the Hunter, and businesses, industry and families taking advantage of this transport route. Those same benefits could be achieved with a new expressway to the Central West and the Western Plains. Land would become more available—currently we have a land shortage in Sydney—we would have more affordable housing and there would be an industrial expansion into the Blue Mountains and beyond. So there would be massive benefits for the State as a whole, benefits that are recognised by the councils affected by this proposal. They have all indicated their strong support for the proposal for a Bells Line Expressway put forward by the Bells Line Expressway Group. It is obvious that communities support the proposal. In a recent contribution even the member for Bathurst stated that 99 per cent of people in his electorate and in western New South Wales wanted this road.

Mr Gerard Martin: It is 99. 5 per cent.

Mr ANDREW STONER: It has gone up by half a percentage point. There is every good reason to support a proposal that is estimated to cost in the order of $2 billion. To put that into context, the Premier and the Minister for Roads recently announced that they want to spend $7 billion on more road works in Sydney, including on the M4 east, and that is on top of many other recent road projects—for example, the Lane Cove Tunnel, the Cross City Tunnel, the M7, et cetera. Country New South Wales is calling on the Government to heed a number one priority for infrastructure investment. This motion calls on the State Government to contribute matching funding of $10 million for an important planning and engineering study following the Prime Minister's announcement on 25 May of $10 million in funding. However, we have not heard a peep in response from the State Labor Government to match that funding, even though it has responsibility for this State highway. After some outcry from the community the Government's official position was disingenuous, to say the least. It said:
      Not enough details have been provided from the Federal Government.

The truth is that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, Mark Vaile, had written twice to Eric Roozendaal providing all the details. On 26 September Mark Vaile announced that the Federal Government will provide the other $10 million because the State Government will not. The State Government has been hiding, ducking and weaving, so it is up to the Federal Government to get this planning and engineering assessment underway. It is clear that The Nationals at Federal and State level are absolutely committed to this project, but Labor is not. The member for Bathurst, a member of the Bells Line Expressway Group, keeps pooh-poohing the project, saying that it cannot be funded, and he keeps trying to shift the entire responsibility to the Federal Government despite the project being a State responsibility.

The Labor candidate for Macquarie, Bob Debus, has offered only criticism of Kerry Bartlett, the current member for Macquarie, for seeking strong support from the communities in the redistributed electorate that he seeks to represent. Mr Bartlett is in a better position than Bob Debus, who will not even support the project. Neither Bob Debus nor Bundy Bear have taken the Minister for Roads to task for refusing to back an essential road project that even the member for Bathurst says 99 per cent of people want. I anticipate that the member for Bathurst will get back to his usual blame shifting: trying to shift responsibility for funding the project, saying that it cannot be funded, and using every reason not to fund it. But let us talk about cooperative federalism, that is, the State and Federal governments working together. The Federal Government has shown an interest in the project, but what level of interest has the State Government shown? Has the member for Bathurst knocked on the Minister's door and said, "Why don't you go and talk to Mark Vaile and Jim Lloyd? Let's work out a way to fund this project cooperatively—State and Federal government funding—and private sector funding."

Mr Gerard Martin: Jim Lloyd thinks its pie in the sky, but it's in here.

Mr ANDREW STONER: That is a very old document the member for Bathurst has in his possession; he should not be so disingenuous again. The Federal and State governments and the private sector have worked together to fund and construct major roads projects. For example, the Western Sydney orbital, the M7, which is a magnificent piece of road, was achieved as a result of cooperation between government levels and the private sector. That same approach can apply to the Bells Line Expressway proposal at considerably less cost than the M7. So why does the member for Bathurst not lobby his Minister to get behind this project instead of ducking, weaving and playing politics as he has? I know he is in a difficult position, but he needs to do more than play politics on this issue. The member for Bathurst should not start blame shifting and buck-passing again today. Instead, he should tell his community what he is doing to make this project happen. The Federal Government has $20 million for a State road project. What is the State Government doing? The engineering and planning assessment that is required to enable the project proceed is essential.

Mr Gerard Martin: It will be 2009 before you start the money coming.

The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! Members will cease interjecting.

Mr ANDREW STONER: The member for Bathurst is already pooh-poohing it all. Why not get behind it and support this motion.

Mr GERARD MARTIN (Bathurst) [11.43 a.m.]: I should have about two days to speak in the debate, which is the time I would need to rewrite all the untruths we have just heard. I move:
      That the motion be amended by deleting all words after the word "That" with a view to inserting instead:
this House:
(1) welcomes the Federal Government and the Federal Opposition's commitment to fund planning and engineering studies into a second road crossing of the Blue Mountains; and

(2) requests the agreed crossing be funded from the Federal Government's AusLink program.

I have moved the amendment for a number of reasons. The first is to correct the Leader of The Nationals, Mark Vaile. The $10 million, $20 million, probably $30 million bail out Kerry fund is not exclusively for a study into the Bells Line of Road. It is for a second crossing of the Blue Mountains. The Leader of The Nationals should go back to square one. In a letter of 30 August 2007 that those opposite claimed had been sent to our Minister in June—an absolute lie—Mark Vaile said to the Minister:
      Unlike the SKM study in 2003/04—
which was jointly funded by the State and Federal governments—

      this undertaking will examine all options, not just the Bells Line of Road.
We should make that clear from the start. Mark Vaile now wants to start again all that good work done by the Bells Line Expressway Group relating to the Bells Line of Road. Of course, conveniently, that will miss any opportunity to fund it under AusLink2. When the Prime Minister bowled up to Bathurst on 25 May, the first time in his prime ministership that he had visited Australia's most significant and oldest inland city, he made the statement that $10 million is needed for extra studies for the project. Nobody in the Federal Government Department of Transport and Regional Services had any idea what the $10 million was for. In fact, $10 million is not needed. It took Kevin Rudd to come along, have a look at it and say, "I'm with Martin Ferguson. We'll commit to a study into the second crossing of the Blue Mountains as part of the AusLink program." That will probably involve about $5 million or $6 million. Not to be outdone, Federal members again tried to put up a bit more support for Kerry Bartlett and said, "Oh, $20 million."

Let us just look at the support the other side of the House supposedly has for the project. Jim Lloyd is running from this project at 100 miles an hour, as are most Liberal members on that side because they have their own pet projects, whether it is the Pacific Highway, the Princes Highway or some other highway. There is not a Liberal body that really wants to support this project. As for Mr Bartlett, he has crossed borders and now is in a redistributed electorate. In 2005 when the Sinclair Knight Merz [SKM] report was released, Mr Bartlett, supposedly now a fervent supporter of this program, was quoted in the Hawkesbury Gazette—a newspaper I am sure the member opposite reads studiously—of 9 February 2005. The article began:
      Macquarie MP Kerry Bartlett said statements by a western NSW National Party member that the new report found the project feasible, were unfounded.
That National Party member was the Hon. Ian Armstrong. The article quoted Mr Bartlett as saying:
      "There is no basis in this new report to support (Lachlan MP) Ian Armstrong's statement that the project—"

The Bells Line of Road—

      "—is viable."
He continued:

      "I've been advised by the federal minister's office, who have spoken to the RTA, that the only substantial difference with this new report is that the cost has gone up to $3 billion."
Mr Bartlett continued:
      "Ian Armstrong is just trying to raise some interest ahead of a report which won't do him much good."

The article then stated:

      Mr Bartlett was incredulous this new report had been commissioned at all, considering the findings of the previous report by consultants Maunsell McIntyre—
which was paid for by this Government—
      —four years ago.

      "The last report showed (the plan) was not even in the ballpark," Mr Bartlett said
From that we can see that Mr Bartlett has had a sudden conversion on the way to political oblivion. The article quoted him as saying:
      "It [the report] was way short of justifying the proposal.

      I've made it very clear in the past that I'm opposed to any superhighway that's going to involve compulsory acquisition of land in the Hawkesbury, or have an adverse affect on a world-heritage-listed area."
So much for Mr Bartlett! To reinforce his great support for this project, on 20 April when the report into the proposed north-south rail line was released, Mr Bartlett was again quoted in the same newspaper as saying:
      "I consider the superhighway is pie-in-the-sky."
This proposal was the railway running north to south, or wherever they wanted to run it. He was supported by Bart Bassett, the Mayor of Hawkesbury, who I believe was a failed Liberal Party candidate at the last election. They are all in there together looking after their parochial politics. He did not give a stuff about the people west of the mountains. The member for Orange suddenly has been whipped into line. We saw the farce at the last election when Sue Williams and Greg Matthews from Dubbo were on a billboard supporting the project. They had the sod-turning ceremony near Lithgow, about which everyone is still doubled up with laughter. No money was given to fund it, but they were pushing it! That put the kiss of death on the project. Members opposite will put the kiss of death on the Bells Line Expressway project. There is no credibility on that side of the House for the project.

On 25 May the Prime Minister said in Bathurst that he would provide the funding for the study. What he did not say in the fine print was that the money will be available in 2009—this is the $10 million, now $20 million, for the study. So now we are going to wait until 2009 for the study to be conducted. Everyone agrees that an environmental impact statement would be a comprehensive document, but it will probably take two years to complete. Guess what happened? They were rolling all the money out for AusLink 2—$2.4 billion for the Pacific Highway and $2 billion for the Bruce Highway to try to shore up some Queensland members of The Nationals—and it sped out the door. By the time the studies were done, AusLink 2 funding was spent, and the next capital allocation coming from the Federal Government would not be until 2014. It will be seven years before the Federal Government again will have to put its hand in its pocket. We all know that in seven years time, Kevin Rudd will still be the Prime Minister of this country. Kevin Rudd, Martin Ferguson and Bob Debus are committed to this project. The money is available. They came to Bathurst and made a statement.

Mr Ray Williams: Where is it?

Mr GERARD MARTIN: The money is there for the study to be done on an alternative route. Currently Jim Lloyd is pushing the Penrith to Dubbo option for AusLink 2. The New South Wales Opposition said that the New South Wales Government had not put in its bid for AusLink 2. That is an absolute lie. Ian Armstrong also said it, as did all the other members of the Coalition. I will again cite what Mark Vaile stated in a letter of 30 August to Eric Roozendaal:

      Premier Iemma, in his letter to the Prime Minister on 1 May 2007, which identified AusLink 2 priorities for NSW—
For the benefit of some members of the Coalition who are a little slow on the uptake, I repeat that the letter states, "which identified AusLink 2 priorities for New South Wales"—not that we had not done it, as alleged by the Coalition. This is what was said by Mark Vaile:

      highlighted the "need to investigate alternative routes to the existing alignment of the Great Western Highway on the western escarpment of the Blue Mountains in order to provide safer and more efficient access from western NSW to the Sydney area."
That was stated in agreement by our leader, Premier Morris Iemma, to the Prime Minister. Now the Federal Opposition, which in five weeks will be the Federal Government, has agreed to fund the studies. If members of the Coalition want to waste their money, they should phone Kerry Bartlett. But before members of the Coalition have any truck with what Kerry Bartlett says on this matter, they should acknowledge that he has done an absolute back flip, and the member for Hawkesbury knows that. He is not happy about the proposal because he does not want the route to go through his electorate.

Mr Steve Whan: He wrote a speech in favour of it.

Mr GERARD MARTIN: I know. He had his arm twisted, but privately in the corridors of Parliament House he says the opposite. It will be interesting to find out whether he participates in this debate and talks about how he feels about the proposal. He sings from the same song sheet as Kerry Bartlett. They spend all their time rubbishing Ian Armstrong. I am on the executive of the Bells Line Expressway Group with Ian Armstrong and I know more about this project than anybody else in this House, including the member for Orange, who still pulls up at Mount Victoria Pass, stands there as if in some sort of fantasy land, and dreams about a great big tunnel from Mount Victoria to Penrith. Of course, tunnels will be no good for this project.

If there is one thing said by Leader of The Nationals that I agree with it is that we need a B-double route. There are many restrictions on what heavy vehicles are allowed to carry through tunnels, and prohibited goods include fertilisers and fuels. That is why the Government, in the SKM study, went away from the idea of tunnels. The engineering studies have been done and we do not need $10 million or $20 million to undertake studies. We need money to do an environmental impact statement. The Federal Government, the colleague of the New South Wales Opposition, has plenty of money to put on the table. Why would we want $20 million to do more studies? There has been no consultation with departmental officers in Canberra. This was a Nationals sham in the lead-up to the State election. No one bought the Coalition's empty promises. The very same thing will happen at the next Federal election. The project will not save Kerry Bartlett's neck. On this issue he is a hypocrite.

Mr RUSSELL TURNER (Orange) [11.53 a.m.]: It gives me pleasure to speak to the motion moved by the Leader of The Nationals welcoming the Federal Government's $10 million commitment and acknowledging—owing to the failure of the State Government to commit—that the Federal Government has increased its contribution from $10 million to $20 million so that a planning and engineering study can be undertaken. A great deal of rhetoric has been heard from the member for Bathurst. He is confused. In this House he rubbishes the project, yet in his electorate, where he knows that 99 per cent of his constituents support it, he tries to pretend he is in favour of it. In the Mudgee Guardian on Friday 2 March the member for Bathurst is quoted as saying:

      The Expressway group has put forward a compelling case, and State and Federal Governments need to give a funding a high priority.
Where is the State Government's funding? Where is the evidence that the State Government is giving this project priority? Let me detail some of the positive aspects of the proposal. We have heard all the negative points and we have heard a number of accusations that have been made by the Government. Some of the project's positive aspects are revealed by reference to the development that occurred between Gosford and Newcastle after construction of the F3, which was then known as the Newcastle Expressway. When the F3 was opened extensive development became possible.

The Government can rubbish this project as much as it likes and come up with traffic numbers to show that the cost of the project does not justify its construction, but The Nationals believe that the better view of the project is that, quite apart from improved safety, improved perception of distances and time-saving benefits, it represents a vision for the area. The Nationals' vision for this project is that investment in construction of this highway will bring benefits similar to those that accrued to the Central Coast, Gosford and Newcastle areas after construction of the F3. The prosperity and development of that area could not have occurred without construction of the F3, so let us debate this project from the point of view of the project's positive features.

I have often remarked about the inhibiting effect on development of the perception of distance. People who live west of Parramatta, an area that accounts for roughly half the population of Sydney, think nothing of driving to the Hunter Valley for the day or for the weekend to visit the wineries. Despite the district being roughly equidistant from the centre of Sydney—the Hunter Valley, Mudgee, Orange and the Cowra vineyards—people would not even think of travelling to Sydney for the day because they have the perception, from that goat track of a road they have to travel on and the traffic that queues for kilometres from Sydney to home on their return drive, that Sydney is an undesirable tourist destination.

While there are many benefits generally to be derived from this highway project that The Nationals support, its benefits for the freight transport industry are not limited to the reduction of costs. Electrolux and Fletchers cannot use B-doubles to transport goods over the mountains and at best may be able to use A-doubles. I know that Westoil uses A-doubles to pick up fuel from Clyde for the Central West. Even though Westoil uses an A-double, the tanker cannot be filled entirely because of weight restrictions. There are not only length restrictions applying to the use of the current route in respect of B-doubles but also weight restrictions.

The road was built in 1814. That shows how out-of-date the current route across the mountains is. In many respects the Great Western Highway is a highway in name only. It follows the original route discovered by Cox when he pushed through to Bathurst. The Government stands condemned because it insists on upgrading the Great Western Highway. There is a huge conflict raging about the route the highway will take through the Hartley Valley. On many occasions in this House we have heard that the Great Western Highway's speed zone restrictions, especially through school zones, reduces its function to that of a local road. Let us show some vision, let us make a commitment, let us get a decent highway over the mountains!

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.58 a.m.]: I am pleased to endorse the comments made by the member for Bathurst on a new road crossing of the Blue Mountains, and I support the amendment he moved. The people of the Bathurst electorate and areas lying farther west know that they have a very strong advocate in the member for Bathurst for meeting their needs. In a short time they will have another very strong advocate for having their needs met, including another road crossing of the Blue Mountains, when they elect Bob Debus as their Federal Parliamentary representative. Unlike Mr Bartlett, the Liberals Federal candidate, Bob Debus has a consistent position on this matter. The member for Bathurst outlined Mr Bartlett's flip-flops on this issue and pointed out that Mr Bartlett's position changes depending on whom he happens to be talking to on any given day. With the exception of a couple of members, such as a former member of this House, Ian Armstrong, the Opposition's attitude to the proposal has been wildly inconsistent and subject to the effect the proposal is likely to have on voting in an electorate.

There was strong council and community support for a second crossing of the Blue Mountains during hearings of the Premier's rural and regional task force held in the west of the State. The message came through loud and clear: The Federal Government must take seriously the investigation of crossing options. The current proposal is simply a pre-election ploy. Let us face it: John Howard has form on this. Shortly before a Federal election the Howard Government promised my electorate that it would commission a feasibility study and planning work on a very fast train project. What happened after the election? The idea was quietly dropped. The Government said, "It's not feasible so we'll cancel the study." No doubt Treasurer Costello pocketed the money set aside for the study and declared it to be a saving resulting from his good economic management. The Howard Government failed to deliver that promised service.

In this case a promise made during the election campaign will quickly become a non-core promise after the election. This proposal is designed to tide the Government over. We need committed Labor members who will carry the study through and pursue real and viable crossing options. As the member for Bathurst has pointed out consistently to Country Labor members and to caucus, a second crossing of the Blue Mountains would be an absolute boon for regional development in western New South Wales. The project has a very strong advocate in the member for Bathurst.

The Leader of The Nationals moved this motion. In his reply to the recent budget the Leader of The Nationals said that he would sell retail electricity to fund the road. But just a few weeks ago he told the ABC in Wagga Wagga that selling retail electricity would be devastating for rural economies. His comments change from day to day. Let us consider The Nationals' record on roads. The Barton Highway is a Federal responsibility but the member for Burrinjuck only recently and belatedly began to criticise the Federal Government for its failure to upgrade that highway. I recently had the awful and tragic experience of talking to the grandfather of a person who was killed in an accident on the Barton Highway and of hearing the terrible regret in his voice. The Federal Government has failed in its duty to maintain that highway, and for many years The Nationals and the Liberals have been reluctant to criticise its inaction. Turning to the Murrumbateman bypass and road funding, I recently attended the Murrumbateman field day—

Mr Andrew Stoner: Point of order: The member for Monaro seems to be somewhat distracted from the substance of the motion before the House, which is about the Bells Line Expressway. He has talked about Murrumbateman and the Barton Highway—everything but the Bells Line Expressway.

ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Wayne Merton): Order! I note the point of order. I ask the member for Monaro to return to the specific nature of the motion before the House.

Mr STEVE WHAN: I have spoken at great length about the need for a second crossing of the Blue Mountains. Let us consider the history of the promises that have been made. The Nationals are all over the place on this issue. This proposal is an election stunt. As the Leader of The Nationals said, "Rhetoric is no substitute for substance", and rhetoric is all we hear from members of The Nationals.

Mr RAY WILLIAMS (Hawkesbury) [12.03 p.m.]: I must put the following information on the record immediately. I think the member for Bathurst called someone a hypocrite but I have noticed that in the 1998 Australian Railway Historical Society newsletter it is stated clearly that, while Blue Mountains City Council opposed the super road plan, the then Mayor of Lithgow, Gerard Martin, called for an expressway using the alignment across the Bells Line of Road.

Mr Barry Collier: Point of order: Is it appropriate for the member for Hawkesbury to read from his BlackBerry in the House?

ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Wayne Merton): Order! Members will be aware that they are able to refer to notes and other written material. In the circumstances, and as it is 2007, I consider that there is no difference between referring to a newspaper article and referring to a BlackBerry.

Mr RAY WILLIAMS: Well chaired once again, Mr Acting-Speaker. That was quite a vexatious point of order by the member for Miranda. As to the member for Bathurst, it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. I am glad that I put that on the record. It is now clear that the member for Bathurst will reject his amendment and support the motion moved by the Leader of The Nationals.

Mr Gerard Martin: Point of order: I remind the member for Hawkesbury that I have moved an amendment to the motion. There is no hypocrisy from me on this issue. I have been consistent on this issue from day one: I have always supported the Bells Line of Road.

ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Wayne Merton): Order! The member for Bathurst will resume his seat. The member for Hawkesbury has the call.

[Interruption]

ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Wayne Merton): The member for Bathurst will resume his seat. I call the member for Bathurst to order.

Mr RAY WILLIAMS: The central western areas surrounding Bathurst have for years been constrained by the lack of a decent road across the Blue Mountains. While there has been some work on the Great Western Highway, there is potential for a better road to be constructed via the Bells Line of Road. While much has been said about this issue, the simple fact is that good roads and transport links are the foundation of prosperity for the State and our nation as a whole. Because New South Wales is so large we must always give priority to new and improved transport links between the cities and our country cousins. The economic longevity of the west depends on vital road and transport links that allow businesses to grow, and which in turn will provide employment for people in rural areas.

We often talk about the decentralisation of people from our cities to the country. The question is: Who would want to live in the Central West and be forced to travel on a dangerous, slow road such as the Bells Line of Road? There is enormous potential for increased growth in these areas, where people would not have to live in the high-rise apartment blocks that have proliferated under the State Government's urban consolidation policy. People who wish to move to the lovely towns of Bathurst, Orange and Mudgee have the opportunity to live on small acreage lots, which are great places for families to raise children. Unfortunately, the State Government is again ignoring the potential of developing a better road across the Blue Mountains by upgrading the Bells Line of Road.

Consider how the new road between Lithgow and Bathurst has benefited the residents of those towns. The road cut 30 minutes off the trip between the towns. Motorists who were forced to use the old concrete road that wound its way around Lake Wallerawang now enjoy a safe, quick trip between Lithgow and Bathurst. This obviously aids employment and improves the quality of life of residents in these rural towns. Unfortunately, the return trip from Lithgow to the city is slow and dangerous. Heavy vehicles are reluctant to use the Bells Line of Road and instead travel on the Great Western Highway. This impacts on towns from Katoomba to Penrith, with unwanted pollution and gridlocked traffic in towns such as Lawson, where the road narrows to a single lane.

The Bells Line of Road is the preferred route, but it can be perilous and has cost many lives. The upgrade of this road is vital to the health and survival of the rural communities that depend on the road not only for transport but also to sustain and maintain businesses in those areas. At a time when rural towns are suffering the worst drought in history it is amazing that the Government has rejected this proposal outright. I would have thought members who represent country electorates would do all they can to benefit their communities. This motion is about providing important roads and transport links in rural communities. But the State Government does not want to spend money on vital projects. I commend the Federal Government for allocating $20 million for the construction of a link to Richmond Road, the Bells Line of Road, the M7 and country areas.

Mrs DAWN FARDELL (Dubbo) [12.08 p.m.]: I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the motion. As an Independent, I have prepared my own speaking notes—unlike the member for Hawkesbury, who read a prepared speech. But I know what I am talking about and who will benefit from any upgrade to the Bells Line of Road.

Mr Andrew Stoner: We get less resources than you.

Mrs DAWN FARDELL: The Leader of The Nationals is interjecting rudely. Yesterday when he was giving reasons for bringing on this motion for debate today—which I welcome—he said that the Federal Government was allocating $20 million to the project. He then added the throwaway line that if we did not hurry we would lose the money. Has the Federal Government made a commitment to provide that $20 million? The immediate costs of building the expressway will be easily balanced by the long-term benefits of safer and more efficient travel times to Sydney and income generated from increased tourism and business opportunities. No government, State or Federal—no matter who is in office—should deny the regions past the sandstone curtain the right to a safe and secure highway.

Mr Ray Williams: I thought you weren't going to read?

Mrs DAWN FARDELL: These are my thoughts, not somebody else's. Mr Duncan Gay in the upper House wanted to know what my stand was. Clearly he is not up to speed: I have always supported the proposal and congratulated Ian Armstrong and the member for Bathurst on their stand and their involvement. I have not yet heard Mr John Cobb, the Federal member for Parkes, who has not been very visible for the last 12 months, express his support for the project.

On 15 November 2005 Mr Jim Lloyd, the Federal roads Minister, rejected the Bells Line proposal in a radio interview on 2BS Bathurst. It is nice to know that, all of a sudden—surprise, surprise—there is great interest in the Bells Line of Road, not only from Mr Bartlett: other members from the area are also raising their hands. I would not be surprised if very shortly the Leader of The Nationals proposed in this House discussion of the inland rail forum, which also needs to be debated. It is an opportune time, five weeks out from the election, to be gathering momentum on that as well. What firm commitment do we have from Government on that at this stage?

In 2005 many mayors came to the launch in the foyer of this House. We looked at the plans and all the mayors and general managers from the area supported the proposal put forward. Mr Russell Turner was there as well. We all welcomed the announcement. Members of Parliament of different political ilk and mayors and general managers of different political persuasion welcomed the announcement on the Bells Line of Road. We firmly believed that the State and Federal Governments were going to be working on this proposal to get it through—and the sooner the better. I have family members who travel the road very often and safety aspects are of concern.

The Leader of The Nationals mentioned Mr Roger Fletcher. People other than Mr Fletcher depend on this road. Many trucking companies and transporters in our area are doing good work. Mr Fletcher employs a lot of people in Dubbo and beyond and he is a very community-minded citizen, but many other transporters are looking for an alternative route. At the moment transporters can only go to a certain point—to Lithgow or down the Golden Highway to near Cessnock. They cannot go into the port of Botany.

This proposal is very important for our industry. It is also very important for safety reasons. One ratepayer approached the former mayor of Forbes, Alistair Lockhart—a very good man—following the hurricane disaster in Louisiana. I am on record as questioning, if a disaster were to happen in Sydney, whether governments are prepared for evacuation of the population? How would we get people out over the goat track or north and south of Sydney? How would we deal with that? We would not be able to do it. We need good highways to do that. We are concentrating on upgrading the Pacific Highway but we need to concentrate on the area over the sandstone curtain, past Penrith, out west and down to Parkes and Forbes where we could handle those people. Louisiana could not handle it with four lanes of highway going either way. That is an aspect that not many other people have considered, but it is a very important one: What avenues are there to move that population?

Mr ANDREW STONER (Oxley—Leader of The Nationals) [12.13 p.m.], in reply: I thank the members for Bathurst, Orange, Monaro, Hawkesbury and Dubbo for contributing to this important debate. The member for Bathurst moved a predictable amendment, essentially proposing that the Federal Government fund the project entirely from AusLink funds. The amendment is all about shifting responsibility, which has been the consistent position of the member for Bathurst from day one. It is also confirmation that the Iemma Labor Government will not stump up one red cent to make the project happen, despite this project being a State responsibility. The member for Bathurst criticised the Federal Government for seeking to examine in its study all options, not just the Bells Line Expressway proposal. The Federal Government would be irresponsible if it did not seek the best route; the safest road and the maximum benefit to the community. But if the Bells Line Expressway proposal stacks up—and I am confident that it will—of course that would receive some preference in the assessment.

The members for Bathurst and Monaro were fairly strident in their criticism of this project and the Federal Government. They constantly sought to shift responsibility for the project and point fingers, but we did not hear a word from either of them about what the State Labor Government is going to do. The member for Bathurst and the member for Monaro talked about a 2005 position of the current Federal member for Macquarie, referring to a 2005 piece of fish and chip wrapping. The newspaper is that old—

Mr Gerard Martin: The Premier has told Mark Vaile what we are doing. Get Mark Vaile to show you the letter of 30 August—that is if you can read.

Mr ANDREW STONER: The position of the member for Macquarie post-redistribution—in case you did not know, Macquarie has been redistributed—has changed because his seat has changed. Are you suggesting that he should not strongly represent the people in his new electorate?

Mr Steve Whan: He is obviously a man of great principles.

Mr ANDREW STONER: All we heard from both of those members who seek to interject is more political game-playing, but not a word about why they have, despite being members of this Government, failed for nine years to get one dollar for this crucial project. All they did was pooh-pooh the Federal Government's interest in the project, saying that funding would not start until 2009. But the question is: When will the State Government's funding start? It is a State road. We have seen nothing in nine years with Mr Martin as the member for Bathurst, so we should not hold our breath for funding out of the State Government.

The people that the members for Bathurst and Monaro are supposed to represent would be disgusted at their performance here today. Those people do not care about political gains, excuses and point scoring; they want to see governments cooperating, working together to make it happen. So we do not support Labor's blame-shifting amendment. It is a transparent attempt by the State Government to duck its constitutional responsibilities. It is also a pathetic attempt by country-based members to disguise their inability to get their city-centric Labor colleagues to spend any money outside of Sydney. People will be disgusted at the negativity the two Labor members have displayed here today. This project can and will happen, but it needs a positive approach and cooperation, in contrast to their negative, carping performance today. They have shown themselves to be nothing more than political hacks instead of the visionaries that the Central West needs, visionaries like Ian Armstrong and Russell Turner.

Mrs Dawn Fardell: Point of order: I have heard enough. This is clearly a blatant attempt to get Kerry Bartlett over the line.

ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Wayne Merton): Order! That is not a point of order.

Mr ANDREW STONER: Again the member for Dubbo has revealed her Labor bias by that point of order, not to mention her contribution to the debate, which was all about continually attacking the Coalition. At no stage has she asked the State Government what it is doing. She asked whether the $20 million would be withdrawn. Answer: No, it will not. The only worry is if Kevin Rudd and Federal Labor get in. Then the project is in trouble because State Labor does not support it. State Labor does not support it; Federal Labor will not.

Question—That the amendment be agreed to—put.

The House divided.
Ayes, 50

Mr Amery
Ms Andrews
Mr Aquilina
Ms Beamer
Mr Brown
Ms Burney
Ms Burton
Mr Campbell
Mr Collier
Mr Coombs
Mr Corrigan
Mr Costa
Mr Daley
Ms D'Amore
Ms Firth
Ms Gadiel
Mr Gibson
Mr Greene
Mr Harris
Ms Hay
Mr Hickey
Ms Hornery
Ms Judge
Mr Khoshaba
Mr Koperberg
Mr Lynch
Mr McBride
Dr McDonald
Ms McKay
Mr McLeay
Ms McMahon
Ms Meagher
Ms Megarrity
Ms Moore
Mr Morris
Mrs Paluzzano
Mr Pearce
Mrs Perry
Mr Rees
Mr Sartor
Mr Shearan
Mr Stewart
Ms Tebbutt
Mr Terenzini
Mr Tripodi
Mr Watkins
Mr West
Mr Whan
Tellers,
Mr Ashton
Mr Martin

Noes, 37

Mr Aplin
Mr Baird
Mr Baumann
Ms Berejiklian
Mr Cansdell
Mr Constance
Mr Debnam
Mr Draper
Mrs Fardell
Ms Goward
Mrs Hancock
Mr Hartcher
Mr Hazzard
Ms Hodgkinson
Mrs Hopwood
Mr Humphries
Mr Kerr
Mr Oakeshott
Mr O'Dea
Mr O'Farrell
Mr Page
Mr Piccoli
Mr Piper
Mr Provest
Mr Richardson
Mr Roberts
Mrs Skinner
Mr Smith
Mr Souris
Mr Stokes
Mr Stoner
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr J. D. Williams
Mr R. C. Williams

Tellers,
Mr George
Mr Maguire

Pair

Ms KeneallyMr Fraser
Question resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment agreed to.

Question—That the motion as amended be agreed to—put.

Division called for and Standing Order 185 applied.

The House divided.
Ayes, 50

Mr Amery
Ms Andrews
Mr Aquilina
Ms Beamer
Mr Brown
Ms Burney
Ms Burton
Mr Campbell
Mr Collier
Mr Coombs
Mr Corrigan
Mr Costa
Mr Daley
Ms D'Amore
Ms Firth
Ms Gadiel
Mr Gibson
Mr Greene
Mr Harris
Ms Hay
Mr Hickey
Ms Hornery
Ms Judge
Mr Khoshaba
Mr Koperberg
Mr Lynch
Mr McBride
Dr McDonald
Ms McKay
Mr McLeay
Ms McMahon
Ms Meagher
Ms Megarrity
Ms Moore
Mr Morris
Mrs Paluzzano
Mr Pearce
Mrs Perry
Mr Rees
Mr Sartor
Mr Shearan
Mr Stewart
Ms Tebbutt
Mr Terenzini
Mr Tripodi
Mr Watkins
Mr West
Mr Whan
Tellers,
Mr Ashton
Mr Martin

Noes, 37

Mr Aplin
Mr Baird
Mr Baumann
Ms Berejiklian
Mr Cansdell
Mr Constance
Mr Debnam
Mr Draper
Mrs Fardell
Ms Goward
Mrs Hancock
Mr Hartcher
Mr Hazzard
Ms Hodgkinson
Mrs Hopwood
Mr Humphries
Mr Kerr
Mr Oakeshott
Mr O'Dea
Mr O'Farrell
Mr Page
Mr Piccoli
Mr Piper
Mr Provest
Mr Richardson
Mr Roberts
Mrs Skinner
Mr Smith
Mr Souris
Mr Stokes
Mr Stoner
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr J. D. Williams
Mr R. C. Williams

Tellers,
Mr George
Mr Maguire

Pair

Ms KeneallyMr Fraser
Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion as amended agreed to.