Pacific Highway Upgrade

About this Item
SpeakersStoner Mr Andrew; Assistant-Speaker (Mr Grant McBride)
BusinessPrivate Members Statements, PRIV

Page: 28380
    Mr ANDREW STONER (Oxley—Leader of The Nationals) [5.45 p.m.]: The Pacific Highway runs through my electorate of Oxley on the mid North Coast from near Port Macquarie up to Urunga, just south of Coffs Harbour. It includes the deadly Clybucca section, which was the impetus for the upgrade of the highway following the coroner's report into the bus crash there in 1989, which claimed 35 lives. A new black spot emerged on the Pacific Highway, and that is the stretch between Nambucca Heads and Urunga. There have been several fatalities on that stretch of the highway in recent months, including accidents involving local residents.
      The member for Coffs Harbour, whose electorate covers some of that stretch of road, and I have for many years campaigned strongly for the upgrade of the Pacific Highway to stop the deaths. Sadly, despite some successes—including the Bonville deviation south of Coffs Harbour and the recently commenced Kempsey bypass—much remains to be done, including the aforementioned Nambucca Heads to Urunga stretch. Sadly also, we have recently seen some political game playing on this issue by the very same Labor Government that has failed dismally to deliver the project it promised in 1996 would be done by 2006 and in 1998 promised it would be done by 2012. We have also seen some political game playing by some so-called Independent candidates.

      It is sad because this issue is about tragedies that deeply affect families and communities and it should be above politics. It is sad because this is precisely what happened prior to the last State election when the then Labor Minister for Roads, Joe Tripodi, teamed up with the Labor-supported political aspirant mayor of Coffs Harbour to use deaths on the Pacific Highway to try to damage the member for Coffs Harbour and they accused him of not caring about the issue. Who can forget the passion of the member for Coffs Harbour, who chased Joe Tripodi around this Chamber and was then roundly applauded by the wider community?

      Mr Tony Stewart: Point of order: If the Leader of The Nationals has a concern about another member, there is a standing order to deal with that. He should not use a private member's statement. Private members' statements are to deal with parochial issues pertaining to a member's electorate only. He should not be disparaging to another member of this House during a private member's statement.

      Mr ANDREW STONER: There is no disparagement; it is a fact.

      ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! I uphold the point of order.

      Mr ANDREW STONER: Who could also forget the success the member for Coffs Harbour achieved with the notorious Bonville to Pine Creek section, which was fixed with Federal funding? This week the same disgraceful tactic was used by the latest Minister for Roads in concert with the same political aspirant mayor, Keith Rhoades. Under parliamentary privilege the Minister pointed to the absence of the member for Coffs Harbour, suggesting that he did not care about the Pacific Highway but that Rhoades did. What a disgrace!

      Mr Alan Ashton: Point of order: This is a bad example, but this is a shadow Minister for Roads. It is not appropriate for a private member's statement—

      Mr ANDREW STONER: What is your point of order?

      Mr Alan Ashton: As a shadow Minister you are not supposed to use private members' statements to make policy announcements.

      ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! The Leader of The Nationals has the call.

      Mr ANDREW STONER: This was a disgrace—the same Government which has failed on the Pacific Highway stooping to the low tactics previously rejected as grubby by the community. For the record, the member for Coffs Harbour was representing this Parliament at a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference about parliamentary procedure—a similar conference to that attended on behalf of this Parliament in the past by members of this Labor Government. Rhoades and the Minister for Roads went further, stating that no representations have been made on this stretch of road by either local member. That is a scurrilous lie.

      The member for Coffs Harbour and I could fill the back of a truck with copies of the representations we have made about the Pacific Highway, including the stretch in question. In fact, following a spate of fatal accidents on this stretch I wrote to the Minister for Roads on 9 September seeking a review of speed limits near intersections and also seeking median barriers on that stretch of the highway. Another Labor-supported political aspirant, the Clarence Valley mayor, has followed this shameful tactic of playing politics on the Pacific Highway and on the lives lost. He has been issuing media releases stating that I refused to meet with the Pacific Highway task force of mayors and he has been calling on the Opposition to release its policy on the Pacific Highway.

      The facts are that I was given short notice of the requested meeting and whilst I was unable to meet at the precise time sought, I offered a substantial period of time on the same day. This is the same mayor who called on the Premier to visit and drive the Pacific Highway and when the Premier refused the Leader of the Opposition accepted the invitation, spending hours explaining the Liberals and The Nationals policy and determination to fix the Pacific Highway. It is time for the game playing on the Pacific Highway to stop.