The Daily Examiner online 19 June 2012:
STATISTICALLY, there is a strong likelihood that somewhere between 20 and 30 people will die on the Pacific Hwy between Hexham and the Queensland border in the next 12 months…...
Port Macquarie independent MP Rob Oakeshott instigated the debate in the lower house when he moved a motion calling for the "urgent need for a commonwealth-state funding agreement" to meet the 2016 duplication deadline…..
Excerpt from the House of Representatives Hansard 19 June 2012:
Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (1511):
I also warn the House that, if an agreement cannot be reached, North Coast communities will take matters into their own hands. Two months ago, for example, in a community at Urunga there was a very serious attempt to blockade the highway.
That would have significant impacts on a whole range of businesses and affect the function of the North Coast, but that is how frustrated communities have been in the past. That blockade was narrowly avoided for a couple of reasons. I do not fear but I expect and warn this House that, unless an agreement can be put in place, there will be blockades on the highway by communities so frustrated and so cynical about the promises that have been made but not delivered upon….
There is no such thing as a memorandum of understanding that is 80-20. And it is a complete disguise to try and cover the tracks of people who promised big, who overpromised, who got elected on this platform of finishing this job and who have underdelivered. They have failed. And they are going to cost lives unless this issue can be saved somehow, quickly, in the interests of the communities of the North Coast…..
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (15:26): I, frankly, was shocked that the members of the National Party and the Liberal Party refused to even stand up out of their seats and support this debate being conducted today. …..
They say, 'There are pressures on our budget. We've lost $5 billion of revenue.' This government had to take a $140 billion hit to revenue as a result of the global financial crisis but I went into our budget processes and argued the case. I argued the case; this lot just rolled over. In New South Wales they rolled over for the Liberals. So they have $3.3 billion for a project that will cost at least $14 billion. And they have abandoned the commitment to the Pacific Highway.
I have a meeting scheduled with the roads minister next Thursday. The New South Wales government has, between now and next Thursday, to get on board and actually do. The National Party of old would not have rolled over. McEwen would not have rolled over like this. They would have demanded support for this national project that has been recognised by Infrastructure Australia. Yet the current Leader of the National Party signed documents about the fifty-fifty funding when he was the transport minister. But to give him some credit, at least he was not the local member, the transport minister, Leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister, as the former member for Lyne was, at that time. They had the other leaders—the former member for Richmond was another National Party leader—and local members all up and down the coast, but they still did not do anything to fix this problem. But they have an opportunity, and we ask nothing more and nothing less than that they keep to their word and do what they said they would do, which is to do their bit.
What will we do? We have on the table dollar-for-dollar funding. The money will go to the Pacific Highway. We will provide 50 per cent funding. It is a matter of what the timeframe is. We know that 2016 is achievable. Those opposite have gone away and said that it is not achievable. We have produced the timeframe with the projects.
I make this point: last week we had the extraordinary position where people on the other side of the chamber were talking about pork-barrelling. The member for Dawson said:
You can only write it down to pork-barrelling and vote buying.
Of the current action on the Pacific Highway, 92 per cent is in coalition seats. If you want an example of a national government rising above politics it is this government and this project. All we ask is that those opposite do what they said they would do. They have that opportunity in the next couple of weeks. They need to deliver on their commitments, because this project is too important to play politics with.
Mr TRUSS (Wide Bay—Leader of The Nationals) (15:41): The Prime Minister promised the member for Lyne that this road would be duplicated by 2016. I guess that should have been an early marker that the deadline would never be met, because this Prime Minister never honours her word—we are only 12 days away from the carbon tax that we were never going to have. I might add that this is a carbon tax which is going to make the construction of the Pacific Highway more expensive. It will be more difficult to achieve the objective because the cost of building the road will be significantly higher than it would have been without a carbon tax…
Mrs ELLIOT (Richmond—Parliamentary Secretary for Trade) (15:52): We have heard a number of quotes but there is one I would like to give from the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, on 8 March 2011. He said:
Only the NSW Liberals and Nationals are committed to completing the upgrade of the Pacific Highway by 2016.
It is very convenient that he said that prior to the last state election. We certainly heard a lot of National Party members up and down the North Coast saying the same sorts of things and calling on the state Labor government to match that funding. They have all gone quiet now. They are all in hiding, as they always are—every single one of them—because they have been unable to deliver that.
Mr HARTSUYKER (Cowper) (15:59): If we have a look at the stats, we see that they are quite informative. The total length of the section of highway in question is 664 kilometres; 346 kilometres are completed; 318 kilometres are still to go; 60 kilometres are under construction; 121 kilometres are planned; and 137 kilometres are not even in receipt of planning approval. If we look at the time it takes to build some of these very extensive civil works projects—I see the member for Page up there, and there was a massive task completed on the Ballina bypass—we realise that it takes years to do these things. There are huge engineering challenges. There is subsidence in the soil because of the very unstable nature of many of the alluvial flats that have to be crossed on some of the remaining sections. It is a huge task, and 137 kilometres have not even had planning approval yet. With a three-year-plus construction timetable, a lot of planning has to happen between now and the end of the year for there to be any hope of the project being completed by the end of 2016.
The reality is that there is no hope—
Ms SAFFIN (Page) (16:12): I rise to speak to this motion. I am pleased that we are talking about the Pacific Highway but not pleased that we are still talking about trying to get the New South Wales government to honour the commitment that they gave to a fifty-fifty funding split. They should just really get on with it.
I listened very carefully to the honourable member for Cowper's contribution. The member for Cowper said in this place in a motion on notice:
The Pacific Highway is a state road designed, built, owned and maintained by the New South Wales state government. The Pacific Highway is a state road.
The member for Cowper said that people on the North Coast are sick of the bickering. And they are, I know, I am a local—I represent the local people. They are sick of the bickering but they are also sick of the litany of lies that have been told about the funding commitments for the Pacific Highway…
But I come back to the fifty-fifty issue. A lot of locals say: 'We don't care who funds it, we just want it funded, we just want it done.' And I agree with them: we do not care at that level. But I do care when people are elected into public positions on an issue like the Pacific Highway—particularly the National Party members. They have given these commitments all the way through. They have inveigled, they have called on other people to make sure they honour that fifty-fifty funding split, and then when it comes to the 2016 deadline, at the first opportunity they get they run away from it at 100 miles per hour. Why aren't they honourable enough to fess up and say, 'We aren't going to do this, but this is what we are going to do'? First of all they construct this 80-20 funding split. Extra money is allocated to the Pacific Highway from the federal government. It is stimulus money. If you have a look at the tabulation of the money that has been available, you can see it. It is there. And then they turn around and use it like a weapon and say it is 80-20. It was not 80-20 and they know it. And it shows in some of their budget papers. It was fifty-fifty.
And then we come to the next astounding allegations. They are actually just lies. I have got one here. I got one last night that came through in a newsletter by the Nationals MP for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis. He talks about getting on with the job of the funding of works on the Pacific Highway, saying 'despite a shock $2.3 billion funding cut in the Gillard government's May budget'—another lie. They just put spin on anything. I cannot believe it. They are putting it out with taxpayers paying for it, and it is another pack of lies……
Excerpt from the House of Representatives Hansard 18 June 2012:
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (14:34): I thank the member for Lyne for his question and for his ongoing commitment to upgrading the Pacific Highway. Indeed, in the federal budget this year we did announce an additional $3.56 billion funding for the nation-building program and we indicated that it would be available for the Pacific Highway on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis. We also indicated that it was possible to achieve the joint objective, first put down by the Howard government, of a full duplication of the highway by 2016. So I was indeed very disappointed by the fact that the New South Wales government has failed to step up to this opportunity in spite of the fact that year after year they made promises that they would deliver matching funds for the Pacific Highway and that they were committed to the full duplication by 2016. They failed to deliver.
Premier O'Farrell, Deputy Premier Stoner and Minister for Roads and Ports, Duncan Gay, are all on the record time after time that they would make it a top priority. Indeed, they said that the reason was that there was a $5 billion cut in funding for New South Wales in terms of revenue expectations. The fact is that this government found space to provide the increased funding in the nation-building program even though there is a $140 billion drop in revenue as a result of the global financial crisis. The NRMA came out for New South Wales to match the funding. But it gets even worse. Last year, the state government Treasurer, Mike Baird, said in his budget speech:
In its last Budget, the Commonwealth allocated $750 million …
… we are determined to provide the funds needed to match the Commonwealth offer.
In the budget papers of last week it is very clear that that figure has become $468 million—that is, they have cut funding for the Pacific Highway by $300 million on what they promised just 12 months ago.
What does the National Party do about this? The Leader of the National Party goes out there and says that 2016 cannot be achieved and he would be very disappointed if duplication was not achieved by 2020. He would not commit one cent of additional funding for the Pacific Highway in spite of the fact that we have already committed $4.1 billion dollars. They committed $1.3 billion over 12 long years…………….
The fact is that the government had introduced additional funding for the Pacific Highway through the economic stimulus plan, including the Kempsey bypass. The longest bridge in Australia is being constructed there. Indeed, on the weekend we opened—through Senator Thistlethwaite, the duty senator for Cowper, and the state National Party member—an interchange on the Kempsey bypass. There is not one cent of state government money going into that section of the highway. They are happy to turn up to the openings but they do not want to actually deliver.
I table for the benefit of the House my letter to Michael Daley, the New South Wales Minister for Roads, indicating my disappointment with the funding for the Pacific Highway that the former state Labor government that did not do well enough on the Pacific Highway had done. I table the Sydney Morning Herald article 'Rees bungle costs state $50 million' about how I reduced funding for New South Wales due to the failure of the former government to deliver. I table the letter from David Campbell, the then Minister for Transport and Roads in the New South Wales government, asking for fifty-fifty funding for the Pacific Highway, and I table my response rejecting the proposition of Minister Campbell for the New South Wales government. (Time expired)
The Daily Examiner 21 June 2012:
THE call to divert $2 billion of federal funding from the "dumped" Epping to Parramatta rail line to help pay for the completion of the Pacific Hwy upgrade is utterly ridiculous and nothing short of a smokescreen, Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese told The Daily Examiner yesterday.
The idea to reassign the funds was raised by Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis on Tuesday and supported by Pacific Highway Taskforce chair Richie Williamson who had been in discussions with NSW Transport Minister Duncan Gay yesterday.
"What they're saying is the Federal Government should break one of its election promises so it can fund one of the NSW Government's election commitments," Mr Albanese said.
"I met with Richie yesterday and at no stage did he mention any of these issues; in fact he agreed that the State Government needed to contribute more and deliver on its commitments."