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Tuesday, 25 June 1996
Page: 2635

Mr ANTHONY —My question is directed to the Minister for Transport and Regional Development. Can the minister inform the House of the government's progress in relation to the implementation of the coalition's election commitment to the upgrade of the Pacific Highway?

Mr SHARP —I thank the honourable member for Richmond for his question. Indeed, he along with a number of his colleagues—the member for Cowper, who has been campaigning on the Pacific Highway for the whole of the period that he has been in the parliament, some 11½ years; the member for Lyne, who has been raising this issue as a very high priority in his own electorate; the member for Page, who has been bringing this issue forward as an important issue for his electorate; and, of course, the member for Paterson, who has also highlighted this as a very important issue in his electorate—have been highlighting the concerns of the Pacific Highway for the period that they have been in the parliament.

And well they might because, as members of the House would know, the Pacific Highway has been the subject of the worst road accidents that we have seen in this country over the last number of years. There have been some 600 deaths on the Pacific Highway in the last 10 years and some 10,000 people injured on that highway over the last 10 years. Of course, the proof of that is in the quality and standard of the road itself. Anybody who has travelled on it will know it is a very poor standard road that services the fastest growing areas in Australia. So there has been a need to upgrade that road.

In the last election campaign, the Prime Minister—I think it might have been in the honourable member for Richmond's electorate—announced a coalition commitment to allocate $750 million over a period of 10 years and that this would be matched by the state governments in Queensland and New South Wales on a pro rata basis. Ultimately, with the funds that the two state governments had already committed to works on that highway, that would see some $3.1 billion allocated by the three levels of government over the 10-year period.

It was a very important initiative undertaken by us and, of course, it is one that we treat with great seriousness. We indicated at the time that we would be identifying the three worst black spots on the Pacific Highway—the Chinderah-Billinudgel section, the Brunswick Heads bypass and also the Possums Brush-Coolongolook-Bulahdelah section, all of which are well-known black spots on that highway and, indeed, recognised as the worst sections on the Pacific Highway.

People have become somewhat cynical about promises in regard to the Pacific Highway. People will recall that in 1990 the former Labor Commonwealth government made a commitment to allocate $100 million a year for 10 years to upgrade the Pacific Highway. We had the experience of a former Labor government promising, from 1990 onwards, to spend money on the roads. People were concerned because, what happened when Labor got into office after the 1990 election? Did they deliver on their promises to put $100 million into the Pacific Highway for the next 10 years? The answer is: no, they did not.

Today I am very pleased to inform the House that the New South Wales Minister for Roads, Michael Knight, has announced the New South Wales government's intention, along with the Commonwealth's, to commit to the Pacific Highway the funds that were outlined by me just a few moments ago. The Minister for Roads in New South Wales, Michael Knight, has indicated that they will be addressing the Coolongolook to Bulahdelah section first, and also the Brunswick Heads bypass. I note that the New South Wales minister has not announced at this stage the Chindera to Billinudgel section of that Pacific Highway upgrade.

I call on the Minister for Roads in the New South Wales parliament, Mr Michael Knight, to join with us in our commitment to that road. I know the honourable member for Richmond is totally and utterly committed to the upgrading of that section of road—indeed, a complete new realignment for that section of road—that will lead to a large reduction in the number of deaths and injuries that occur on it.

I ask the New South Wales minister, Mr Knight, to join with us in that commitment to the Chindera-Billinudgel section of the Pacific Highway, to upgrade it to ensure that we reduce the number of deaths and injuries on the Pacific Highway.