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Thursday, 30 August 2001
Page: 30715

Dr STONE (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (9:55 AM) —In 2001, you would think that the state governments would be most conscious of gifts from the nation to various communities to celebrate their participation in bringing about the great federation of this country in 1901. Two years ago this Commonwealth government made a most generous donation of the nation's funds towards rebuilding three bridges along the Murray River: Corowa, Robinvale and Echuca-Moama—state bridges which are owned by New South Wales—to mark the fact that those communities had been absolutely crucial in bringing about the unification of this country. You can imagine the consternation of those communities some two years later, as we approach another election, when they realise that the state governments of Victoria and New South Wales have absolutely steadfastly refused to commit any of their funds to make those bridges a reality.

The Corowa bridge—which we agreed to fund entirely—has now been left so long that there is a gap between the funding that is needed for that bridge and the dollars that were originally put aside. There is enormous concern about the Echuca-Moama bridge, which is in the electorate of Murray. It seems that the Bracks and Carr governments are determined to have the cheapest possible outcome, where only the $17-odd million that the Commonwealth has put on the table is spent. The state governments are going for what we would call the central option. That option would deliver a slightly rehabilitated bridge—using the old railway bridge which is now the road bridge there—adding a new laneway. This overlooks the tourist precinct of the town and goes through the CBD of Moama. It would involve an increase in stop-start traffic. It is totally inadequate to believe—with the growth we anticipate in Echuca-Moama in the future, with the increase in industrial traffic and B-doubles and heavier transport—that the option they now favour could do anything for the community except be a quick and cheap resolution to what is a major community problem.

The Commonwealth government is most concerned that one rationale that the state governments are using in not putting up their contribution to the Echuca-Moama bridge is that the community's growth will, they say, in fact slow by 10 per cent. That is extraordinary, given that the Echuca-Moama communities are some of the fastest growing regional centres in Australia. So, on that basis, they have said, `We can sit back, sit on our hands and not put any dollars forward.' They will leave the town with a single transport linkage across the river, which leaves the community exposed to trauma if there is an accident on that bridge, as people cannot get to the hospital from the New South Wales side. The state governments' cynicism means that, despite the Federation gift to that community, they have no intention of bailing out that community with dollars they should have spent 50 years ago.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl)—Order! In accordance with standing order 275A, the time for members' statements has concluded.