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Tuesday, 13 September 2005
Page: 11

Mr CAUSLEY (2:44 PM) —My question is directed to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Would the minister update the House on the government’s efforts to improve transport infrastructure? Are there any alternative policies?

Mr TRUSS (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I know that the honourable member for Page, like many members on this side of the House, is very anxious to see considerable upgrading of Australia’s road system and wants to see, in particular, the AusLink commitment for $12.7 billion put into action as quickly as possible. This is an important national program that will help deliver critically important land transport upgrades around the country, including significant expenditure on the Pacific Highway—which I know is of great interest to the member for Page and all other members on the New South Wales North Coast.

Again, I have to tell the House that still only two states have signed up to the AusLink agreement. Victoria and South Australia are the only states that have unlocked the key to this significant additional funding—

Mr Wilkie interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Swan!

Mr TRUSS —to enable important road and rail construction projects to commence. It is important to note the significance of New South Wales and other states blocking the financial opportunities that are available under AusLink. For instance, under AusLink, New South Wales will receive $2,488 million, including $1,946 million for construction. That is 77 per cent more in construction funding than the state has received over the previous five years. It is a 77 per cent increase, and New South Wales has not yet signed the agreement. What about Western Australia, which I referred to a couple of days ago? There is $620 million under AusLink for Western Australia, including $460 million for construction. That is an 89 per cent increase over what they have received in the past. This is an 89 per cent increase, and Western Australia are dillydallying! They cannot get around to signing the agreement. I would remind the states that, if they have not signed up by 1 October 2005, all of the unsigned agreements will include the new construction code guidelines.

Mr Wilkie interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Swan is warned!

Mr TRUSS —Perhaps they are waiting for the new industrial relations reform to take effect so that they can get the maximum benefit in their state.

I was asked whether there are any alternative policies or commentary on these issues. On ABC Sydney Drive just the other day, the New South Wales Minister for Roads said, ‘If I get the money, I will spend it.’ There is a clear message to the Minister for Roads in New South Wales: he can have the money; all he has to do is sign the AusLink agreement. But it seems as though Labor are not all that committed to road funding.

I noticed that Labor’s shadow spokesman for transport and regional services waded into the issue yesterday with a statement in which he repeated Labor’s election commitment to strip money out of the Roads to Recovery program—a program absolutely essential for the construction of urban streets and rural roads around the country—and to spend that money on other projects such as public transport, bus and ferry stations, walkways, railway crossings and real-time passenger information. That is their priority—the money goes off roads and onto all these other kinds of infrastructure expenditure. I fail to see how you can deal with the increasing freight task in Australia by building more cycle lanes, walkways or ferry stations. That is not the answer. It is time that Labor got on board with this very significant AusLink project and used their initiative so that all Labor state governments would sign up, get on with the work and build the roads so that we can stop some of the fatalities that are tearing so many communities apart at the present time.