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Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Page: 76

Mrs GASH (2:41 PM) —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Would the Deputy Prime Minister advise the House how the Australian government is working with other levels of government to provide better infrastructure for their communities, particularly in my electorate of Gilmore?

Mr VAILE (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I thank the member for Gilmore for her question. The member for Gilmore knows from first-hand experience what our government has had to do over the last 10 years to ensure that the appropriate level of investment is made into infrastructure across regional Australia, whether it be the responsibility of the federal government, state governments or local governments. I instance the allocation of funding to Main Road 92 in the member’s electorate. She fought hard to get funding for that road, which is, incidentally, a state road—one that is fundamentally the responsibility of the New South Wales government.

Just remember that the AusLink program that we now have in place, which is being funded to the tune of $15 billion, is one that expects a certain level of cooperation and commitment from all levels of government. We have seen too often over the years an abrogation of responsibility by state governments. It is a stark reality. For example, we have the New South Wales government at the moment using the excuse of the lead-up to their state election to decide whether they should put some priority planning towards the Pacific Highway between Sydney and Brisbane. Guess what? This government, the Howard government, did it 10 years ago when we recognised it as a road of national importance. The New South Wales government are only just catching up now. It is the same category that we put Main Road 92 into a number of years ago.

The point is that in the national interest all levels of government must make appropriate levels of investment in their areas of responsibility. There are other examples. Since 1999 the federal government has had money available to upgrade Paddys Bridge on the Hume Highway. This is a bridge that is restricting the capacity of the road transport industry in efficiency gains and greater competitiveness. Only now, seven years later, is New South Wales moving on this upgrade. These are all facts—this is not a blame game; these are all facts. If we are going to point the finger at anybody we are going to ensure that all levels of government shoulder their responsibilities across Australia, whether it is investment in infrastructure, education or health.

Another example is in Tasmania. The Bridgewater Bridge is a critical link between Hobart and the north of the island. Our government has had $100 million on the table for the last five years to upgrade this critical link in Tasmania. The Tasmanian government in the lead-up to the Tasmanian election tried to get that money transferred onto their state roads—their responsibility. And the people of Australia need to know this. They need to know what is going on at the state level. So if the Leader of the Opposition wants to talk about a true partnership in the federal structure of this country, he should talk to his mates at a state level to ensure that they shoulder their fair share of the responsibilities in the provision of infrastructure, the investment in infrastructure and the services they are responsible for across Australia.