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Monday, 15 September 2008
Page: 7362

Mr SIMPKINS (3:36 PM) —I spoke before debate on the AusLink (National Land Transport) Amendment Bill 2008 was interrupted by question time about road funding and the shameful activities and politicking of the former Premier of Western Australia in neglecting roads. I will return to that in due course. At the start of the second reading speech of the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, he stated that the bill demonstrated the government’s commitment to road safety and local road infrastructure. It is these specific points, so clearly stated in the bill, to which I want to direct my comments today.  In the electorate of Cowan in Western Australia there are a number of important roads and routes that need to be improved. Two years ago I wrote in support of the Alexander Drive and Reid Highway overpass. I have been advocating for a long time support of the Gnangara Road-Ocean Reef Road upgrade, the Hepburn Avenue extension in Ballajura, the Hepburn Avenue duplication to a dual carriageway from Wanneroo Road to Alexander Drive and the Wanneroo Road upgrade between Pinjar Road and Joondalup Drive. Local people in Cowan will recall my petitions to the state and local governments regarding Hepburn Avenue, Wanneroo Road and the Gnangara Road-Ocean Reef Road situation. In 2007 the Howard government provided $7 million of the $10 million total required to extend and duplicate Ocean Reef Road to link up with Gnangara Road. The critical upgrade of this local road was a high priority for the people of Landsdale and nearby suburbs due to the truck traffic along Gnangara Road. I am pleased that my advocacy helped get that road started. It is due for completion in June 2010.

Hepburn Avenue is another local government road that exists as a single carriageway between Wanneroo Road and Alexander Drive. It ends abruptly at Alexander Drive, leaving even more traffic to move down Alexander Drive and over or onto the Reid Highway. Given the proximity of a light industrial area called Malaga, some of the traffic from Hepburn Avenue then diverts through the suburban streets of Ballajura and moves past three schools on that route. Traffic congestion and the concern for the safety of children of Ballajura resulted in my raising a petition to the state government, asking them to contribute to the extension of Hepburn Avenue towards Beechboro Road. I did that in 2007, at the time the City of Swan had been talking about building the road for six years. A number of problems had gotten in the way and nothing had been achieved. All that changed when the member for Higgins came out to Cowan about two weeks before the election was called and announced a $10 million federal contribution to the dual carriageway from near Wanneroo Road to Alexander Drive and then to help build a new road over to Beechboro Road. Two weeks later, the department, unfortunately, called the announcement an election promise rather than a government commitment, which is a source of great disappointment and regret. I note that some weeks later the now Labor government, then the opposition, also made the same commitment. I have recently found that the Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Development and Northern Australia has written to the Cities of Wanneroo and Swan to inform them that $10 million will be provided sometime between July 2009 and June 2014. I hope that it is earlier rather than later for these important roads.

I would like to comment on the safety aspect of the intersection of Giralt Road and Hepburn Avenue, which is very close to my electorate office. This is an interesting intersection which has been the scene of a number of accidents and near misses. Although controlled by traffic lights, the lights have red right-turn arrows but strangely no green arrows. At certain times of the day, and with certain lighting, it can be difficult to see oncoming traffic beyond the line of cars waiting to turn. I raised the matter of the danger of the intersection on many occasions, as did local residents with me. It was therefore encouraging that, as a result of raising the issue, $740,000 from Roads to Recovery was allocated to the project. The project is very close to completion now, and I congratulate John Paton, the Acting Chief Executive Officer, Charles Johnson, the former CEO, and the team at the City of Wanneroo for getting this work done. I look forward, as do the nearby residents in my electorate, to this intersection becoming fully functional in the very near future.

Another great concern is the Reid Highway overpass—which does not currently exist—over Alexander Drive. I first raised this issue in early 2006 in a letter regarding black spot funding. This intersection is a notorious black spot that has seen many accidents. An overpass would improve safety and traffic flows. The member for Stirling will recall only too clearly the objections put up by the former state government, the Carpenter Labor government in Western Australia, when the Howard government committed $10 million, or 50 per cent of the cost, to an overpass of Mirrabooka Avenue and the Reid Highway in 2007. Instead, they wanted the money for the Alexander Drive and Reid Highway intersection. Some members might be aware that during the 2007 campaign both sides committed to that election promise. I recall the media release by the then Minister for Planning and Infrastructure in Western Australia, Alannah MacTiernan, in which she praised federal Labor for their commitment—obviously conveniently not mentioning that both sides had made the same commitment—and said that a win by federal Labor would enable the commencement of construction for this essential overpass to begin in the first half of 2008. So it was good—the local people knew that, no matter who won, the overpass would be built. Based upon her media release, regardless of the federal election result, there was a reasonable expectation that work would commence early in 2008. This expectation was further strengthened by repeated comments by the state minister talking about how unsafe the intersection was. I recall that she even said that it was the state’s No. 1 black spot.

It is now September 2008, and sadly nothing has been done. I do not know if that is because of some problem from the federal government side of things or if it is related to the former state Labor government in Western Australia. I know that this intersection bordered the electorate and the potential electorate of two former, now disaffected, state Labor MPs. I cannot help but feel that the former Carpenter government delayed action on this critical overpass until they could reannounce it in the state election campaign and associate it with their candidates—because that is actually what happened. There was no action until the two relevant candidates for the state Labor Party were able to be there for a photo opportunity. That occurred only some six weeks ago, as I understand it, just before the election. One of the candidates was the former Premier’s chief of staff and the other one was a television journalist. One was well connected to the former Premier and the other one was a high-profile name. Their interest in the lives of those people in those electorates possibly dated from the time they saw the redistributed two-party preferred margin.

The point remains that no action was taken to fix this black spot. I expect that this lack of activity is related to the electoral cycle. We had an opportunistic former Premier who called the election to avoid bad news from the Corruption and Crime Commission of Western Australia and delayed important road safety improvements to make yet another grab for headlines and demonstrate action only where there was inaction. I therefore ask the question: did the federal government know that the safety of West Australians was being jeopardised by former Premier Alan Carpenter delaying the start of this work—and therefore the completion of these works—and was that just rank political opportunism?

This political opportunism was further demonstrated in the case of Morley Senior High School. The parents of Morley Senior High School know that the state government has rejected addressing critical infrastructure problems in that school for years, only to announce in the recent pre-election weeks an upgrade to the badly decayed toilet block.

But let us go back to roads. I want to talk about the disgrace that is the state controlled Wanneroo Road—in particular, the section from Pinjar Road North to Joondalup Drive. Again, about two years ago I submitted an unanswered petition to the state government to address the safety concerns of this state controlled road. This road is predominantly a single carriageway but is actually a major arterial road. It runs past the new suburbs of Tapping and Ashby. It runs past the lifestyle villages of Lake Joondalup and Pineview. Yet it is only now, around the period of the state election, that it looks like some earth will be turned for this long overdue project. It is only now, with the former state Labor government trying to save the state electorate of Wanneroo for themselves, that the safety concerns of local residents and me are finally being addressed—or were finally being addressed.

It seems appropriate that, in celebrating the federal government’s continuation of the Howard government’s Roads to Recovery program, we talk about infrastructure. Roads have always been infrastructure, and it is good to see that this Howard government infrastructure initiative is also continuing—although I would call it ‘remarkable’, to use the Prime Minister’s favourite word, that this government should lecture us about a lack of commitment to infrastructure when this is just another example of the Howard government’s infrastructure initiatives.

I recall that in the last sitting week the Prime Minister was trying to channel Winston Churchill. He tried, but failed, to assume the mantle of an orator. In his usual casual and undignified manner, leaning on the dispatch box and reading word for word from his speech, he left no doubt that, rather than being in the mould of Winston Churchill, he is merely Winston Smith, the bureaucrat from Orwell’s book 1984. Smith’s job in the ‘Ministry of Truth’ was to rewrite historical reports to make them consistent with the party line.

What we have before us is a continuation of a former government program—and that is great—but, in the end, it will always be about local events such as the roadworks that need to be done in electorates such as Cowan. We should never forget that this bill, this initiative, had its origins in the past; that can never be written out of the future. What we have with this bill is a continuation of a past initiative, and that is good. We have opportunities to get a lot of roads fixed and safety issues addressed. I look forward to those things which were committed to in the past being delivered not by 2014 but as soon as possible. It would be good to see the money spent on fixing these roads and sorting out these safety issues for people in my electorate and no doubt other electorates around the country. I look forward to that. It is very good to see that this initiative is being continued. I look forward to the results making a difference immediately to people on the ground.