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- AUSLINK (NATIONAL LAND TRANSPORT) AMENDMENT BILL 2008
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Mr RANDALL (5:04 PM) —In the short time I have before a division is called in the House of Representatives, I will begin speaking in support of the AusLink (National Land Transport) Amendment Bill 2008. We know that this bill allows for the continuation of the Roads to Recovery program, with funding of $350 million a year to the year 2014. It also enables Roads to Recovery funding to be saved for use in a particular state or territory while arrangements are made to figure out the best way in which this money is to be spent. Finally, it amends the definition of a road to include off-road facilities used by trucks, such as truck bays, so that they are eligible for funding. I commend the government on recognising the importance of the Roads to Recovery program and expanding it.
Today I wish to speak on a broader range of topics under the umbrella of AusLink in my electorate of Canning. In November 2000, the Roads to Recovery program was introduced as a single intervention by the Commonwealth to address the specific problem of local roads reaching the end of their economic life and their replacement being beyond the capacity of local government. In the first four years of this program, the Australian government provided $1.2 billion to local councils for local road improvements, funding in excess of 15,000 projects around Australia. Roads to Recovery has been very much welcomed in Canning, and I would like to outline some of the projects that these moneys have gone into. Up until 2007, the Roads to Recovery program alone brought in $28 million to fix local roads in Canning. Almost $4 million went to the city of Armadale, $4.5 million to the city of Canning, $3 million to the shire of Murray, $3 million to the shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale, $1.2 million to the shire of Waroona and $3½ million to the City of Mandurah. To name a couple of programs, they made the intersection of Lake and Ranford roads safer, improved Armadale Road, improved safety for cyclists on Forrest Road, widened Butcher Street in Mundijong for better visibility and enabled the construction of the east-west link road in Mandurah, a road linking the city with the new train station, which was absolutely needed.
As I said previously, the problem is that local governments in most cases have little or no funding to deal with the upgrade or expansion of the roads in their local government authorities. On the state of the roads in Canning, earlier this year the state’s peak motoring body, the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia, named three Canning roads as amongst the 10 worst roads in Western Australia, so there is no doubt that the Roads to Recovery funding is vital in Canning. On this list was the Brookton Highway between Roleystone and Karragullen. In December I approached the then Western Australian Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, the Hon. Alannah MacTiernan, about the safety issues of the Brookton Highway. The minister responded by saying that it was not possible to install speed humps and other traffic-calming devices on this section of the road because it was considered to be a primary distributor road. Another road was the 15-kilometre length of the South West Highway between Hamel and Cookernup, and the third was a 12-kilometre stretch of the South West Highway at Byford. These roads were named as the worst roads for several reasons: poor visibility, fading markings, narrowing, deteriorated sealing and bad alignment. This all adds up to dangerous conditions for drivers and a greater likelihood of tragic accidents. At the time, I supported the RAC’s call for the state Labor government to commit to a program bringing these worst roads up to an acceptable standard and, of course, I will urge the new Liberal government in Western Australia to investigate these roads as well.
The Tonkin Highway extension and the Byford bypass are a vital piece of road infrastructure in my electorate. Despite a 12-kilometre stretch of the South West Highway at Byford being named by the RAC as the seventh worst road in Western Australia, the then Carpenter Labor government refused to make a financial commitment for extending the Tonkin Highway to Mundijong, in turn alleviating the increasing burden on the South West Highway. I know the state member for Darling Range, Tony Simpson, has been a strong advocate for this infrastructure, and I am sure that in government he will work hard to secure this financial commitment. Road safety in the region is already a serious concern, with heavy haulage vehicles forced to take Thomas Road to the South West Highway because the Tonkin Highway comes to a dead end. In other words, it is pouring a lot of highway traffic into local roads. Byford is one of Perth’s fastest growing areas and, without forward planning and infrastructure development, locals will be left with an unsafe and unreliable public transport network.
While we are on Byford, I would like to mention the Byford train. Together with Councillor Murphy of the shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale and residents, I persistently called for the previous state government to honour its 2001 election commitment to get the Byford train on track by 2008. This involves extending the existing Armadale line. Stops along a future Byford line have been suggested at Wungong, at Byford and at Cardup, where park ’n’ ride has been proposed.
Despite the previous state government’s promise, until recently the Byford train was belittled as being unrealistic and too expensive by the former minister. I said to the former minister that she needed to deliver on this extension of the railway to Byford. She said how unrealistic and expensive it was until I pointed out a press release that she had issued in 2001 in which she had promised to deliver it by 2008. It had not even been started, so she got it on the radar and said she would have a look at it.
We have now got to the point where a lack of road and rail infrastructure is strangling development in the south-eastern corridor. The state Labor government was so fixated on constructing the Perth-Mandurah rail link that it neglected to look at the bigger picture of public transport in the south-eastern corridor. Considering the rising cost of petrol, it is important that we look at alternative means of transportation and improving public transport—that actually has to be a priority. We will be doing our best with the new coalition government in Western Australia to get this extension.
The Pinjarra bypass, with more than 10,000 vehicle movements, including 500 haulage vehicles a day through the main street of Pinjarra, has long been on the cards. The $22 million bypass is in the shire of Murray and sees a dual carriageway deviation around the busy township. The proposed stage 1 runs from the South Western Highway south of Pinjarra to the Pinjarra-Williams Road, connecting at a T-junction. The bypass will reduce the volume of traffic forced to travel through the town on the South Western Highway, in particular the huge number of B-double trucks and heavy haulage vehicles forced to travel down the main street and past two schools.
The expansion of the mining activities of Boddington, the expansion of the Wagerup refinery and the continued development of the Peel region are putting pressure on the existing infrastructure. The freight demands on this region are only going to increase, and the current developments in the shire of Murray could see a population increase of almost 20,000, meaning that not only are there more trucks on the road but a lot more cars.
In 2006, the Department of Transport and Regional Services was forced to rank the shire of Murray’s application for AusLink funding for the same project as a low priority. Why? When the then state government were asked if they would support it in matching funding through the AusLink strategic roads funding program they said, ‘We’re happy to support it but the funds will have to come from the Perth to Bunbury highway’. In other words, they were not really serious about putting money into the bypass because they would have had to rip it out of the Perth to Bunbury highway. That is why DOTARS had put it as a low priority—the state government were not serious.
Main Roads has conducted assessments into the project; however, no construction funds are currently allocated in state or federal budgets. Last year the coalition promised $10 million towards the Pinjarra bypass and there were indications that the state government would match it. In fact, I had a letter from Alannah MacTiernan, the state minister, saying if it got federal funds she would match them. However, to date the Rudd government has shown no indication of acting on the coalition’s initiative. The member for Murray-Wellington, Murray Cowper, is committed to seeing this project through, and I trust that funding for the highway will be high on the new government’s agenda.
I am pleased to say there is real progress being made on the new Perth-Bunbury highway. It is a project that I am very proud of having been associated with. I know the member for O’Connor, when speaking on this bill yesterday, noted the work of both me and my colleague the former member for Forrest in securing funding for this project. I know that the member for Forrest, who is in the chamber, is also a passionate supporter of the Perth to Bunbury highway because Bunbury is in her electorate, which would benefit very much from this magnificent piece of road infrastructure.
The 70-kilometre dual carriageway starting at the current south-eastern end of the Kwinana Freeway at Safety Bay Road is to join the Old Coast Road near Lake Clifton. It is on track to be open to motorists well before the December 2009 deadline, possibly for Easter but certainly by June. Around 50,000 motorists travel down to south-western Western Australia for Easter, so it would be pretty good if we could have it open by then, because of the major traffic snarls and the dangerous road conditions that the Easter weekend brings.
It is not often that state managed projects are completed on time. I would like to say that on this occasion it is largely as a result of the former coalition putting boundaries around the then state Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Alannah MacTiernan. Together with the strong partnership of the Southern Gateway Alliance, the main reason for the highway being ahead of schedule is the conditions that the federal government set into the AusLink funding agreement. As the member for O’Connor pointed out, and I reconfirm it, we as a government said that we would not support any AusLink funding going into Western Australia unless the minister committed to a 2006 start date and a 2009 completion date, because she had been fooling around with the date for years and years. The $170 million was conditional on this agreement, and she did begin the road in 2006. I stood at the end of the Kwinana Freeway with silver shovels along with the then Premier, Alan Carpenter, and dug a couple of holes in the ground. That got her out of the 2006 commitment.
With the Labor government’s record on major projects running late and over budget, the coalition’s agreement was designed with Peel motorists in mind so they could have some certainty of this highway finishing by the expected time. Progress is extremely clear, as you can see when you drive along the alignment, and the construction of the Murray Bridge, crossing Pinjarra Road and the Murray River at North Yunderup, commenced last May. The 272-metre long bridge is being built in 18 stages, and it is the biggest structure in the biggest single road project in Western Australia’s history. So it is a massive piece of road infrastructure and it is very much needed for the region. I am very pleased that we are actually getting it built on time and, I understand, on budget.
The Mandurah Entrance Road—or road A, as it is commonly known—is another project that is high on the priority list for Mandurah motorists. The state government originally pulled the Mandurah Entrance Road off the Perth to Bunbury highway project as a way to reduce costs. This was often done—they did the same on the Tonkin Highway extension and Corfield Road. Now this road is imperative, because unless road A is constructed Mandurah will be isolated. It is estimated to cost $130 million. Road A comes off the Perth to Bunbury highway south of Paganoni Road and joins the rail alignment, goes under the bridge at Gordon Road and intersects Fremantle Road adjacent to the rail station in Mandurah. When the Gordon Road bridge was built over the rail line it was built to accommodate the required four-lane road.
The timing of this road is now becoming an issue with the completion of the Perth to Bunbury highway approaching. Early construction would mean that freeway traffic would not have to disperse onto local roads, particularly Gordon Road, past the schools on Lakes Road and past the hospital, allied health services and accommodation for the aged in the area. Main Roads needs to work out a time frame for this project, but more and more it is looking unlikely it will commence before the highway opens, which is very sad because it is going to take a lot more to complete once the contractors leave the Perth to Bunbury highway.
In October last year the then opposition spokesman for transport, Martin Ferguson, said, ‘$130 million for the Mandurah Entrance Road will be delivered with the new Perth to Bunbury highway project and funded fifty-fifty by federal and state Labor governments.’ Well, we have a federal Labor government but we do not have a state Labor government anymore, but we would like it delivered, because the then shadow minister said that he would deliver the federal government’s component, should they be the government. I will keep them to that promise, I can assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
The bridges in Mandurah are also a very important consideration in this AusLink funding. The traffic congestion in Mandurah has got to such levels that existing bridges over the canals and estuaries are being pushed to breaking point. The Old Mandurah Traffic Bridge, which is an icon in the seaside township, is in desperate need of upgrading. Should the upgrades not be made by 2013, the city may be forced to close this bridge, which would put even more pressure on the Estuary Bridge. Just to put this in context, the old Mandurah bridge is made out of timber supports and has been refurbished many times. However, it is in such a state now that it is almost getting to the point of being dangerous.
The City of Mandurah is in discussions on the early implementation of an automated switching system for the three traffic lanes on the Estuary Bridge, because it is certainly a bridge that helps access to the city. The city has raised the option of converting the existing lanes on the Estuary Bridge from north to south in peak periods on weekdays, which would relieve pressure on the old traffic bridge.
Recently the Mayor of the City of Mandurah, Mayor Creevey, said:
With the increasing population in the City’s southern areas, our major concern is that if the region ever faced a major emergency the traffic-carrying capacity of the bridge could be a ‘life or death’ matter.
Statistics from 2003 show that whilst the opening of the Perth to Bunbury highway would relieve some traffic off the Mandurah bridges it would only be around 20 per cent, indicating that the majority of truck movements are local. The city is desperate to have the duplication of the Estuary Bridge brought forward. To explain very clearly, the Estuary Bridge is the bridge out of town which has to be reconfigured every morning and afternoon to allow a single lane one way and a dual carriageway the other way to get the traffic through at peak periods. The bridge needs to be duplicated. The Peel region is one of the fastest growing areas in Western Australia, and the situation will continue to be dangerous if the duplication does not happen.
Interestingly, the old wooden Mandurah bridge was handed to the City of Mandurah in a benevolent way by a previous state government’s Main Roads, which said, ‘It’s your responsibility now.’ But it is such a major cost pressure to refurbish it that the City of Mandurah, which is at the maximum of its borrowings, cannot afford to do this. Unless they get help from the federal and state governments, this bridge will have to be closed because it is gradually decaying. What I am suggesting, and I will be approaching both the City of Mandurah and the new transport minister in Western Australia over this, is that this bridge now be put back into the care of the state government and Main Roads WA because no local or government authority can afford in any way to take on the responsibility of rebuilding or refurbishing such a major piece of infrastructure. Their ability to raise funds to do something like this is totally out of the realms of possibility, and they do need help with this.
Finally, I wish to mention the Dwellingup bypass. The shire of Murray has looked at the possibility of a Dwellingup bypass. As I mentioned earlier, there is a need to upgrade the infrastructure in this area to take into account the impact of the Boddington Gold Mine and the expansion of the Wagerup refinery. Interestingly, the Boddington Gold Mine will be a lot more on my radar because, under the redistribution in Western Australia, there is a good chance that I might end up with the shire of Boddington as part of the Canning electorate and I am sure they will be asking me for help on this issue. Whilst it has been deemed that the Pinjarra bypass may not be viable, upgrades to the Pinjarra-Williams Road between Pinjarra and Dwellingup is becoming more important, particularly as huge trucks will now be transporting gold ore down to the port of Bunbury. On a single-lane and hilly road with very few bypasses this is going to become a major traffic hazard and safety issue. I have already written to the previous minister, Alannah MacTiernan, about upgrades of this road or rerouting trucks so that they are taken away from the rural traffic on this very small rural road and I got a rejection. That is very disappointing. I will be taking it all up again with the new state government and looking at the assistance of this federal program for infrastructure, the new AusLink program. It will be an enormous amount of money over the years to 2014.
I will also be making sure that the new member of state parliament, Mr Grylls from the National Party, realises that under the royalties for regions proposal—and Dwellingup is a region in Western Australia—there is an opportunity for some of the $650 million that he is talking about to go into some of these rural roads that would not necessarily be funded out of ongoing programs. This program generated by the coalition government is a good one, and I support its intention.