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Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Page: 5439

Mr RUDDOCK (Berowra) (20:10): I commend the member for Mitchell for his remarks. The remarks that I make tonight will be related to both his and my electorates. That is not necessarily an invitation to stay but he may be interested in what I have to say. This budget is a budget of betrayal. It is a budget of betrayal because it is saddling Australians with increased debt. That observation was made by the member for Mitchell but I want to reinforce it. This is a time in which if you are going to pay off debt you should be doing so. It is not a matter that you can put off, effectively. I know because I have been in government when we have had to pay off Labor's debt before. You have to early in a government—and this is relatively early in this government's term, if it is to go a full term—make a clear commitment to cut government expenditure and to live within your means as a government. Yet this government wants to have its cake and eat it too. It tells us that they have their own philosophical commitments. What that really means is that they have substantial areas of new expenditure that they wish to undertake. When you look at the tough decisions we were told were going to be included in this budget, where the savings were going to be made, you find that those savings were substantially used to pay for new commitments. That is why I call this a budget of betrayal, because future generations of Australians are being saddled with the largest debt that we have ever experienced nationally and they are going to have to pay it off.

But this is also a budget which has betrayed my electorate, the Central Coast, and I suspect the electorate of Mitchell. This is a budget in which the government again stripped away funds unjustifiably from north-western Sydney to fund what they say were their own priorities. When I turn to Budget Paper No. 2, I find on page 268 a statement, 'Nation building program, F3 to Sydney orbital, feasibility study deferral.' There it is outlined that $150 million appropriated by the government is to be deferred until 2015-16, outside of the future budget appropriations. That will reduce expenses by $150 million, so the government tells us, and savings from this measure will be redirected to other government priorities. Unless you know the history of this it probably does not mean a great deal to you. But I have to say that this is very clearly a betrayal. Last year, I asked the government in this chamber during the estimates debates on the transport and infrastructure portfolio what the government intended to do in relation to the F3-M2 link. I said:

I note that last year $150 million was appropriated for design work in relation to that road to ensure that it would be, presumably at some point in time, shovel ready in relation to the procedures that may enable a project to be considered for funding.

I asked the minister whether those funds had been spent. Minister Albanese was gracious enough to be present and to respond he said:

Secondly, in terms of the questions from the member for Berowra, I can confirm to the member that we have allocated $150 million. It is in the Nation Building Program. The memorandum of understanding has been signed with the state government and we remain committed to that funding.

So when I use the term 'betrayal' I use it very advisedly, because those funds were there and the minister last year gave a commitment that those funds would remain. And yet has he has the audacity to defend a decision—a base political decision, I might say—to strip that money away from that project in order to assist in buying off one of the Independents with the expansion of the Pacific Highway. I was perhaps a little indecent to the Speaker by interjecting in the other chamber when I heard of that matter. When the member for Lyne was raising the issue of the Pacific Highway, I asked why he was worried, as nobody would get there because they could not get past Pennant Hills Road. And there is a degree of truth in that.

I want to explain the history of what has happened in relation to this matter. The Labor Party have had their fingerprints on this for a very long period of time and they play one government off against the other—the state Labor government and the federal government—ensuring that nothing is done. If Howard was trying to do it in Canberra, the state government would not cooperate. Even when we had the $150 million there, the government here said, 'There has to be a matching grant of $30 million from the state government.' Do you think that the state Labor government was going to cough up that $30 million? Of course they did not. Now there is a government that is ready to assist—and I might say that I have here a statement from the Hon. Duncan Gay MLC, Minister for Roads and Ports, commenting on this matter. He made the point that the New South Wales government would have welcomed the $150 million expenditure on the design of the missing link.

I want to talk about the missing link, because I do not think that a lot of people understand its importance to the national infrastructure of Australia. The fact is that across Sydney, excluding national road No. 1, which is the Hume Highway and then the Pacific Highway and presumably includes the Harbour Bridge, there are four major arteries that channel all their traffic onto Pennant Hills Road and then off onto a freeway called the F3. They include Silverwater Road, Woodville Road, the Cumberland Highway and now the M7, the major orbital road to take traffic around Sydney. And all of them are consolidated at one point on what the federal government regards as a state road. There are three lanes in each direction dissected with major cross roads and traffic lights every half a kilometre or so. For some eight or nine kilometres, you have major interstate traffic mixed with suburban traffic in the most dangerous circumstances imaginable. There are four highways consolidated onto one state road, of six roads. You would not do it anywhere else in the country. It is described as a missing link. Why is it a missing link? Because the cost of building infrastructure across my electorate is comparatively higher than elsewhere because of the hills, the natural charm of the area and the urban development that has occurred around it. Of course it is going to involve major infrastructure. It was always recognised that that was the case. I have to say that, as a minister in the Howard government who was sitting around the cabinet table when the state government in New South Wales, for the political purpose of shoring up support in the western suburbs of Sydney, wanted an M7 freeway that ended on the M2, linked the Hume Highway and skirted around Liverpool, Fairfield and all of these places—very good for the Labor Party, with the minister for roads, Carl Scully, representing Fairfield—I said to myself, 'They are going to put all this traffic onto the M2 and then onto Pennant Hills Road and what is to happen next?'

The state government bought off the federal government by saying, 'We will have a study.' They got an organisation called SKN to do that study. They looked at all of the options and said it was absolutely essential to have a tunnel built between Beecroft and Wahroonga, the M2 to the F3, duplicating and following the alignment of the Pennant Hills Road. We have had some inquiries that have said that is the right solution. Whether it is or it is not, the work has to be done to prepare designs to ensure that that road would be, in the parlance of all of these people who deal with the funding of these issues, shovel ready. The government has made it very clear through Infrastructure Australia and its own intentions that there will be no money to deal with Pennant Hills Road, the F3-M2 link, unless the project is shovel ready and able to be given priority for funding as against other proposals. That is why this measure is so much of a betrayal. It will never get to first base. There is no money to undertake the design work that is necessary to ensure that this matter can be dealt with on its merits.

There is no justification for this decision and I have to say to this government, 'You may have been too smart by half.' Yes, it impacts upon my electorate—and I doubt that the Labor Party will ever win the electorate of Berowra—but I tell you there are some other electorates that are more impacted by this than even mine. The member for Robertson knows that her future is very much dependent upon her constituents being able to access Sydney safely. She knows, as I know, when you are mixing those transport vehicles, the B-doubles and the like, with mums and their bubs going to child care and to school each day, that this is a disaster waiting to happen. We saw a vehicle in flames last week on the F3. They had to close the F3 because it was too dangerous. They were able to divert the traffic to the Old Pacific Highway. I can tell you on the Pennant Hills route there is no old Pacific Highway. There is no alternative route, yet accidents of this sort are very likely to happen. I go to bed each night anxious as to what might happen to my constituents and others in the circumstances that we have been left with here in the electorate of Berowra. If you get the impression that I am worked up about this matter, you would be right. I think it is a betrayal. I will come into the estimates in this place and I will confront Minister Albanese again about his statement because he made it very clear when he was in this place that they had allocated $150 million. It was in the Nation Building Program. There was a memorandum of understanding with a Labor state government and we remain committed to that funding.

Here in this budget this government has walked away from it. I asked the other day in the House whether the Treasurer was reconsidering this matter. I have to say, the member for Robertson has been so concerned about it there have been suggestions that it might be looked at again. She peddles that around the electorate. The Treasurer made it clear in his answer to that question that the government had no intention of revisiting the budget in relation to this matter. I think that is regrettable. The government ought to be big enough to own up to the fact that it made a major mistake, to put the funding back and to apologise for the betrayal that took place in this budget. (Time expired)