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Thursday, 3 November 1983
Page: 2334


Mr RUDDOCK —by leave-I wish to address myself to the matters raised in the comments of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Snow) in regard to the duplication of the Federal Highway. That road is obviously a very important road to Canberrans. As a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I must say that I was absolutely devastated, not just disappointed, when I heard that there was the possibility of the Commonwealth spending large amounts of money in duplicating the Federal Highway between Wells Station Road and Canberra, yet the New South Wales Government was not going to make funds available to complete that part of the highway between Goulburn and Canberra between now and 1988, the Australian bicentennial year. Of course, that is the year in which the new and permanent Parliament House will be opened. I think that will be one of the most significant events in that very important year. I am sure that all honourable members would be equally disappointed to know that the New South Wales Government will not make funds available for that part of the highway.

When we are involved in the business of collecting large amounts of taxpayers' money from the taxpayers of Australia and imposing a new levy to ensure that an Australian bicentennial road development program could be put in place, it seems incredible to me that in relation to bringing people to Canberra for bicentennial celebrations and for the opening of the most prestigious building, that bicentennial road funds will not be made available to ensure that the roads are adequate to get people to come to Canberra. I could not speak more critically of the New South Wales Labor Government for allowing that to be the case. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro, who spoke before me, spoke of the New South Wales Labor Government having other priorities. I do not know what those other priorities might be. I would be pleased to be advised, but I have been told that roads between Sydney and Newcastle seem to get greater priority under these sorts of programs than do any others.

The question of road access to Canberra is a very important one, as transport is generally. The Canberra Association for Regional Development has brought down a very worthwhile report, which it has made public and has given to the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) to assist him. The report is entitled 'First Steps: Toward and Economic and Social Strategy for the Future Growth of Canberra and the Region'. As honourable members might suspect, it deals with a large number of matters, particularly the importance of private sector confidence in Canberra's future and the sorts of policies that ought to be put in place to ensure that confidence. It also has some comments on the question of transport links. I think honourable members ought to be aware of those comments. The report states:

Canberra, as the Nation's Capital, should be easily accessible for all Australians, as well as for an increasing number of overseas visitors.

Canberra's existing transport links with other Australian cities and towns are inadequate and not of a standard appropriate to Australia's Capital City or for a city of the size and importance of Canberra, the seventh largest city in Australia. Improvement of these links is now essential and overdue.

It must be stated unequivocally that, in CARD's view, it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to provide adequate access to the National Capital.

The report offers some comment on the sort of access that is essential. It states:

That sufficient funds be provided to the A.C.T. (for example under the National Roads Grants Act) to ensure that road links are provided connecting Canberra to the regional and national road netword at a standard appropriate to the National Capital and a large regional centre. Specific recommendations in this regard are :

continuation of the present program of upgrading the Hume, Federal and Barton Highways; and

that greater priority be given to the provision of funds for the improvement of the King's Highway, Tumut Road, and Boboyan Road.

It also mentions the need for funding for Canberra's airport to enable it to handle not only the increasing internal services but also international services . It also mentions the need for adequate rail access. It is in this context that I think we have to have regard to the Committee's comments and its disappointment that funds will not be available under the bicentennial road development program to ensure the duplication of the Federal Highway between Canberra and Goulburn and that it is most unlikely that that project will be completed in time for the bicentennial celebrations in 1988. I regard it as an absolute disgrace.

I have put questions on notice to the Minister for Transport in order to get further information on this matter. I think it is important that the Minister take this matter up urgently on behalf of the people of Canberra. It is important that Canberra's members of Parliament take this matter up with their colleagues in the New South Wales Labor Government. I cannot imagine how the situation can continue whereby Labor governments in New South Wales and in Canberra would allow Canberra to be treated in such a shabby way.