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Tuesday, 31 March 1998
Page: 2039

Mr BARTLETT (10:57 PM) —When Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth crossed the Blue Mountains in 1813 they could not in their wildest dreams have imagined what lay ahead. When Cox and his partners in subsequent years started to build the road across the mountains, they could have had no idea whatsoever of the thoroughfare that the Great Western Highway would become. Yet, in spite of the steady improvements that have occurred since then, the Great Western Highway is still inadequate to meet the growing demands on it. It is still in urgent need of attention and it still needs much greater government funding than it has been receiving.

A drive along the highway late at night will show a constant convoy of trucks up and down the highway. A drive down the moun tains on Sunday afternoon will show, to the agony of day trippers, an enormous traffic jam. A drive in the lower part of the mountains in peak hour in the morning will show enormous frustration by commuters trying to get out of the mountains down to the suburbs and to the city. It is very obvious that the route across the Blue Mountains, the Great Western Highway, needs considerable and urgent attention.

The Great Western Highway is a vital link with the hinterland of western and central New South Wales. For the agricultural produce and the growing manufacturing centres it is the only link to the growing markets and the ports of Sydney. If we are to seriously encourage regional development in central and western New South Wales, the Great Western Highway desperately needs to be enhanced and improved. If we are to take seriously the steady growth in tourism that we have seen—and it is pretty obvious when you look at the beauty of the Blue Mountains why there is such a steady flow of tourists to the Blue Mountains and west of there—and if we are really to facilitate that growth in tourism, then the Great Western Highway desperately needs to be upgraded.

If we are to consider as well enhancing the facilities for emergency vehicles wanting to access remote areas of the Blue Mountains in times of emergency such as bushfires, then we also need to upgrade the Great Western Highway. The accident figures show very clearly the plight of the Great Western Highway. For instance, if you compare the 208 kilometres between Sydney and Bathurst on a per kilometre basis, as the NRMA and the RTA did in 1994, with the Pacific Highway between Sydney and Tweed Heads, these figures stand out: 2.5 accidents per kilometre on the Pacific Highway and seven accidents per kilometre in one year on the Great Western Highway; 1.5 injuries or deaths per kilometre on the Pacific Highway and 3.6 injuries or deaths on the Great Western Highway; three per cent of accidents in New South Wales generally cause casualties and nine per cent of accidents on the Great Western Highway cause casualties; and one per cent of accidents cause death in the state generally and three per cent of accidents cause death on the Great Western Highway.

The Great Western Highway desperately needs federal government funding. Funding from the federal government to states for roads has been increased, but it is still not sufficient. The federal government funding through the roads of national importance program has the potential to significantly improve the Great Western Highway.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! It being 11 p.m., the debate is interrupted.