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Monday, 2 June 2003
Page: 15621

Ms BURKE (4:33 PM) —I am not here to agree to this motion, nor am I here to agree to the words that the member for Dunkley has just spoken. However, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the House on the important issue of the Scoresby Freeway and the actions of the Victorian state Labor government in constructing this important infrastructure. It is a road the community want to see built as soon as possible, and the community are pleased that they will finally see it built after years of empty Liberal promises, empty Liberal stunts. Let us talk about stunts. Let us talk about standing out there with people and ads.

There is, I believe, genuine recognition in the broader community, the Victorian parliament and this parliament about the importance of the Mitcham-Frankston freeway. Unlike my colleagues opposite, I have not had one phone call to my office concerned about the tolling of this road—not one. It is just a pity that, when it comes to this road, the federal government has only ever played politics. It has played politics with this important infrastructure that will facilitate economic growth in the east and south-east of Melbourne.

The recent history of this project is very simple. We only need to remember the politics played in the Aston by-election and what was done by the Liberal government there. Let us not talk about who plays politics with this road. The Victorian government have committed to the project but, due to the outrageously incompetent administration by the previous government of the public transport system, the government have been forced to turn Scoresby into a toll road. This has cost the Victorian government politically, but it is a cost they have borne. They have borne it on the chin and they have had the guts to say sorry, unlike the Liberal federal government about the numerous promises it has broken.

But it is a measure of the Victorian government's commitment to the road that it has gone ahead, has been open with the community and is going to build the road. This is in stark contrast to the federal government, which, rather than having acted in the interest of Victorians—who will benefit from the economic growth that this road will facilitate—has at all turns attempted to exploit this vital infrastructure for political gain. I want to bring a couple of facts before the House. The Commonwealth government has already breached the memorandum of understanding with the Victorian government by never committing 50 per cent of the government's contribution to the road. The preamble to the MOU reads:

... that the Federal Government will contribute 50% of Government contributions to the construction costs of the Freeway. The Victorian Premier, the Hon Steve Bracks MP, has committed Victoria to fund 50% of Government contributions for the construction cost of the Freeway.

Despite knowledge that the Scoresby portion of the freeway will cost $1.3 billion, the federal government has committed only $445 million. That is only 37 per cent of the cost, not 50 per cent. The Victorian state government is committed to building this road while the federal government just plays politics. The communities to the east and south-east of Melbourne understand that the construction of this vital infrastructure is in the interests of their local economy and the economy of Victoria as a whole. These are facts that are not disputed by anyone.

It is instructive to see that mayors of the local municipalities that will be affected by the Scoresby Freeway all want to move forward and ensure that the road is built. Mayors whose municipalities are contained within Chisholm and those for the cities of Monash, Whitehorse and Kingston have all spoken of their wish for the road to be constructed. The Mayor of Monash has said:

... we want this freeway built now and we want it built right, and we will work with the government to get the best outcome for Monash.

The Mayor of Whitehorse has said:

Council looks forward to continuing opportunities to meet with the government and work together on getting the road built.

And the Mayor of Kingston has said:

The Mitcham-Frankston Freeway is essential for the economic development of this region and for this reason we welcome the Government's unequivocal commitment to the project.

The road will be built. The Victorian government is committed to it; local communities are committed to it and the only level of government that continues to play politics with this road is the federal government. The federal government is prepared to play politics with this road: the money has suddenly disappeared. The time for games and political stunts has passed. It is time for the Howard government to park the political bandwagon and to help to drive this project with the Bracks Labor government for the benefit of the eastern and south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and for the economic development of the area that everybody recognises is important. It will come with the development of this road.