Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 16 June 2003
Page: 16368


Mr FORREST (1:02 PM) —I too would like to commend the member for Ballarat for bringing this important road to the attention of the parliament. This road is the spine of the Wimmera, and the amount of interstate and local traffic on it is just phenomenal. I am very proud to be part of a government that has made major commitments to meet all the needs of this road. There is a very poor fatigue zone from the South Australian border to Horsham, and this government has committed millions of dollars—more than $100 million since 1997—to that zone, in a range of projects that are currently funded or have commitments to be funded. I am going to run through those.

I was pleased to hear the member for Ballarat say something about the politicisation that goes on with road funding. Nothing appals me more than that process either. But that did not last long, and the member for Burke was back on the old theme. The fact is that this government have allocated over $700 million of extra funding to Victoria since we have been in government. A substantial amount of that is currently locked up in Scoresby so, like the member for Wannon, I am encouraged by the remarks the member has made that maybe we can keep stupid politicisation out of this very necessary amount of expenditure that needs to be made.

The member for Wannon mentioned the railway underpass at Armstrong. This is an incredibly dangerous underpass where the record of fatalities is just phenomenal. The highway actually goes under the railway line, with abutments that are the same width as the bitumen. There is no room for error when negotiating your way through that hole in the wall, which is how it has been described for a long time, especially when there is a big B-double 18-wheeler coming in the other direction. It has an appalling record of fatality. This government committed $12.9 million to have that flyover replaced, and I understand the member for Wannon will be officially opening that flyover shortly. It is now completed and open to traffic.

I have been encouraging the government to focus on those parts of the highway that have very bad records of fatality, and $72 million has been spent between the South Australian border and Ararat, which is a very bad fatigue zone. The money has been focusing on where the accidents are happening and where those people have been losing their dearest and most precious, as the member for Ballarat put it. Let us remove the politicisation. The issue about the Deer Park section is an important one. Nowadays, in addition to safety, people are looking for the fastest access to the city, and that is a constraint at Deer Park. But already the government federally has demonstrated its commitment to a planning study of $320,000. That is just to decide where the alignment goes. That is the first part of the debate. The same thing is going on with regard to the Calder Highway as well. The first thing to do is to follow due process and get design established, and communities need to be consulted to get designs organised, and the government has demonstrated that it is committed to that process.

In the brief time that is available to me I would like to list a number of projects that I have been pleased to see the Commonwealth contribute to. Funding of $11.2 million has been provided for the Hopkins Road interchange, and there have been widening and rehabilitation works worth $30.2 million between Kiata and Kaniva, which I had the delight of opening recently. The community down there has been waiting a long time to have this important highway upgraded. In fact, I now get letters from my constituents complaining about the number of hold-ups and traffic lights because of the amount of funding that is being spent. That is the problem with road funding. How the funding is expended needs to be planned, because people object to being held up on the highway.

But I take note of the member for Ballarat's concerns, and I will be joining her in advocating the need for commitments to continue to be made to the busiest highway in Australia. I will also be urging a positive response to road funding, which was this coalition government's announcement in regard to roads of national importance. If the states cannot honour their commitment to fund what it is clearly their constitutional responsibility to fund, the Commonwealth has a good record in meeting the funding of these important infrastructure projects. I support the motion, and I reiterate: let us remove the politics from the debate. (Time expired)