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Monday, 16 June 2003
Page: 16369

Ms GILLARD (1:07 PM) —I rise to support the motion moved by the member for Ballarat and seconded by the member for Burke, and I commend their contributions to this House on this very important issue. We have heard a plea to take the politics out of road funding. If only that could be done. Day after day in this House we hear a lot of nonsense from members of the Howard government about the Howard government's commitments to road funding in Victoria. Sometimes we hear reference to the commitment that the Howard government made to the Princes Freeway. The Princes Freeway is another major roads issue for my electorate.

I would like to take this opportunity to record exactly what happened with the funding of the Princes Freeway. The then state Labor opposition committed to funding the upgrade of the Princes Freeway. In the 1998 election campaign, the then federal Labor opposition committed to matching that funding to ensure that the Princes Freeway upgrade could proceed. Some time later, the then state Liberal government, led by Premier Jeff Kennett, committed to matching the commitment of state Labor to the freeway. Some long time after that, the Howard government was dragged to the table, kicking and screaming, before finally agreeing to fund its half of the Princes Freeway upgrade.

That was a major issue of importance to my electorate. That history is well remembered in my electorate, as is the history of community campaigning that went into convincing this government that it ought to do the right thing by the Princes Freeway. We are now in a circumstance where the issue of the Western Highway is now the major roads issue facing the electorate. The reconfigured electorate of Lalor includes the community of Melton, which uses the Western Highway for transport into the city and for transport to Ballarat or beyond, if venturing that way.

As the members for Ballarat and Burke have said, there are three main areas of concern for the Western Highway—the Deer Park bypass, Anthony's Cutting at Bacchus Marsh and the Leakes Road overpass at Rockbank. The road will be left in very poor condition without these important road projects being undertaken. We know already that there have been numerous deaths and serious accidents along this road because it is not in a safe condition. We know already that it is in a physical condition that users can tell is nowhere near up to standard. We know the road is already the subject of incredible congestion. Let me say on behalf of the Melton community, which is now in the electorate of Lalor, that the incredible congestion is very likely to get worse. Melton is one of the designated growth corridors in the development of the Melbourne metropolitan area. As a designated growth corridor, new housing estates are opening all the time. New families are moving in, and those new families will use the road. If it is a problem now, it will be an increasing problem in the future and it needs to be addressed.

When we have called on the Howard government to address this issue—and I note the member for Ballarat and the member for Burke have persistently made these calls—all we get is buck-passing. The federal Minister for Transport and Regional Services has received representations about this issue not only from members of parliament but also from the Western Highway Action Group. Despite those representations, whilst the Howard government holds out the prospect of getting around to these road projects some time in the future, it never makes a definite commitment to them. My call today to the minister for transport is to finally get serious about addressing the needs of my constituents in Melton, and constituents in Victoria more generally, who rely on this road, who are forced to use it in its current, unsafe condition and who are forced to confront issues of safety, time and the physical condition of the road every time they put their car on the Western Highway.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.