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
Wednesday, 10 September 2003
Page: 19769


Mr NAIRN (7:49 PM) —An issue of great importance to my constituents on the far South Coast is the need to replace Pambula Bridge on the Princes Highway. It is 110 years old, and every few years it floods, cutting the highway. Not only is it inconvenient, it is dangerous, as the Pambula Hospital is on the north side of the bridge, which means that people in south Pambula and Eden and the surrounds are cut off from access to it.

The Princes Highway is a state highway, so responsibility lies with the New South Wales government. There should be no argument about that, as governments of all persuasions, at the federal and state levels, have been working to a model whereby the federal government fully funds the national highways, the states fund state highways and regional roads and local government fund local roads. Then you have black spot and Roads to Recovery funding from the Australian government and, when agreed by both federal and state governments, there are Roads of National Importance—RONIs.

A couple of years ago the New South Wales government decided that they should replace the bridge, and they did a design which was going to cost about $3 million. They put that out into the public, and basically the locals said: `That's hopeless. All you're going to do is replace a wooden bridge with a concrete bridge at the same level, so it would still flood. It would still be a major problem.' So the Bega Valley Shire Council, I think, pressured the New South Wales government about this and finally they came up with a better design which would in fact make it much more flood-free. But this was going to cost about $10 million instead of the $3 million that they were prepared to spend. So they put out an announcement and said, `Okay, we'll do that—we'll increase our $3 million to $5 million, provided that the federal government matches it.' It has got nothing to do with the federal government; it is a state highway, not a national highway. That was their solution, so ever since then we have had this nonsense going on, with them saying, `Okay, we'll fix the problem; we'll spend $5 million, as long as it is matched by the federal government.'

The Labor candidate against me at the last federal election was out there saying that the Commonwealth should put money in. He failed, as we all know. Then, more recently, he stood as a state candidate. Once again, he campaigned along the same lines—that the federal government should put money in. We also had the Bega Valley Shire Council in the middle—I think, to some extent, a bit unfortunately. They said it was a political football and the state and federal governments should work it out. They should have been putting the pressure squarely where it belongs—and that is with the state government. The state government have been just so dishonest about whose responsibility this is.

It was really nice to see in the Merimbula News Weekly last week that there is a bit of honesty in Labor. It has come from the federal member for Batman, Martin Ferguson. The article said:

The Pambula River bridge is the responsibility of the NSW Government, not the Commonwealth, Federal Shadow Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Martin Ferguson, has said.

His comment has flown in the face of NSW Minister for Transport Carl Scully who has consistently maintained that the bridge was a federal responsibility, not a state responsibility.

A spokesman for NSW Minister for Transport Carl Scully was unable to comment by press time yesterday whether the NSW Government would now accept responsibility for the bridge's replacement.

Mr Ferguson has told Bega Valley Shire Council Councillor Joyce McGill that Labor cannot help the council's campaign for a new bridge on the Princes Highway over the river south of Pambula ...

Cr McGill turned to Labor in a bid to exert political pressure on the Coalition to pay for the bridge but she has been unsuccessful.

In a letter to Cr McGill, Mr Ferguson stated: “The truth is that this bridge is a NSW government responsibility, not a Commonwealth responsibility.

“You will therefore need to pursue the matter further with your local State Member of Parliament ...”

In today's Merimbula News Weekly, a spokesperson for Carl Scully said:

... Mr Scully, a Labor minister, believed that the federal Labor Party determined its own policies so Mr Ferguson's views on the matter carried no weight with him. ...

Mr Scully still believed that it was the federal Government's responsibility ...

These people are unbelievable. First the state and federal members do not agree. Then they do not know the difference between national highways and state highways. State highways are a state responsibility. Of course, if there were ever additional money available, as the federal member I would be directing it that way. (Time expired)