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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8107

Mrs MOYLAN (8:50 PM) —I rise tonight to contribute to the grievance debate on behalf of constituents in Pearce. As the ancient saying goes, ‘All roads lead to Rome’, but I think it is fair to say that, had Romans had to travel on some Western Australian roads, they may have taken a different route. Such a comment might seem jovial but in fact it reveals the disgraceful truth that, while ancient Rome now lies in ruins, so too do many of the arterial roads in the Pearce electorate. I specifically make reference to the Great Northern Highway and the Great Eastern Highway. The Great Northern Highway is the main arterial road that carries all of the traffic to the great and developing north-west of Western Australia where much of the mining wealth has been generated now over several decades and where a lot of the major pastoral activity takes place. That road carries all the heavy traffic to and from that region, to the ports and the airport, and is a very busy road indeed.

The Great Eastern Highway, as the name suggests, carries all of the traffic to and from Perth and the Eastern States of Australia—again, to the ports, the airport and other destinations in Western Australia. They are certainly some of the busiest roads in Western Australia. The traffic, particularly in heavy haulage trucks, is increasing at an alarming rate, as is tourist and domestic travel on those roads. The situation, I think, is becoming extremely dangerous. These roads were built in an era that never envisaged the huge haulage trucks we now have using those roads, often with double and treble loads. On parts of the Great Northern Highway it is almost impossible for drivers to keep their rigs on the road between the white lines. This places other road users in great danger.

For all of my 16 years in this place I have campaigned very strongly for safer roads in the Pearce electorate, particularly the Great Northern Highway and the Great Eastern Highway, as well as many other smaller roads within the electorate. While many improvements have been made and the community are grateful for those improvements, there remains a great deal of work to do. Unfortunately, under the current government, it looks as though that work might have to wait a lot longer.

There are a couple of particular issues arising from this lack of road funding. One is safety, and we are talking about road fatalities and accidents that cause horrendous damage to people and leave scars that they have to live with for the rest of their lives. The safety issues must be a priority. The second part of the equation is an economic one, specifically the level of infrastructure derived as a percentage of Western Australia’s contribution to GDP. Western Australia’s future economic development rests to some extent on the efficiency of its transport routes.

Let me turn to the safety issues first. Over the years, I have made many representations to government on the safety issues, particularly in relation to the Great Northern Highway and the Great Eastern Highway. I have subsequently had meetings with various bodies, such as Access Alliance and Main Roads Western Australia in recent times, just to find out what has happened to the considerable amount of funding that was allocated under the previous, Howard government. But it seems that on many occasions, rather than tackling the difficult bits of road—and I know that there are sometimes reasons why they are not immediately addressed—some of the straight sections of road have been widened and improved but we still have serious difficulties on winding parts of the road, perhaps where they are a bit more challenging to fix. I think it is disappointing that that situation continues. Meanwhile, as these dangerous parts of the road are not fixed, the safety of motorists is put in jeopardy. As I said, this can only get worse as these highways become even more congested in the coming months.

One of the issues I raised in the debate about wheat deregulation was the lack of decision making around the infrastructure issues that were required to be addressed, I felt, prior to any proposal to deregulate the market. I made representation to the current minister. I spoke in this House and in many other forums about the dangers of carrying out deregulation of the wheat market until infrastructure issues had been addressed. So what do we find now? We have an inquiry into the transport of wheat by rail. If my recollection is right, just recently I heard the government in Western Australia say that it is not viable to improve rail transport there. So what we are going to see over the coming harvest months is many, many more trucks filled with wheat plying our roads, not only the major highways but also the internal roads, with the resultant damage to the roads but also with risks to the other motorists using those roads. When you think about the thousands of tonnes of wheat that will now need to be carted by road because the rail that carted the wheat formerly is not going to be available, I think it is a very bleak situation. I know that the Western Australian Farmers Federation and many representatives from local government in the electorate of Pearce have been working very hard to try and convince both governments of the merit of improving the rail to cart wheat. I think it will be an indictment of the government if it does not take action to improve the rail transport situation for wheat growers.

In Western Australia we have also many mining projects on the drawing board, including the Oakajee port facility. This is going to mean many more of these heavy trucks carrying triple, double and overwidth loads backward and forward along the Great Northern Highway. I met recently with the state member for Swan Hills. I am very grateful for the work that he is doing to do his part to convince the state government to give some of these roadworks priority. The ultimate solution is to have the Perth to Darwin highway constructed and not just some faraway dream. A solution with the Great Eastern Highway, similarly, is to have what they call the yellow route constructed, to take the pressure off both those roads. The Great Northern Highway goes through the beautiful Swan Valley. It is a tourist precinct and it is extremely dangerous to have these trucks going up and down that road constantly. About 2,600 trucks a day are forecast to use the southern end of that road.

So I will continue to work with the state Liberal member, Frank Alban, and with the state and federal governments to try to convince them that we need to put far more investment into improving the roads in Western Australia, particularly those two major highways that run through, in part, the Pearce electorate. It is a very important and urgent priority that needs to be attended to in the interests of safe motoring for all road users.