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Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Page: 4198


Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (20:39): More debt, more chaos, more spin is the way to describe the Gillard Labor government's budget, a budget that delivers more debt, more deficits, more taxes, more broken promises and more uncertainty from an incompetent government that just cannot be trusted. After six years of chaos, debt and spin, Australians are desperately seeking stable and competent economic management, but the Labor budget has once again failed to deliver.

I would like to use the appropriations bill to talk a little bit about some budget items but will start with the Palmerston hospital. As I said in this place many times, I have always been committed to the Palmerston hospital. Palmerston is where I live. It was the previous Northern Territory Labor government that failed Territorians. They were the ones that put a fence around a block of land with no building and called it a hospital. There are no plans to relocate or downgrade services being offered at RDH at this time.

I would like to share a transcript from the Northern Territory Minister for Health, Robyn Lambley, who said on Territory Talk:

We've always been committed to a Palmerston hospital. We've never suggested in any way shape or form that there wouldn't be a Palmerston hospital but I guess coming into government we've realised that what Labor was putting forward was would be inadequate over the coming decades. That was fairly short sighted so we've committed to spending $5 million or less hopefully on the scoping study just to make sure we get it right. We think that it's absolutely essential that we do get it right not just that the people of Palmerston and the rural area but the whole of the greater Darwin area.

She also said:

We've committed to a two-hospital system in the greater Darwin area. There will always be a Royal Darwin Hospital and there will always be a hospital placed within that Palmerston area to service the future growth of the greater Darwin area but yes, the scoping study will be available for public scrutiny and inspection. We think that really the plans that Labor put forward really don't take into account the demographic forecast for the area satisfactorily.

Does that sound like a government that is not committed to the Palmerston hospital? I do not think so. But as we know, Labor never fully explored the range of options available to ensure that the health needs of Darwin, Palmerston and the rural area were properly serviced into the future. That is why it is really important that the Giles government undertakes this scoping study, which the health minister said they are going to do.

There is a lot of scaremongering that is going on in Palmerston from the Labor candidate saying that we are not committed to the Palmerston hospital. Well I put on the record that the Territory government is committed to the hospital. I am a member of the coalition and I have always been committed to the hospital. What we have got to remember is that the $70 million that was promised by the Gillard Labor government for a hospital is actually not enough money. You cannot build a hospital for $70 million and that is why the scoping study is absolutely important. As I said, I have always been committed to the Palmerston hospital because I live in Palmerston. I was at the very first community meeting when the idea of the hospital was first conceived. So I want to assure people of Darwin and Palmerston that the hospital is not at risk despite the scaremongering that the Labor candidate is putting out into people's letterboxes. Please, do not be deceived by Labor's scaremongering. The Palmerston hospital is not at risk.

I would like to move now to something that is at risk. My colleagues and the chief minister asked me to raise the road funding that the Northern Territory received from this Gillard Labor government's budget because the 2013 federal budget, particularly the Nation Building Program 2, was terrible for the Northern Territory in a number of ways. Firstly, the overall allocation was down by almost 50 per cent. This was evidenced by the NBP 2 being cut by almost 50 per cent from the Nation Building Program 1. Nation Building Program 1 totalled $474 million for the period 2008-09 to 2012-13. The NBP 2 totalled $244 million, which equates to a cut of $230 million. This, as anyone would expect, is a massive blow to the Northern Territory's road infrastructure budget for civil construction and for the transport industry. This could also potentially lead to job losses because the Northern Territory simply cannot afford to carry the burden. The Australian government should carry its share of commitments.

The second point I would like to make is that the NBP2 spend is pushed out into the later years of the program. The government are making out that they are spending all this money now, but $183.6 million, which is about 75 per cent of the spend, is not available until the 2016-17 financial year. This makes some of the key projects difficult, and one of them is in my electorate—the duplication of the Tiger Brennan Drive from Woolner to Berrimah Road. The regional roads productivity program is potentially impacted. But, despite that, the minister for infrastructure flew into Darwin with the Labor candidates—and it was like: 'We're spending all this money', as if it was going to happen tomorrow. But Territorians are smarter than that. They know that this government is leading them up the garden path and that this money is not going to be available until 2016-17. Unfortunately, the Giles government have to stump up their part of this expenditure now. They are suffering because the former Territory Labor government left them with $5.5 billion worth of debt. So, financially, it is quite difficult for the Territory government to stump up the money straightaway.

I am surprised that Minister Snowdon was not able to get Minister Albanese to fund some of these projects, because some of the projects that I want to talk about are in his electorate of Lingiari. There is no new capital expenditure for the Australian government road network, and this is despite the Northern Territory government submitting an infrastructure program worth around $522 million. These projects are largely in Minister Snowdon's electorate. There is $40 million for flood immunity for the Saddle, Mathieson and Sandy creeks on the Victoria Highway; $70 million for safety and fatigue management, including truck parking bays; intersections and safety treatment to the Katherine River bridge; upgrading of the Stuart Highway from Dixon to the MVR in Alice Springs, which is actually in Minister Snowdon's electorate; $125 million for strengthening and widening the National Highway for the Stuart, Barkly and Victoria highways; and $180 million for ongoing repairs and maintenance for the national network. So what did the Northern Territory get? Zip. Nothing. There was no money whatsoever for a capital expenditure upgrade.

I am disappointed. I would have thought that Minister Snowdon would have been able to do something, but obviously he did not. But I can assure you that our candidate, Tina MacFarlane, will fight for Territorians. She knows what these roads are like. She is up and down and driving around on them. She is a pastoralist from Mataranka. She knows that these roads need work, and she will stand there and fight for Territorians. As I said, the NT did get some funding, but it will not be available until 2016-17. Also, as I said, we have had Minister Albanese and all the other ministers visit my electorate. You would be surprised, member for Durack, that they do not let us know that they are coming, yet they spruik all this money that they are going to spend.

We have some other projects which the Northern Territory missed out on. They include: $40 million for the sealing of the Tanami Road; $80 million for local roads; $20 million for Gapuwiyak; $25 million for Ramingining; $10 million to seal the road from Ali Curung to the Stuart Highway; $25 million to seal the Kintore Road from Papunya to the Derwent river crossing; $20 million for upgrading the Galiwinku Highway from a Galiwinku to Gawa; $40 million to extend the seal on the Outback Way towards Harts Range and some other roads; and $10 million to commence sealing the Buntine Highway to Lajamanu. These are decent projects, and they are all in Minister Snowdon's electorate. I am not sure what has happened. It is also important to point out that there is no money to repair and maintain the Australian government highway network. The NT government asked for $128 million and received with $52.8 million. As I said, our candidate, Tina MacFarland, would put up a fight. I think Minister Snowdon has just let it go down. I know Senator Crossin would have been in there fighting. She is a good representative of the Territory, but unfortunately Labor are not listening to her and will let her go, which is very is disappointing.

The Chief Minister also wanted me to point out that the $128 million is desperately needed to repair and maintain our road pavements due to growth, to adverse weather and to ageing. The concern is that less funding will lead to rapid deterioration in some sections of the national network and dollars will have to be diverted to high-priority areas to ensure accessibility and stability. That is the Northern Territory government's prerogative but it is disappointing that the Northern Territory government sought $128 million after good, well-costed funding, but basically they have been ignored.

This is not the first time this issue has been raised. I know my colleague Senator Scullion had similar concerns last budget, and now we are doing this again. This reduction in funding comes despite sections of the Stuart Highway from Darwin to Katherine being labelled 'high risk' and some of the worst road conditions in Australia by the AANT. It is alarming that the need for upgrading is being ignored. As I said, they are all in Minister Snowdon's electorate. Maybe they are going to use some of the money already put away, member for Durack, the $430-odd million that was stashed away in the budget on announcements that have not been made.

Mr Haase: Secret announcements.

Mrs GRIGGS: Yes, secret announcements. It is concerning that the most recent AusRAP risk mapping report indicates that the Darwin to Pine Creek section of the Sturt Highway is the highest risk section of the national highway on which to travel in Australia. That is nothing for the Gillard Labor government to be proud of. In addition, the AusRAP star ratings report also shows that over 50 per cent of the Northern Territory section of the Stuart Highway rates at only one and two stars. The Darwin to Pine Creek section of the Stuart Highway is a significant part of the substandard section. Urgent investment is needed to improve the Darwin to Pine Creek section of the Stuart Highway. This was submitted with submissions from the Northern Territory government, but the Gillard Labor government and Minister Snowdon have obviously ignored this information. As I said, I know that our candidate, Tina MacFarland, would fight for funding to ensure that roads in Lingiari are well serviced.

Having substandard roads is not good, so I am appalled that the Gillard Labor government has chosen to ignore Territorians. They need to focus more attention on our roads. As I said, this is not the first time that expenditure for Northern Territory roads has been raised in this place. My colleague senator Scullion has raised many times in the other place, during his tenure as a senator, expenditure on road funding and how important it is to ensure that the national highway framework is maintained for safety. The Stuart Highway is the only way into the Northern Territory by road. If that highway is not maintained, it will be detrimental for Territorians.