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Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Page: 1295

Mrs ANDREWS (McPherson) (20:12): I welcome the opportunity to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2011-2012 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2011-2012 and specifically to raise several issues of concern within my electorate of McPherson. This evening there are four issues I would like to speak about: firstly, transport infrastructure and the upgrade to the M1; secondly, an instrument landing system for the Gold Coast airport; thirdly, unemployment; and, fourthly, border protection. I will deal with each issue in turn, starting with the M1.

In particular, I would like to speak about the section of the M1 through the southern part of the Gold Coast that continues to be plagued by traffic and congestion issues. Almost that entire section of the M1 is located within my electorate and it is in desperate need of an upgrade. Congestion causes significant and ongoing issues for local residents getting to and from work and dropping kids off at school and also tourists as they travel through the Gold Coast. It also means that the M1 cannot perform its primary function, which is as a major arterial road from New South Wales to Queensland that should have the capacity to handle large volumes of passenger and freight vehicles.

As part of the federal government's election commitment in 2007, $455 million was allocated to upgrade the M1 at Logan and on the Gold Coast. The federal funding contribution was matched by the state, I understand, to a total of $420 million. While I understand the upgrade and widening of the M1 through to the New South Wales border is now unlikely to happen as one continuous upgrade, as originally proposed, the upgrade still desperately needs to happen. Staged upgrades of distinct sections of the M1 are therefore a viable and sensible alternative. The M1 between Worongary and Tugun is seriously affected by congestion and the sections between Robina and Varsity Lakes particularly so, where traffic regularly queues back to the Mudgeeraba interchange. Approximately 950 vehicles per hour exit the M1 at Mudgeeraba in the morning peak and 1,300 vehicles per hour in the evening peak period. There are expected to be major benefits in extending the six lanes to Mudgeeraba with through motorway volumes reducing on the Mudgeeraba to Robina section.

As I have already indicated, the efficiency of not only commuter but also freight movements is being affected by the ongoing congestion problems and these problems are exacerbated by increased numbers of heavy vehicles using the M1. I am advised that there is currently a project proposal report, or PPR, with the Department of Infrastructure and Transport to upgrade the M1 to six lanes between exit 77 and exit 79, but to date there has not been a response to the proposal. I have recently written to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport regarding this issue and raised my concerns with him. I have sought information on three issues: firstly, the status of the upgrade of the MI between Nerang and Tugun and specifically the section of the motorway between exit 77, which is Gooding Drive, and exit 79, which is Mudgeeraba; secondly, the time frame for approval of the project proposal report, and when works are anticipated to commence and complete; and, thirdly the time frames, if any, for further upgrades through to Tugun.

The need for an upgrade of the M1 on the southern Gold Coast should not be underestimated. The MI. must have sufficient capacity so that vehicles, both passenger and freight, can flow freely. This is not the case now and it needs to be addressed as a priority. I look forward to the minister's response to my letter on this issue and to the government delivering on its 2007 election commitment so that we can ensure the M1 on the southern Gold Coast gets its much-needed upgrade as a priority.

The second issue I wish to speak on today is the need for an instrument landing system, or ILS, at Gold Coast Airport. I had the opportunity to raise this issue in this place very briefly last week; however, I would like to discuss several points in further detail. An ILS is an aviation tool that provides pilots with a variety of visual and non-visual tools to assist them in landing planes in low visibility conditions. Where an instrument landing system is not installed, pilots have to rely upon non-precision approach procedures that require high levels of visibility. In recent weeks there have been various news reports about the lack of an ILS at Gold Coast Airport, with unhappy members of the aviation community questioning why such an important piece of equipment is missing from one of Australia's largest airports. Gold Coast Airport is the sixth largest airport in Australia, and despite airports in capital cities and some smaller regional airports having an ILS, including Townsville and Cairns, the Gold Coast Airport does not.

The situation has been highlighted in recent weeks where inclement weather and poor visibility have resulted in a number of aircraft go-arounds, holding patterns, aborted landings and diversions to other airports. As I said in this place last week, there is obviously a safety concern as well as risk to aircraft and a significant cost burden to operators. I understand that discussions are already underway between Gold Coast Airport and Airservices Australia, and I call on the government to fast-track the installation and commissioning of an instrument landing system at Gold Coast Airport.

The third issue I would like to speak on today that directly impacts my electorate of McPherson and the Gold Coast as a whole is unemployment. Later this week the ABS labour force figures for January are scheduled to be released, and hopefully we will see an improvement in unemployment numbers. However, the release of the ABS labour force figures show that no jobs have been created over the past year—Australia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.2 per cent in December 2011. What is concerning is that these figures do not include the latest round of pending job cuts announced by some of Australia's largest employers; nor do they include the impact of Labor's job-destroying carbon and mining taxes. The Gillard government has again proved that it is without a clue on how to halt the slide in Australia's job market and a faltering local economy. During a recent interview on Radio National, the Treasurer talked up Australia's economy against a flailing European market, only to admit that his May 2011 forecast of 500,000 new jobs in two years was utter nonsense. The interview ran:

Fran Kelly: In terms of the positives though, the government positively forecast half a million new jobs over the next two years to be created. Given the zero jobs growth last year, are you still confident that figure holds? That (it) can be achieved?

Wayne Swan: Certainly we will do less than that.

This is another example to add to the ever-growing list of broken promises: the carbon tax, the tax summit and the private health insurance rebate.

I have mentioned in this place before the difficult situation the Gold Coast faces with unemployment, as we are a region that depends heavily on the tourism and construction industries. Unfortunately, these two industries are the hardest hit in a global economic downturn—and the GFC certainly hit the Gold Coast hard. Despite these downturns, however, the southern Gold Coast has fared better than its northern counterparts in the recently released regional labour force statistics for the period ending December 2011. Not only is the southern Gold Coast region blessed with beautiful beaches and rolling hills but it is also managing to keep its unemployment rate relatively low.

Mr Ripoll: A good Labor state government.

Mrs ANDREWS: About to be changed. According to detailed figures taken from the labour force statistics, the long-term unemployment rate for the southern Gold Coast, measured over a four-year average, is 5.4 per cent. This compares favourably with the central Gold Coast at 5.5 per cent and the northern Gold Coast at 6.3 per cent. The unemployment rate for women on the southern Gold Coast is steady at 5.6 percent. This beats both the central Gold Coast at 5.8 per cent and the northern Gold Coast at 7.3 per cent.

These figures, however, do not mean that there is time for complacency. The best result for the southern Gold Coast occurred way back in January 2008, when the lowest figure—just 2.2 per cent unemployment—came directly off the Howard government. More recently the 12-month average unemployment has risen to 6.4 per cent, indicating that the southern Gold Coast economy is hurting. It also indicates that there is a substantial pool of unused capacity in the official unemployment results.

From conversations I have had with local businesses, I have gathered that these figures mask the reality of the situation: the greater problem is the underemployment of labour capacity. While estimating underemployment in the southern Gold Coast regional area is difficult, locals point to a rate of underemployment which could be twice the official rate of unemployment. Clearly we need to get the economy of the southern Gold Coast moving again. It is important that we prevent the cost-of-living pressures from continuing to rise and that we ensure that our unemployment rate on the southern Gold Coast is pushed down again. I repeat: this is not a time for complacency on the issue of unemployment. The coalition will ensure that cost-of-living pressures are kept to an absolute minimum. We will deliver transparency and accountability and restore trust in government.

The final issue I will speak about today is Australia's current border protection policies and the associated cost blowouts. These issues are consistently raised with me by the people of McPherson, who are concerned about the number of illegal boat arrivals and what this means for our nation's border protection. The number of boat arrivals since the Labor government unwound the coalition's strong border protection policies is undeniably significant. The total number of arrivals since August 2008 is 15,089, and the total number of boats that have arrived in this time is 278. Since polling day on 21 August 2010, 123 boats and 7,740 people have arrived. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship costs an extra $1 billion a year to run compared with the costs when Labor was first elected.

These are yet more costs to taxpayers for border protection policies by this government which have failed. The government should restore the successful border protection policies of the Howard government. They should, firstly, restore temporary protection visas; secondly, reopen the processing centre on Nauru; and, thirdly, turn back the boats when it is safe to do so. These are the coalition's commitments, and I can assure the people of McPherson that I am fighting to ensure these policies are restored.

As I have highlighted today there are a variety of important issues facing the southern Gold Coast that I will continue to raise and fight for. Upgrading the M1 is important to local Gold Coasters as well as the tourism industry. The implementation of an instrument landing system at Gold Coast Airport will improve the efficiency of flights into the local region. Unemployment on the southern Gold Coast is not as high as elsewhere. However, we cannot become complacent on this issue. Finally, border protection issues and their associated cost blowouts are of serious concern to my electorate. They are concerned about the uncertainty of cost-of-living pressures and they do not want to see their tax dollars wasted any further.