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Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Page: 28

Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (15:42): Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

The SPEAKER: Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?


The SPEAKER: Please proceed.

Mr OAKESHOTT: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The matter has already been touched on by the minister at the table, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. In the lead story on the Channel 9 news on 19 January 2012, journalist Kevin Wilde reported that the death of an 11-year-old boy in a crash at Urunga, on the north coast of New South Wales—200 kilometres away from the electorate of Lyne—could have been prevented. He reported that because of political favours, federal money earmarked for the Pacific Highway at Urunga had been redirected to another project—that is, the Oxley Highway in the electorate of Lyne. The story included the use of terms such as 'death could have been avoided', 'pet projects' and 'cheap politics'. In this same story, watched by 1.7 million Australians, a state member was approached by Mr Wilde for comment and said these actions were the 'greatest act of political bastardry that I've seen in my time as local member'. The roads minister of New South Wales also commented in the story, claiming that he had 'damning evidence to support the claims'.

On the back of this story, talkback radio in Sydney picked up on the same allegations. On Friday, 20 January, former New South Wales MP David Oldfield, who is now a talkback host on 2UE, opened an interview with the statement, 'It seems pretty apparent from all we know about this, doesn't it, that money that should have fixed this and saved this young man and other people's lives was directed politically to Oakeshott'. He also stated in the same commentary, 'Oakeshott does a deal, he gets money for works that are a lesser priority, and people die.' This is factually incorrect. The Oxley Highway at the heart of the allegation raised is a fully-funded state road—ironically, open today after 10 years of works in New South Wales and in the electorate. There is absolutely no federal money that has gone to the Oxley Highway upgrade and logically, therefore, there is absolutely no possibility of the diversion of funds for political favours even if we all wished it. This is an outrageous slur. It is inexcusable that it has been done on the back of the death of an 11-year-old boy on the highway and I would urge all involved politically to do nothing other than to fix the Pacific Highway.