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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 512

Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (11:40): I find the motion by the member for Corangamite quite amusing. It appears to be an almost desperate attempt to lock in the government to funding a project in the next federal budget. Clearly the member for Corangamite doubts whether her government will deliver the funding for this project in the next budget. She has taken the unprecedented step of congratulating the government and herself before the funding for this project has even been allocated. Why else would the member for Corangamite be congratulating the government before the May budget and before funding has been allocated to this project? The fact is, until funding has been allocated in the budget or otherwise, this project is still an election promise. Given the number of the government's already broken election promises, I can understand why the member for Corangamite is nervous.

I, too, am nervous about an election promise made in my electorate. During the recent federal election, the coalition promised $45 million to upgrade the Calder Highway alternative interchange at Ravenswood, an election promise from Labor, which they matched. Oddly, it was not the then shadow minister responsible for infrastructure who attended the announcement; it was not the shadow minister for regional development; it was not the shadow minister for finance, the shadow Treasurer—someone responsible for allocated funding—or the opposition leader. In fact, it was not anybody in the opposition executive who had anything to do with infrastructure and roads expenditure for regional Australia. It was the opposition spokesperson for employment and industrial relations, Senator Abetz, who made this announcement. This raises the question: how serious was the then coalition—then in opposition, today in government—about keeping their election promise to fund the upgrade of the Ravenswood interchange when they sent along to the announcement somebody who had absolutely nothing to do with infrastructure funding?

This project has moved from being a key priority to being an urgent priority. This intersection is a black spot. Only last week VicRoads announced urgent safety measures to be introduced at this dangerous intersection. The speed limit on the Calder Highway will be lowered in this section from 100 kilometres to 80 kilometres per hour. There is a concerning pattern of crashes and near misses occurring at the site. That is why this upgrade has moved from being a key issue to being an urgent issue. Upgrading the interchange will make it safer for the thousands of motorists and truck drivers who travel from Melbourne to Bendigo and to Mildura every day. I have been a fierce advocate for the Ravenswood upgrade project, as has my state Labor counterpart. Like many, we have been waiting for the state coalition government to complete the planning required by the federal government and Infrastructure Australia to fund and complete the project.

In 2010, the former state Labor government pledged funding to start the necessary planning work. Disappointingly, when Labor made the commitment, there was not one skerrick of support from the then state Liberal-National Party coalition. After being elected, they have continued to drag their feet. Years and years later they have created a crisis by not acting to get the planning done.

At a state or federal government level, only Labor can be trusted to deliver vital infrastructure funding to regional Victoria. I was pleased to join with former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon. Anthony Albanese, back in August to announce the former government's commitment to this project. It is only Labor that commit to funding these projects and it is only Labor that deliver these projects. That is why the Labor government's legacy to the current government sees us at the top of the ranking, as No. 1 in the world for infrastructure funding.

Since the election of the Victorian state coalition, this project has continued to sit in the too-hard basket. The government of the day have dragged their feet and because of this delay they have put safety at risk. Knowing how urgent this project is, I continue to lobby to meet with VicRoads in the area and to get a briefing on this project. But the state minister has denied me a meeting with the local representatives to find out more. What have the government got to hide? Let us hope that the governments act and commit to their promises. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Broadbent ): The member for La Trobe.