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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 856

Mr SNOWDON ( Lingiari ) ( 16:54 ): Deputy Speaker, you said you were the beef capital of what?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The country.

Mr SNOWDON: What? You are kidding yourself! Despite the misinformation which you have just perpetrated on the House, I am pleased to be able to speak to this motion, and I thank the member for putting it on the Notice Paper. As you would be aware, the government has committed $700 million to improve roads in Northern Australia, including $100 million for the Northern Australia Beef Roads Program to improve roads that are essential to cattle transportation to help producers transport cattle to market more safely and efficiently.

The BRP spend in the Northern Territory will be $30 million. It is welcome, but it is stretching credulity to say that it will make any damn difference. Given the hundreds of kilometres of roads which are essential to the economic development of Northern Australia—particularly in this context, the beef industry—$30 million, while welcome, will not go very far. I was talking to some people this morning, the wonderful people from the Outback Way, and I was not aware of this fact: currently it costs anywhere between $500,000 and $1.2 million a kilometre to do a road in the Northern Territory. God knows why! But if this is correct, it means the $30 million is not going to go very far.

It is important that the Northern Territory government will contribute 20 per cent toward the projects. But the fact is that we have hundreds of kilometres of roads that need work and the Northern Territory simply does not have the revenue base to cover them. So this money coming from the Commonwealth is very important, and the small amount that it is is quite welcome. The two priority upgrades announced for the Northern Territory—the Barkly Stock Route for $10 million and the Tablelands Highway for $20 million—are both in the Barkly region of the north-east of the Northern Territory.

We do not have enough money for roads. This is important and, given the way in which the money is being allocated, I would like to think it was being based on the strategic, economic and social importance of the roads rather than the political priorities of the government. Sadly, I have the view that this is more politically motivated than it is in terms of the strategic, economic and social importance of the road infrastructure of the north.

To highlight one of these roads: the Tanami Road, for example, has been closed. The Granites Gold Mine has lost road access, as of last week, for 57 days. So for almost two months the Tanami gold mine has had no road access. And this is the case across the north, particularly in the Northern Territory. So I say to the government that whilst we accept the benefits that have accrued to us as a result of this small amount of money, it is simply not enough and we need to do a great deal more.

It is symptomatic, Deputy Speaker: I do not think that most people in this place—I am sure you will agree with me and I know my friend here will agree with me—have no idea about remote Australia. They clearly do not understand the economic imperatives and drivers that make it important to invest in the north in the way that we currently do not. We have seen that writ large in the stupid decision by the ABC to cease shortwave services in the Northern Territory. In doing so, without any consultation whatsoever with the people of the Northern Territory and those most affected by it—including those who rely on it for emergency advice and for their own entertainment—the ABC believes people can get access to the ABC through AM and FM, but that is simply not the truth. I have had discussions with the ABC and made it very clear to them how unacceptable this position is.

The cattleman are some of the strongest voices opposing the decision by the ABC, just as it is the cattleman who are demanding that we invest more in roads, and we should do. I say to the members opposite that those of us who live in remote Australia ought to unite together to make sure this place understands the imperatives, priorities and needs of the people in the bush.