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Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Page: 7012

Mr BALDWIN (Paterson) (16:22): There is no doubt that the Pacific Highway is an important piece of infrastructure. This will in fact be my 22nd contribution to this House on the Pacific Highway. I am very fortunate that in my electorate now the roadwork from Raymond Terrace all the way through to Failford is now duplicated—all but the Bulahdelah bypass, which was commenced under the Howard government. Works there have been delayed because of the inordinate amount of wet weather that we have had. I have continued to push for the upgrading of the Pacific Highway.

The one thing that concerns me is the rant and rave by the minister—today and on previous occasions—who only now has found it in his breath to actually cast aspersions upon the former state Labor government. The former state Labor government entered into some correspondence, which the minister tabled, and in that correspondence there are some very interesting revelations. In particular is the agreement for an 80-20 funding split. The first is a letter from Minister Albanese to the former Minister for Roads and now NSW shadow treasurer, Michael Darby. I will quote from that letter. It says:

I am writing in relation to the Nation Building Program Memorandum of Understanding. I am pleased New South Wales has taken the decision to sign up to that agreement.

The minister was so pleased to sign with the New South Wales government that the federal government was delivering $2.451 billion and the New South Wales government was delivering $500 million. When you calculate that, it is actually 83 per cent federal funding and 17 per cent state funding for the Pacific Highway under that agreement—not fifty-fifty; it was 83-17.

The next letter that the minister tabled was from the former minister Campbell to Minister Albanese. There are a couple of points in that letter which show that the state Labor government wanted to lock in that 80-20, and I will quote from that letter: 'I will undertake to seek confirmation of the 20 per cent New South Wales government commitment to the additional funding required.' In another letter, in which there was an agreement to continue support, the minister said: 'I look forward to working with you on the delivery of the nation-building program over the coming years.' That letter to Michael Daley was dated 18 June. Sorry, that was the date it was tabled.

Dr Emerson: Do your homework.

Mr BALDWIN: Well, your minister obviously does not date letters.

Dr Emerson: Well, you should have had a look at it before you brought it into the chamber.

Mr BALDWIN: It was your minister who tabled it, my friend.

Dr Emerson: You brought it into the chamber.

Mr BALDWIN: As I go through the list of works and all of the funding, it ranges from 83-17, 83-17, 86-14, 86-14 and 80-20. What we are seeing here are weasel words from a minister who, when his own political persuasion was in power in the state government, was quite happy to sit back and accept the funding arrangement. The only thing that has changed is that there has been a change of political persuasion to the coalition in New South Wales. And all of a sudden this minister decides it is a game-changer. All of a sudden he can change the funding arrangement to fifty-fifty from what was, under the nation-building program of 2009-14, a funding arrangement that averaged 80-20.

As I said, I am very fortunate to be the member of an electorate where very shortly the work will be duplicated all the way through my electorate. Last week I took my vehicle on a drive up to Brisbane and I travelled up and down the Pacific Highway. I drove up and I drove back. There are parts of that roadwork that still are very notorious and bad. I am happy that work has commenced. I am happy that work has been committed and is under construction. The people who travel those roads and are affected by those roads care very little about what the funding arrangement is. But I put this to the chamber: if this minister had an ounce of honour in his body in relation to this, he would accept the fact that historically he has been funding these roadworks 80-20 and would continue. This change of pace has only occurred because there has been a change in the New South Wales government.

In this year's budget papers under his 'Nation Building—additional funding for the Pacific Highway', that additional funding is in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16, with the bulk of it pushed out well and truly into the forward estimates. There is no additional immediate money in 2012-13. Such is the commitment of this minister of this Labor government that in fact it is not until 2013-14 that there is an additional $231 million and in 2014-15 there is $1.025 billion and in 2015-16 there is $1.4 billion. The rhetoric from the minister makes it appear that the money is sitting on the table right now to start the works today. Well, that is not the truth; that is just not the truth—and the budget papers themselves show that to be a fact.

As I said, people want to know when this work will be finished. They do not want the political argy-bargy that is going on; they want outcomes. They want outcomes that will see changes on the Pacific Highway. The minister talks about how choked up he got about the fatal accidents—and I agree with him that they were terrible. I remember the Kempsey bus smash many, many years ago and the fatalities that occurred there. But for this minister to have sat quiet for three years in this House about funding only to raise now his concerns in relation to the levels of funding being contributed by the new coalition government in New South Wales is hypocrisy in itself. The reality is that this minister is not in control of his own budget, does not understand what is required for the outcomes and has done nothing more than play politics with this. Not only is he a member of the same political party as the former state government, but he is also from the same state, New South Wales. That is what makes his assertions even more hypocritical.

What we want to see are real outcomes. What we want to see is the work completed. Members up and down the coast—it does not matter what their political persuasion is—get very heated and animated when it comes to the roadworks on the Pacific Highway. As I understand it, more and more the Pacific Highway is becoming the road of choice over the New England Highway as the preferred access route to Queensland, and it does need to be upgraded. But the reality is that this minister, rather than playing political games, needs to sit down in serious discussions and apply the same level of integrity as he did to the former state Labor government, for whom he allowed the 80-20 funding split. We all want to see the road finished. We want to see the work completed, and that is key and critical.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr KJ Thomson ): Order! I understand that the discussion has concluded.