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Thursday, 14 March 2013
Page: 2216

Mr IRONS (Swan) (16:40): I rise to update the House on the Great Eastern Highway in my electorate of Swan. I see that the member for Canning, a previous member for Swan, is at the table. He would know that this was a major issue in the electorate when he was the member for Swan. My last update to the House in a speech totally devoted to this matter was on 4 July 2011, but I have spoken about it in other speeches since.

Today I am pleased to be able to inform the House that the Great Eastern Highway in my electorate of Swan is now fully open, some nine months ahead of schedule. This must be some sort of record for a public works program and I congratulate the WA government and its partner City East Alliance for its speedy work. The widening of the Great Eastern Highway has been called the most expensive road upgrade in Perth's history. While it was essentially a road-widening exercise, there are many new features including new U-turns, cycling lanes, footpaths and an improved traffic flow.

The road has been widened to six lanes from Kooyong Road to Tonkin Highway and it has been an extremely complex process. The resumption of land, the demolition of buildings and the number of undersoil utilities that had to be considered, combined with the need to keep the road open presented a real challenge for the engineers. 3-D modelling was used to help with understanding this and we actually used one of those images on one of my Great Eastern Highway update pieces for the nearby residents. During the process they managed to uncover the track for the old convict road. The West Australian reported on 13 November 2012:

A 20m stretch of road made from big jarrah discs was found under bitumen near Belmont Avenue.

Thought to have been built by convicts in 1867, the road gives an insight into WA's convict history and early infrastructure.

Governor John Hampton ordered construction of the road. Convicts had to lay the wood discs, known as Hampton's cheeses, and fill the spaces with limestone or soil.

State Heritage Office executive director Graeme Gammie said this type of road was Mr Hampton's solution to the problem settlers faced in getting carts to Guildford.

Finishing touches will continue to be applied to the Great Eastern Highway, but the six lanes are now open.

It is worth reflecting on why such a big project was needed. It was not just congestion on the old road which made action necessary. There were also the crash statistics, which were twice the state average. There has been near unanimous praise for the road since it has reopened, with drivers extremely impressed with the traffic flow.

I would like to thank the workers from City East Alliance who were contracted by the WA government to undertake the work. The fact that they have been able to complete the work nine months early is obviously a credit to them. Many of the workers live in my electorate and they have worked hard on this project and delivered what they set out to well ahead of schedule. I would also like to thank my constituents for putting up with the disruption over the past year and a half while these complicated works have been taking place. The road has been open for the entire period in one form or another and there has obviously been lots of stop-start congestion while the works have been underway.

This was the first issue I started working on as the Liberal candidate for the seat of Swan in 2006-07 when we ran a local community campaign to secure funds for the upgrade. As I have mentioned before, we took our local community campaign to the then Prime Minister, John Howard, who saw merit in the proposed upgrade, being, as he was, a great supporter of road improvements around Australia. Other people in this place have seen the facts differently, but it was a great moment when he visited Perth in person on 27 September 2007 to announce the upgrade and it was well received by the WA people and a great reward for their support of the community campaign.

After seeing how popular this commitment was, two days later the member for Griffith, the then Leader of the Opposition, announced that the Labor Party would match the commitment, securing important bipartisan support. Many challenges followed after the election of the Rudd government. The internal chaos that followed, with initial delays, meant the cost blew out further and we had to secure more funding. Before the 2010 election this was still a live issue in the electorate as the Labor government had not committed to the additional funding required. The people of Swan were incredulous that the Labor government still had not managed to get its act together and start the work or secure funding. So we committed again that the Liberals, if elected, would complete Great Eastern Highway without the mining tax. The government found the money and, thankfully, the project is now finished.

Focus will now turn to the Gateway WA project for the further upgrade of the roads around Perth Airport, a project that I was proud to announce a Liberal commitment to prior to the federal election. Labor also made a promise, but unfortunately they have repeatedly linked their commitment to the proceeds of the mining tax. We will wait to see whether we can get funding for that or whether the money will be borrowed from overseas.