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Wednesday, 9 October 1991
Page: 1510

Mr NEHL(11.00 a.m.) —-I want to start off my contribution to this consideration of Appropriation Bill (No.1) by talking about roads, because I believe that fundamentally the road system of Australia is the basis of all of our trade, all of our economy. In the current Budget road funding has fallen overall by 2 per cent in real terms. Funding for major roads has gone down by 4.4 per cent in real terms, and funding for arterial roads has fallen nearly 18 per cent in real terms. If we look at the record of this Labor Government since 1983-84, road funding has gone down totally by 20 per cent in real terms. Yet, at the same time, the revenue from fuel taxes is up 120 per cent. Revenue up 120 per cent; expenditure down 20 per cent in real terms. That is the sorry record of this Government on roads. Roads expenditure as a percentage of excise has gone from 63.2 per cent at the time this Government came in down to 23.3 per cent. That is all that has been spent out of fuel excise on actual roads. That is providing, of course, that local government is actually spending the Federal money with which it is provided.

All roads are important. There is no doubt about that. It is very easy for individuals to say, `This road is more important than the other one', and I suppose in some circumstances that is true. But for those living in the McLeay Valley or Nambucca or other areas of Australia, the road which gives access to their nearest town, which gives their kids access to schools, is very important indeed. These roads are very important to tourism and also incredibly important to the marketing of agricultural produce.

I did say that there can be special cases made for some roads and, Mr Deputy Chairman, you will be aware that since coming to this place following the election on 1 December 1984 I have shown a special interest in the future of the Pacific Highway. I have in fact led the fight to have it acknowledged that it should be a four-lane dual carriageway divided highway all the way from Hexham to the Queensland border. It is a special case. That is acknowledged by all political parties in this country. It is acknowledged by the current Federal Government and by the New South Wales State Government. It is acknowledged all over Australia.

I have presented petitions to this Parliament bearing over 50,000 signatures imploring the Government to maintain special priority funding for the Pacific Highway. Those signatures did not come just from people living on the north coast of New South Wales. They came from people living all over Australia, from people who were using that road who could see and understand its significance and who certainly agreed that it should be given special funding. Of course, I am very pleased indeed that that priority has been acknowledged so far, and in the current three years--and we are in the beginning of the second year of the three-year period--funding from the New South Wales Government and the Federal Government in total has been doubled. That is a good start. It has been doubled to $300m to be spent over the current three-year period, with $140m coming from the Federal Government and $160m from the State Government.

I do believe, of course, that there is an overwhelming case, an unarguable case, for Federal funding to be increased. Yet, I have to be fair and acknowledge that the economy is in such tatters because of Labor's economic policies that it is probably unrealistic to seek a massive increase at the present time.

Nonetheless, I believe it is absolutely essential that the current increased rate of funding be maintained beyond the present three-year period. Priority funding must continue. I am confident about the funding coming from the New South Wales Greiner-Murray Government, but I would like to be equally confident that the present Federal Government and the Minister for Land Transport (Mr Robert Brown) will at least continue the same high level of priority funding for the Pacific Highway.

I believe the Minister should make a statement and set the record clear on just what the Government's intentions are. We are all aware that, following the Premiers Conference, a working party has been established and is looking at perhaps changing the system to have only national highways, State roads and local roads. The Pacific Highway is a national arterial road. The Minister should set the record straight and make a statement about what his intentions are for the Pacific Highway--whether it will become a national highway and still continue to receive special Federal funding or whether it will become a State road only, and whether there will be continued priority funding, as an exception to the rule, because it is vital to the whole future of Australia that that road should be made a divided highway all the way from Hexham to the Queensland border.

I would also like to touch on the third runway for Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. In the Sydney Morning Herald of today there is an article headed `ALP revolt on third runway plan'. I can understand some of those ALP members who have their seats around Botany Bay being concerned for their future. They should not stop the third runway because they are concerned about losing their seats, because they will lose their seats anyway, come the next election, when the people of Australia will revolt against Labor's mismanagement of the economy and against the almost one million unemployed. That is what we have got at the moment. It is getting very close to one million and it will go higher. I have no patience with the ALP revolt on the third runway plan--no patience at all. After all, the EIS found no major problems with the runway. The runway should go ahead, and it must go ahead.

But Labor is vacillating once again. It cannot make difficult decisions. All it is doing is governing for itself. It has been said many times that if a party cannot govern itself it cannot govern Australia. The Government has proved that it cannot govern Australia and that it cannot govern itself. What it has also proved is that its motivation is to govern for itself, to govern for the factions, to govern to keep itself in power. It is not governing for Australia or for the people of Australia.

The attitude to the third runway in Sydney is just like that of the Budget: no vision and no hope. The third runway must be built, and built as quickly as possible. There are many reasons why the lost eight years should be overcome. We should get some action immediately. We should get the fast tracking that Premier Greiner is speaking of. That third runway is absolutely vital to country New South Wales.

Air transport is not a luxury. These days, air transport is a basic form of transport. I believe it is absolutely wrong that we should have an unfair, discriminatory tax against the smaller airlines. We have seen what it has done to Hazelton. Fourteen airports have been closed--14 services taken away from country New South Wales. It is a disgrace. East-West pulled out of Tamworth, where it was born--again the result of Government policy.

What we have to realise is that, as well as being of great importance to rural New South Wales, the construction of a third runway at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport is absolutely vital to Australia. It is vital to our tourist industry and to our export income because tourism provides an enormous amount of export income.

At the present time tourism in Australia employs 448,000 people and we have got gross expenditure of $22 billion. Tourism is Australia's largest export earner. In 1989-90, $6.5 billion was earned in foreign exchange. That is a significant amount. The new runway will create 40,000 new jobs. But all this Government can do is look at the palliatives, the bandaids. It is not doing anything at this stage to create employment. That is what Australia needs. That is what the unemployed people of Australia want: they want jobs.

The new runway not only could create 40,000 new jobs in the very short term but also over the next 10 years would contribute to the creation of one million new jobs. Some of the members of the ALP are revolting over the third runway.

Mr Dobie —-They are revolting all the time.

Mr NEHL —-They are revolting pretty much all the time, I agree. Fewer people will be affected by noise with the new runway. (Time expired)