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Tuesday, 3 June 2003
Page: 15746

Mr CHARLES (2:33 PM) —My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Would the Deputy Prime Minister please advise the House of this government's commitment to the Pakenham bypass and other roads of national importance?

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I thank the member for La Trobe for his question and his vital interest in this matter. During the last election campaign, the coalition government increased its commitment to the Pakenham bypass from the previously announced $30 million to $100 million. It ought to be understood at the outset that this is for a road that is a state responsibility. It is not one of ours; it is a state responsibility. But we recognise the very real transport needs of Melbourne.

Mr ANDERSON —Unlike the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Batman, we have been prepared to make a very substantial contribution in the interests of the travelling public in that state.

Let me spell this out for a moment. The federal government did not have to contribute to this road. Under Labor—and this ought to be remembered—not one red cent would have been available. They did not have a RONI program. They did not have the capacity to fund these sorts of urgently needed infrastructure projects for the benefit of Melburnians. Not only did we introduce this valuable program; we have committed no less than three-quarters of a billion dollars in the state of Victoria—spent and, in the process of being spent, if only we can get some integrity out of the Victorian government.

At the time that I announced that we were increasing our contribution to this road of such interest to the member for La Trobe, I made a statement responding to the claim by the Victorian government that it was an election stunt. It was such an election stunt that the $100 million is there in the forward estimates. We are ready to start spending this year—it is a lot of money—but they said, `No, it's an election stunt.' At the time I made the comment:

The Federal Coalition's promise of funds for both of these projects is rock solid. We don't make paper promises, unlike the ALP in Victoria which signs meaningless cardboard cheques to show its supposed support for big road projects, then fails to follow through.

In building on that, I am sure people are aware that the federal government is dependent upon state government costings for these projects. This has created a bit of a problem for us because the Victorian government seems extraordinarily unable to get its figures right. At the time of our commitment of $100 million to Pakenham, that was equivalent to half the cost as advised to us by Victoria. What has happened since then? It has blown out. We made a commitment to half of the estimated cost at that time, signed and agreed to at a cost of $200 million. Now we are being accused of breaking our word, because Victoria's cost estimates are blown out by $42 million in this case.

The member for McMillan claims that we have broken our promise on this. We have not. What the member for McMillan ought to be explaining to his constituents is very simple. It is this: the Liberal-National Party government has been extraordinarily generous in providing half of the estimated cost—a very large cost—and a cost to us of $100 million in a way that the federal ALP would never have made available because they did not have such a program.

Opposition members—Rubbish!

Mr ANDERSON —`Rubbish'? Where was the ALP's program? Where was their RONI program? Where was the program under which they would have provided three-quarters of a billion dollars for Victorian roads?

Mr Costello —It was going to come in the 14th year!

Mr ANDERSON —It was going to come in the 14th year? Sorry, I should have known! It might be useful to take members opposite down memory lane and over to the wild west side of Melbourne for a moment. If you can get through all of the notorious Victorian speed cameras—the ones designed, regardless of how many people stop speeding, to catch no less than two out of three Victorian motorists in the coming year while they are supposed to believe it is about safety and not about revenue raising. What sort of budget do they operate down there? If you can get through all those speed cameras and emerge out on the other side of Melbourne, you will come to a gleaming new piece of work called the Geelong Road. We half-funded that one as well. We signed a commitment to put up $120 million of the $240 million cost. You know what? It blew out, too. There is no doubt about the Victorians. It blew out to around $270 million. Our commitment remained the same and the Victorian government funded, as they rightly should have, the blow-out.

My memory is jogged, I am afraid, in relation to another road down there called Scoresby. It would not have been jogged except that the Leader of the Opposition, in what I would have to describe as an extraordinary lapse of judgment, has allowed one of his backbenchers to draw attention not only to our extraordinary generosity in providing all of this money—not only to the three-quarters of a billion dollars we are providing for state roads—but also to their own duplicity in relation to Scoresby. The member for McMillan has put on notice a matter of public importance which reads:

The breaking of election commitments by the Commonwealth Government relating to ... Roads of National Importance Projects.

The breaking of election commitments? What about Scoresby? This is a major project which, interestingly enough, is of very great interest to the member for Hotham's electorate. His constituents want to know how it has come about that when we said we would fund this road he and his spokesman immediately went out to say that this had been a longstanding objective of the Leader of the Opposition and that he unequivocally supported the building of the Scoresby freeway.

Mr Costello —The freeway!

Mr ANDERSON —He does—freeway. He wants it built. Why won't he come clean and declare whether or not it should be a freeway or a tollway? Why not? The Leader of the Opposition's constituents want to know. But because the Leader of the Opposition will not point out to his constituents the realities of life, I will. This was a project that also blew out massively in cost.

Mr Kelvin Thomson —I rise on a point of order. Standing order 163 states:

A matter of the Notice Paper must not be anticipated by another matter contained in a less effective form of proceeding.

If the minister wants to debate the MPI, that is what he should do.

The SPEAKER —As the member for Wills may have noted, I in fact called the Clerk up to my chair about three minutes ago, wondering about precisely the same standing order. I need to indicate that the standing order has been—I hope I am right in saying—modified in House of Representatives Practice, so that this is not apparently an unusual course. I can understand the member for Wills taking the point of order, because I had discussed it myself with the Clerk.

Mr Sidebottom —I rise on a point of order. My point of order is on a matter of relevance. The question was clearly on the Pakenham Bypass, not Scoresby.

The SPEAKER —The member for Braddon will resume his seat. I would point out to the member for Braddon that the question did ask about the Pakenham bypass and, if my notes were correct, `and other roads of national significance'.

Mr ANDERSON —I do not think I have ever heard a couple of points of order reveal such sensitivity. They do not like having exposed the simple reality here that, in the incompetence of the Leader of the Opposition in allowing this matter to be put up as a matter of public importance, he has not only draw attention to the extraordinary generosity of this government in dealing with the transport needs of the Victorians that he purports to represent, he has also jogged our collective memories on the extraordinary indecency of the Labor Party in signing an MOU committing to a freeway, which, I might add, in closing, was estimated originally to cost $400 million, and we committed half of that, which has blown out to nearly $900 million. We have committed to half of that. It is all sitting there, frozen in the forward estimates, available the minute we see a bit of a show of integrity from the Victorian Labor government and a return to the conditions of the MOU—a freeway for the people who will benefit from it, including the Leader of the Opposition and his constituents. Thank you, again, for drawing attention to our generosity and our integrity in dealing with this matter.