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Tuesday, 3 June 2003
Page: 15764

Mr CHARLES (3:52 PM) —I have got to say that the member for McMillan has done himself no honour whatsoever today in proposing the outrageous, unacceptable motion of public importance that the Commonwealth has broken commitments to the Pakenham bypass. The member for McMillan has a very warped sense of memory. On 22 May he wrote to lots of constituents along the Princes Highway east route and he said:

Before the election in 2001, John Howard and the Liberal Party promised us they would fund half the cost of the Pakenham bypass.

We never did. What we promised and what Peter Costello promised and what John Anderson promised and what Bob Charles promised was $100 million. Mind you, that is $100 million to replace the $30 million that we had promised three years prior to that, which never got picked up by the state Labor government. The member for McMillan said, `The total cost of the Pakenham bypass is $242 million. The state Labor government has put in its half of $121 million. The Howard government has said that it is only going to put in $100 million. I wonder why.'

This mob in Victoria, this Bracks so-called government that came to power on the back of three Independents and a smiling bloke that nobody knew what he was on about, could not build a road if their lives depended on it. The evidence continues to mount: delay after delay after delay, cost overrun after cost overrun. For some reason the member for McMillan seems to think that he is going to get himself a bit of a name by spruiking for the bypass all of a sudden—very much a Johnny-come-lately is our member for McMillan. He has been missing in action all these years and all of a sudden he comes to the fore and we are going to have this wonderful road—if his state Labor government does anything about its dishonest presentation.

I will tell you what the Treasurer had to say on 30 October 2001 during the election campaign. As the member for McMillan said, I was there. I was standing there on Princes Highway when the Treasurer made a commitment. He said:

The Federal Coalition will spend $100 million (to be matched by $100 million of State funding) for the construction of the Pakenham Bypass outside Melbourne as a Road of National Importance.

Pakenham Bypass will reduce congestion and delays on the Princes Highway, and remove heavy traffic from the streets of Pakenham and Officer.

Bob Charles, the Federal Member for La Trobe, has worked hard to secure funding for the bypass. In 1998 the Federal Coalition allocated $30 million to the project. This money has sat on the table for the last three years because the Victorian Labor government had other priorities and did not take the offer.

Bob has continued working on the bypass, and he played an instrumental role to have the additional commitment to $100 million to the project.

... ... ...

The Pakenham Bypass will be a 17 kilometre limited access freeway. There will be four interchanges. The bypass will be designed so it can be widened to three lanes each way in the future.

... ... ...

I call on the Victorian Labor Government to stop procrastinating and commit matching funding in its next budget to ensure that the bypass can be completed as soon as possible.

The Federal commitment of $100 million includes $31 million of new money in 2005-06. There is $30 million already allocated to the Pakenham Bypass—

by this government, not by any ALP opposition and certainly not by the Bracks pretend-to-build-roads government in Victoria—

in the existing roads program and a further $39 million will be allocated ... from within the roads program. The additional spending on the Pakenham Bypass is included in the costings for the Coalition's transport action plan, Keeping Australia Moving.

The member for McMillan is not really very interested in the Pakenham bypass. And he is not all that interested in the people of Pakenham in the western end of his electorate, which adjoins mine to the east. All the member for McMillan is interested in is trying to save his hide in what has become a highly marginal seat. In light of the current debate within the ALP, I wonder whether the member is in fact a Crean man or a Beazley man. Or is he a Lindsay man? Or perhaps he is just a pork man, because I will tell you what, he tells porkies; he tells big porkies.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for La Trobe!

Mr CHARLES —And that is what he did in the letter to my constituents and to his constituents in claiming that the Howard government had made a commitment—

Mr Stephen Smith —On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker: the member made an offensive remark in respect of the member for McMillan. He should be required to withdraw it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —There are a number of different ways that members refer to people who have misled other members of the House. The word I insist on not being used is the word `liar'. I did call the member for La Trobe and say that I did not want that to continue.

Mr Zahra —I did not make any personal remarks about him in my comments.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Fair enough.

Mr CHARLES —Perhaps the member needs to be put in the corner by his leader or stand after school and write on a blackboard, `I must not, I must not, I must not' 200 times. One of the things I do not understand about the member for McMillan is that he is simply trying to play politics instead of trying to get a road built.

I remember in 1991 when Michael Duffy was Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. Remember Duffy? Do you remember Michael Duffy? Together, Duffy and I went to see Bob Brown, who was then Minister for Land Transport. We said, `We've got a problem down in our part of the country and we desperately need a commitment to a bypass around the towns of Hallam and Narre Warren.' Bob Brown said, `Look, I'm sympathetic to you. I'm sure you do, but the Commonwealth doesn't build roads and the Commonwealth has nothing to do with the forward planning of what roads will be built. It is totally up to the state of Victoria.'

That was the Commonwealth's position. It remained the Commonwealth's position until we won government. When we won government, we developed the RONI program. That is the only reason we are here talking about this today. Bracks has never been interested, and certainly Peter Batchelor has never been interested, in building this bypass. They have always said, `We'll think about it when we finish the Hallam,' because the Hallam is being funded totally by the state government—as it should be. It is not a national road. The Commonwealth government has offered $100 million, but the member for McMillan has to try to lead us astray. The Minister for Transport and Regional Services, at the same time that the Treasurer put out his press release, put out a media release on 30 October 2001, which states:

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson, has reacted in disbelief to comments made by the Victorian Transport Minister, Peter Bachelor, that the Howard-Anderson Government will not deliver on its Pakenham Bypass promise made today.

Mr Bachelor's bizarre comment on radio today—in relation to the Scoresby Freeway was that: “They said the same thing on the eve of the Aston byelection and we haven't seen any money yet.”

... ... ...

Mr Bachelor is clearly challenged when working with numbers, and dollars in particular...

The Coalition pledged $220 million in the May Budget towards Scoresby Freeway. We have since committed a further $225 million to ensure the Scoresby Freeway is completed by 2008 without the need for direct tolls.

Well, that one has gone, hasn't it? That one is finished; it has gone into the dustbin of history. The state Labor government do not know how to add and subtract, and they certainly do not know how to build roads. They have no real interest in building roads. In the press release the minister goes on to say:

The Liberal-National Government today committed another $70 million (for a total of $100 million) to complete the 17 kilometre long bypass of the Princes Highway (a State responsibility), provided Victoria matches the amount.

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.

I had a look at the RONI web site today to see what was going on with the Pakenham bypass. It is listed there. It was declared a RONI on 13 June 2000. That is before I heard anything from the member for McMillan. I had never heard a word from him until the last election, and all of a sudden he got worried because people were screaming for the bypass to be built. The web site states:

Pakenham is located on the Princes Highway, about 55 km from Melbourne...

... ... ...

The Federal Government is committed to spending $100 million on construction of a Pakenham bypass, with the remainder of the $242 million cost to be met by the State Government. The Commonwealth contribution is capped.

Member for McMillan, have you got that clear? Is that now firmly fixed in your mind? Do you understand those words? If not, please read Hansard tomorrow and refresh your memory. The web site goes on:

The stretch of road between Beaconsfield and Pakenham has been rated as the worst crash zone in Victoria. The 20 kilometre Pakenham Bypass will comprise a new limited access four-lane freeway...

And on it goes. We all know that the Princes Highway east through Pakenham is a disaster road. We desperately need the bypass. I have worked assiduously over years to get it funded and to make sure that it happens. But we wait and we wait and we wait—for whom? We wait for the state government—the Bracks government and Peter Batchelor.

The member for McMillan came down to Pakenham one day during the last election. We had a public meeting about the Pakenham bypass. He brought along the state minister, Peter Batchelor. The member was carrying on then saying that the Commonwealth had made the commitment of $100 million but that they will never spend it. He did not say that they have offered half. He never said a word about `half'. The Commonwealth have never mentioned `one half'. The Commonwealth have said `$30 million' and Labor said zip.

I remember in the 1998 election campaign—that was interesting—the Labor candidate for La Trobe, at a public meeting at the Berwick campus of Monash University, when asked a question from the floor about Labor's commitment to the Pakenham bypass said, `Labor is committed to the Princes Highway west, not to the Princes Highway east.' I do not see any money being spent by the Labor state government. It is a state road, and it is a Labor state government. They are not doing one single thing to get that road started. It is absolutely disgraceful.

Mr Don Welsh, the Chief Executive Officer of Cardinia Shire Council, wrote to the minister for transport and received a response on 10 January 2001 from the principal adviser to the minister. The letter reads:

Dear Mr Welsh

Thank you for your letter of 24 November 2000 to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, the Hon John Anderson MP, concerning the Pakenham Bypass.

... ... ...

In recognition of the importance of this project to the local community and the wider national economy, the Federal Government committed $30 million towards construction of the Pakenham Bypass under the Roads of National Importance (RONI) Program.

The Minister notes your comments concerning shared funding, however, the Pakenham Bypass is one of a number of RONI projects not funded on a 50/50 basis, and the Federal Government's offer was conditional on the Victorian Government providing the remainder of the required funds.

There you go. It is black and white, member for McMillan. You are wrong. The statements you have made in this House today are disgustingly wrong, and you really should stand and apologise. You absolutely should stand and apologise. Peter Batchelor, the Minister for Transport in Victoria, said in a letter to a colleague of mine in 2000:

The Federal Government has to date undertaken to provide up to $30 million but a further commitment of around $58 million is required to provide for half of the estimated project cost of $175 million.

So, in 2000 it was $175 million, in 2001-02 it was $200 million and now in 2003 it is $242 million. That is an increase of 39 per cent of required funding for the same road in three years—and this mob in Victoria think they know how to add and subtract! (Time expired)