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Tuesday, 3 June 2003
Page: 15770

Mr PEARCE (4:16 PM) —In life, every now and again you get a lucky break. In business, normally that lucky break comes when your competitors make a mistake or have a poor marketing campaign. But in politics it comes when your opponents make a very big mistake. I have to say that when I saw today's matter of public importance I had to re-read it.

Miss Jackie Kelly —I thought we had put it up.

Mr PEARCE —Yes. I had to re-read it because I could not believe the great lucky break that the Labor Party was giving us today over commitments to do with Roads of National Importance projects. I thank the Labor Party for giving us an opportunity to raise the issue of Roads of National Importance and the importance behind acting on and implementing promises that are made in what is a very critical area of infrastructure—roads in our local communities.

When somebody presents an issue like a matter of public importance, it would seem to me that there is an obligation to develop an argument. From a logical point of view, in establishing your argument you would want to establish some basis of credibility, I guess. You would want to establish that credible position and then you would want to go off and develop your argument and lay your claims on the table.

Let us firstly deal with whether or not the Australian Labor Party has developed a position of credibility on this issue—a position that actually gives them the right to speak about these matters. Firstly, let us have a look at what the member for McMillan has said in his correspondence to his constituents. In the first paragraph he says: `They'—they being the Liberal Party—`promised that they would fund half of the cost.' As you have heard from the member for La Trobe, nowhere will you find a commitment from the Liberal Party to fund half the cost. So first and foremost, talking about a position of credibility, there is no factual basis to start with.

What worries me and what worries a lot of people in Melbourne and Victoria and indeed all throughout Australia is this common thread that seems to run through the Australian Labor Party. It is at the state level—definitely in Victoria—and unfortunately, from today's demonstration, it is also at the national level of the Australian Labor Party. That thread is this thread of deceit and indecency.

You have the situation in Victoria where the Bracks government have completely and unilaterally—overnight—walked away from an agreement with the Commonwealth. They completely tore it up. The Premier said, `I have informed the Prime Minister that there is no agreement.' Just like that. They completely walked away from it.

They talk about roads of national importance. Labor were the federal government for 13 years. Correct me if I am wrong—somebody; one of my colleagues—but I am quite sure that in 13 years of government the Australian Labor Party did not have a policy to support roads of national importance. They did not in any way support roads of national importance. It was the Howard government upon coming to office that developed the RONI program, and it has been the Howard government that has for the last seven years all throughout Australia consistently and continually supported state and territory governments by providing much needed funds to help them develop roads of national importance within their states.

Even before launching into the argument, there is the issue of establishing a credible position. We now see that the Australian Labor Party are exactly like the Victorian Labor Party. There is no difference. You can see that the incredible position that they are taking has no factual basis at all. You hear the Australian Labor Party talking about how they have supported this and how they have supported that. A lot of people do not realise that in the recent Victorian state budget, which was just brought down, the Bracks Labor government in fact reduced funding for roads. It went from $800 million to $700 million. They reduced their support. So here we have all this hullabaloo about the Liberals saying this and the Liberals saying that and so forth and about Labor committing to this and Labor committing to that, and yet—if you get my point—they are trying to present a fallacious argument here which has no basis of credibility whatsoever.

The Labor Party are not committed to increasing funding for roads. Their funding went from $800 million down to $700 million. But what is even more concerning is that fees and charges for motorists have been increased in Victoria at the same time. In the recent budget brought down in Victoria, registration fees were increased by $70 million to $574 million. Also impacting on motorists in Victoria is an increase in speeding fines of $101 million budgeted for by the Bracks Labor government. If they achieve that, it will take their revenue-raising exercise to $435 million a year.

So a question has to be asked about this. If any party is going to come into the national parliament and present an issue as a matter of public importance, the first obligation it has is to establish a credible position. Before it starts being hypocritical, it should at least try to demonstrate that it has a credible basis to start its whole argument on. But the Australian Labor Party do not. How hypocritical it is for a group of people who are in the same cohort as the Victorian government—that cohort being the Labor Party—to come into this place and accuse the Commonwealth government of broken promises. Today we still have no idea whether the federal Labor parliamentary party are for or against tolls on the Scoresby Freeway. Do you know why? Because they will not say. They remain silent. The Leader of the Opposition has been asked time and time again but there has been no response whatsoever. They remain silent.

We have heard a lot in this chamber about the Bracks Labor government's broken promise on the Scoresby Freeway, and we spoke about it at length yesterday. You heard the arguments and you heard about the impact that the Bracks Labor government is having on the people of Victoria, particularly those people who live in the outer-eastern and south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The decisions and the broken promises of Steve Bracks, John Brumby and Peter Batchelor—the three Bs—are having significant effects on the people who live and work in the eastern suburbs.

There has been an incredible backflip over the imposition of tolls on the Scoresby Freeway. It is something that the local community is still getting over. As a matter of fact, on the front page of the Knox Leader newspaper today the headline is `It's a “no way” to tollway'. I would like to quote a couple of lines from the start of the article. The article says:

Most outer-east residents don't want tolls on the Mitcham-Frankston Freeway, according to an independent survey.

The Leader-commissioned survey, conducted by market research company Oz Info Pty Ltd, questioned 300 people from 17 outer-eastern suburbs last week.

A massive 86 per cent of respondents highly favoured the project without tolls ...

So you have a clear view in the community that the community does not want tolls on the Scoresby Freeway. Again, this is all being imposed on us by the Labor Party—by the Victorian Labor Party and the federal Labor Party. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—Order! The discussion is now concluded.