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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29455

Mr GIBBONS (12:16 PM) —I rise to demand that the Howard government, in its forthcoming AusLink statement, commit the full $193 million that it owes to pay its 50 per cent share to fully complete the upgrade of the Calder Highway. I demand also a definite completion date for the upgrade. Rapidly rising fuel prices and taxes are making central Victorian motorists even angrier with the federal government's stalling over funding the Calder Highway.

In November 2001, when Treasurer Costello falsely promised Bendigo that it would match state funding for the Calder, Bendigo district motorists paid 84.9c a litre for petrol. They paid 45.82c of this in excise and GST. It cost them around $50.94 to fill a 60-litre tank. They paid $27.49 of this to the Commonwealth in taxes. At that time, they paid around $16.15 in taxes and CityLink tolls for a return trip to Melbourne.

In May 2004, central Victorian motorists are paying 105.9c a litre at many district outlets. Of this, they pay 47.64c to the federal government in taxes. Today they are paying $63.54 to fill up their tanks—$12.60 more than when Treasurer Costello made his phoney promise. Of this they are paying $28.58 in taxes—$1.09 more than in November 2001. They are now paying around $16.98 in taxes and tolls for a return trip on the same treacherously unfinished road to Melbourne. They have got nothing new on the Calder for their taxes since Mr Costello's pre-election con job of November 2001. The Bendigo electorate pays around $90 million a year in fuel taxes plus GST and, since the November 2001 election, has paid over $200 million in such taxes. This is more than the amount needed to finish the Calder. Where has it gone? The Howard government has stopped all new funding for the Calder, sabotaged the 2006 completion date promised by the Liberals in that election, and has added millions to the cost of the remaining work. The only work now being done on the Calder is by the Bracks government.

Bendigo remains the only major regional centre in Victoria where motorists are taxed on an unfinished road and pay a CityLink entry tax plus GST to get into Melbourne. The Calder is a road potholed with Liberal lies and coalition cop-outs. The Liberal Party promised in 1996 to duplicate the highway. Instead it has duplicated the taxes on the Calder. Treasurer Costello assured Bendigo in November 2001 that the Calder had a `much higher priority' with the government than the Scoresby Freeway, but a fortnight ago he openly listed Scoresby as their top priority. This is the forked tongue of Mr Costello that really infuriates Calder motorists. He said on 12 May:

What the Commonwealth does is that it enters into agreements with State Governments for the most important roads in order of priority and ... the order of priority is the Scoresby Freeway and then after we do the Scoresby Freeway we move on to the next one.

In reality, it had an agreement with the state from 1997—four years before it signed up Scoresby in 2001 as a RONI—to fund the Calder. Since then Mr Costello has ratted on the Calder. The Scoresby is a `RONI-come-lately' compared to the Calder. There is every chance he will dud the Calder yet again in the 7 June AusLink statement by withholding the $193 million he owes us to finish it. He will leave it as a goat track from Bendigo to Kyneton.

The Treasurer is a master at pork-barrelling on the Scoresby and a master of pork pies on the Calder. The Treasurer took over six years to deliver his 1996 election promise to provide $2 million for the Bendigo arts facilities, and it is almost three years since he promised to match the state funding for the Calder. Is it any wonder that opinion polls are showing that the Treasurer is extremely unpopular with Australian voters?

I refer to yet another Calder pork pie—namely, a recent claim in Bendigo by Senator Ian Campbell that Treasurer Costello had commissioned him as the new roads minister to get `that bloody Calder' fixed. Senator Campbell was Mr Costello's parliamentary secretary for four years. He was the minute taker to the coalition ministers who deserted the Calder at Kyneton. On the day Senator Campbell was appointed Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads—7 October last year—Minister Anderson, the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, openly admitted Calder funding was completed. Then, just before Senator Campbell visited Bendigo, Mr Anderson mangled the coalition's Calder RONI pledge to duplicate all the road from Melbourne to Bendigo so that it only covered fixing up the worst sections. Why then won't he fix the Kyneton to Ravenswood section? Senator Campbell has not fixed Mr Costello's `bloody Calder'. The main problem with the `bloody Calder' is Mr Costello himself. He is only interested in stalling the Calder and playing smart alec games with the Scoresby.