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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31768

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (11:28 AM) —I rise to inform the parliament that last Saturday week the shadow minister for transport and regional affairs, Martin Ferguson, came to the electorate of Burke and announced that, if elected, a Labor government would fully fund the Deer Park bypass. The Deer Park bypass, for those who do not know, is a very important transport link between Melbourne and Ballarat, and it will certainly improve the efficiency of travel for freight and for personal use. In effect, it will alleviate the enormous congestion that is currently experienced by residents in Caroline Springs, Burnside, Deer Park, Ardeer and parts of Sunshine. It will also alleviate congestion in parts of my electorate that have been suffering from the heavy congestion that has grown over recent years as a result of the fast growth of the area. That region is the fastest growing area of Melbourne—indeed of Victoria.

The Deer Park bypass, on anyone's measure, is an urgent necessity, and I am very happy to say that Labor has committed to fully fund it and to commence it in the 2005-06 financial year, if elected—and, of course, that is the big proviso. Unfortunately, the current government has not given a commitment to fund the Deer Park bypass and has chosen to look after Geelong only, at the expense of Ballarat, Bacchus Marsh, Melton and those areas I have already referred to. That is a very big disappointment.

So, whilst I can allay the concerns of my constituents by informing them that construction will commence next financial year if Labor is elected, unfortunately, if Labor is not elected, the only commitment that this current government has given with respect to that crucial transport link is that there will be up to $80 million provided—it would appear from the budget documents and from recent statements by the Minister for Transport and Regional Services—no earlier than 2008-09, with no definite decision as to the remainder; that is, the further $250 million required for the construction. In my view, there is no point giving only $80 million without giving any definite time for the balance. Given that much of the $80 million would be spent on the Leakes Road intersection, I think it would leave no more than just over $40 million for what is a $294 million construction. So, effectively, we are nearly a quarter of a billion dollars short in terms of commitments from this government with respect to what I think is the most important transport link in Victoria—certainly for my electorate. I welcome the announcement by the shadow minister, Martin Ferguson, and the commitment by Labor's leader, the executive and Labor generally.

I pay tribute to those constituents who turned out at two public meetings I recently held. One was on 9 June at Sassella Hall in Deer Park, where over 100 people attended on a wet, wintry night. That was a testament to the concern they have that this road has not been built and their concern that, of the major political parties, only Labor has committed to the construction. At a subsequent meeting held last Thursday at the Multimedia Centre in Caroline Springs, about 100 people attended on a wet, cold night to voice their concerns, to make sure their voice was heard loudly by this government, and to say that there is a need to commit to fully fund the Deer Park bypass—as Labor has given a commitment to do—because it is so important.

For those people in Caroline Springs, it is a burden every day just trying to get in and out of their area onto the Western Highway—dropping their kids off at school, going to work or going to visit friends or family. It is becoming an increasing burden because of the growth in the area. The fact is that only Labor is committed to this very important transport link. The Howard government has been left wanting. That is another reason that we have to see a change of government at the next election. (Time expired)