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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31777

Mr NAIRN (12:04 PM) —Across Australia probably one of the most important pieces of infrastructure is our road system. No matter where you live, roads are certainly a major piece of infrastructure. That is particularly so in an electorate like Eden-Monaro, which I represent, because some other forms of transport are not as good as they used to be. For instance, the only train service that we have had into my electorate comes into Queanbeyan and then goes on to Canberra. We do not have a rail service anywhere else in the electorate; the rail service down the coast stops before it gets to Eden-Monaro. Even the train service that comes into Queanbeyan has been cut right back and is nothing like it used to be even nine months ago. The importance of roads is certainly understood by this government, and that is why recently we had the announcement of the AusLink project, which looked at our transport infrastructure across the nation. One part of that transport infrastructure is roads.

We have had lots of debate about who is responsible for what. One of the most irritating aspects of being a federal member is the constant debate about who should build what. When I was elected in 1996, I thought that everything was pretty straightforward because of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the states early in the 1990s with respect to road funding, which effectively from my point of view said, `The federal government looks after certain roads which will be part of a national system, the state government will look after certain roads which are state highways and then local government will look after their local roads.' The Federal Highway coming into Canberra was the only federal road in my area. The other highways are state highways, and the states are adequately funded through a variety of ways. But that seems to change, particularly when elections come around and people try to get certain things done and start making all sorts of claims.

You cannot get away from the fact that in the coastal part of my electorate the Princes Highway, which is a state highway and has been accepted as a state highway by successive state governments of differing political persuasions, has been neglected, particularly in the far part. The state government has been bragging for some time that it is putting $300-odd million into the Princes Highway over 10 years, but when you look at it closely you see that some of that money is federal money and that most of it is being spent around the Wollongong area. In fact over the next 10 years south of Kiama the state government will spend only about $5 million a year on the Princes Highway. That has been a frustrating debate.

Interestingly, in regard to AusLink we announced that $20 million out of the Black Spots Roads Program, which is a great program that we have been able to access across Australia, will be applied specifically to the Princes Highway. That means that we will be putting twice as much into the Princes Highway south of Kiama as the New South Wales government is, and it is responsible for the damn thing. Pambula Bridge will get $5 million of that amount. This has been debated for some time. In February this year, because the New South Wales government will not live up to its responsibility, I suggested that the additional $5 million could come out of the regionally strategic aspect of the extended Roads to Recovery program. Taking the money out of the Black Spots Roads Program, as it was announced and as it is budgeted for, is obviously a better solution.

In the meantime the Labor Party ran around saying, `Yes, we will fund it,' but nobody has been able to indicate out of what fund that money will come and how it will be paid for. The additional $5 million to ensure that Pambula Bridge is replaced is in the Black Spots Roads Program part of the budget—it is there and it is ready. The New South Wales government should spend its money and get on with it as fast as possible. It has been putting it off for a couple of years because it did not have the money. It clearly did not have the money, because we have seen it increasing taxes all over the place. But now that it knows that our money is there it will be interesting to see its money and get this thing fixed once and for all. (Time expired)