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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31779

Mr BALDWIN (12:15 PM) —I want to raise an issue which I also raised in the House last night, and that is the New South Wales state budget of $37.4 billion, which has largely ignored road works in my electorate. Mr Deputy Speaker, you could ask why I as a federal member am raising the subject of New South Wales funded roads in this House. I raise it because this year we have given just under $16 billion of federal money to the New South Wales government, and the people in my electorate of Paterson demand that their money—the tax that they pay both to the New South Wales government and to the federal government—be spent back in their area.

For the Dungog road system, Dungog Council received $400,000 for a little bit of road work north of the town of Paterson, although the mayor, Steve Lowe, has raised regularly the fact that there is a requirement for some $15 million worth of investment in roads to bring them up to scratch. The state government took all of the regional roads there and assigned them across to the Dungog Council without adequate funding. So now we have roads which are dangerous and a disincentive to tourists to travel into that region—and it is tourists that bring in the money that helps these towns grow and develop.

I was surprised there was no funding for another road, Bucketts Way, because my opponent, the Labor candidate for Paterson, has talked about the need for road funding on Bucketts Way. We contributed $20 million to Bucketts Way over four years. I would have thought that any Labor candidate worth their salt would have got on the phone to Carl Scully or their mate Bob Carr and said, `Listen, we've got to put some money into this.' Why should the New South Wales government put money into it? Because it is their responsibility. They should have at least matched the $20 million. How much did we see? Did we see $15 million? No. Did we see $10 million? No. Did we see $5 million? No. Did we see a single dollar? No, not a cent. It shows that my Labor opponent is just hot air and rhetoric, with no substance and no ability to bring any dollars to the table.

It does not end there. In the Great Lakes region, you have the Lakes Way, a road which is of significance in accessing the townships of Forster and Tuncurry and going to places like Seal Rocks, Blueys Beach and the like. How much money was in the budget for that road? None—not a single cent. So we see the state Labor government walking away from its responsibilities, not providing any money. But I am glad to see that the state Labor government invested money to make Tuncurry ambulance station open 24 hours a day. Mr Deputy Speaker, you may ask why I would like that. It is because, with the number of accidents that occur on this road, we need ambulances 24 hours a day to pick people up, not to drive them to a hospital in Forster or Tuncurry—no, we do not have a public hospital there; we have a private one—but to take them all the way to Taree.

That begs the second question: given that my opponent has been talking about the need for improved health services in the Forster-Tuncurry area, why was there no money to start the construction of a hospital in the Foster-Tuncurry region? The reality is Labor is full of rhetoric and very little substance. The people in my electorate pay their fair share of taxes. And why do I as a federal member raise these state issues? Because people pay the GST collected by the federal government—$9 billion redirected back through to the state government—and people demand accountability on a local level and that their money is spent back with them.

I go back to the roads again, and I can understand why Labor do not believe in funding roads. In particular, there is a member of this House who opposes the $20 million that we invested in Bucketts Way, and that is none other than the member for Hunter. The member for Hunter said in this House on 27 May:

These RONIs, as they are called—Roads of National Importance—are just a political stunt: a means of redirecting money into projects where the government gets the best bang for its buck.

It is not the government who gets the best bang for its buck; it is the residents and businesses that those roads service. What we need to see is more investment in these roads, but from the level of government directly responsible for it, and that is state government. The state government is very citycentric, and I see the member for Blaxland laughing. He would be laughing, because all the money goes to building tunnels and increasing the roads in Sydney, but very little of it gets spent in regional and rural areas—and that is where the money needs to be spent because that is where the safety program needs to be improved.