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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6385

Mr RANDALL (7:40 PM) —I am delighted to rise tonight and advise the House of the near completion of the long awaited Perth to Bunbury highway, now known as the Kwinana Freeway Extension and the Forrest Highway. It was once referred to as the Mandurah Bypass. With the final kilometres of bitumen being laid, I am hopeful that Peel motorists in my region will very shortly be making the most of this highway.

I have spoken many times about the highway in this chamber, always with the main aim of seeing the 70.5 kilometres—a key piece of infrastructure—delivered on time and on budget. The completion of this highway for Canning residents and the wider Western Australian community has been my priority. Fundamentally, it will dramatically improve road safety. The current route—the Old Coast Road—is the most notorious stretch of road in the state, with too many white crosses on the side of the road. Between 1996 and 2006 there were 1,560 serious crashes, with 42 fatalities. Next year, an estimated 43,000 vehicles per day will use the increasingly busy and backlogged Mandurah Road and 9,500 vehicles will be on the Old Coast Road south of Lake Clifton. Mr Speaker, you can see why this highway is vital.

I am proud to say that the coalition government was the driving force behind the highway. I took the leadership role—I had to. The former state Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Alanna MacTiernan, did everything possible to stall the Perth to Bunbury highway. Blinded by the massive cost blow-out of the much maligned Perth to Mandurah railway, the minister ignored the highway for as long as she could, until she was eventually dragged, kicking and screaming, to deal with it. In 2001 the state government submitted an application for federal government funding. It was rejected not because the federal government did not want to build the highway but because the application made it perfectly clear that the state Labor government was not at all serious. It was literally a submission made on the back of an envelope. Two years later, Minister MacTiernan made another half-hearted commitment to build the highway five years down the track and then she stalled on it by insisting on investing in ‘planning studies’. If she had had her way, Peel motorists would have gone without the highway altogether. But, in December 2003, with the then federal transport minister, John Anderson, and roads minister, Ian Campbell, I met with key stakeholders, and this brought about a firm commitment.

On 4 June 2004 the coalition announced a funding commitment of $150 million. On 7 June, the AusLink projects to be funded were finalised and three days later Prime Minister John Howard came to visit the future highway site. This was important. Within a month of finally receiving the planning information, the federal government had committed $150 million. This was the full amount that the state government had asked for. This just shows how highly we rated the road project and how the tactics of the state minister had put the safety of Peel motorists at risk, year after year. The federal government was very keen to get the project going and desperate to make sure that the state Labor government did not try to renege on its agreement. An additional $20 million was made available as long as the project started in 2006. We wanted a start date.

The minister dragged her heels for another year before signing the funding agreement. Costs began to blow out and the state government had the nerve to ask for more federal money. The minister suggested that the money should be used to build the road in two stages. Under this proposal, Western Australians, if they were lucky, might have got the first stage of the road, albeit with the Labor government’s track record on delivering major infrastructure it would have been late and, without a doubt, over budget; but they never would have seen the second stage. It would have been put on the backburner and filed away by the department’s bureaucracy in its too-hard basket. Minister MacTiernan had to be reminded of the funding being contingent on a continuous build—not a two-stage build. If we had not done that, we might have been looking, as I said, at only half a highway today. Strict time frames were attached to the funding. The highway had to be underway in 2006 and open to motorists by the end of 2009. Guess what date the minister decided to turn a sod—20 December 2006. Talk about a death knock!

Despite its shaky inception, the construction phase of the highway has been full steam ahead—largely as a result of the outstanding Southern Gateway Alliance’s management and innovative techniques, not the former government’s management. The completion of the highway six months early will be a triumph. It is one of the largest single road infrastructure projects in Western Australia’s history. Its completion will mean that there is a freeway all the way from Perth to Mandurah and a first-class dual carriageway from Mandurah to Bunbury. It will cut 30 minutes off the trip to Bunbury and will no doubt ease the frustration of the some 50,000 Easter travellers to Western Australia’s south-west well into the future. (Time expired)