Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 972

Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (11:05): I thank the chamber and the previous speaker for rolling on. There is another function on nearby, the fourth anniversary of the apology, and it is a very important day. The point of this motion is very much to recognise some of the points picked up by the previous speaker regarding the local road network in Australia. It is failing. In frank terms, it is buggered. It does need a completely new funding model to address some of the realities faced by local councils right throughout Australia, particularly for the growing burden of a failing road network.

For one council in my region the figures are compelling. They have a road backlog of over $250 million. Based on current Australian design standards, building a kilometre of local road costs about $1 million. To not go backwards any further they have to somehow put in $27 million a year—that is to remain with a backlog of $250 million. They have a rate base of around $10 million to $15 million. The maths simply does not add up. In New South Wales these are rate pegged councils and their capacity to do it themselves simply does not exist. We are beyond the point of simply blaming dodgy councils or dodgy councillors. We are beyond the point where we can continue to accept the argument that it is our money because of states' rights. In my view the money raised through taxes and rates at all levels of government is the people's money and we are not doing our job and not fulfilling our obligations if people are paying rates and taxes and not getting a return in quality services, such as local roads.

I would agree with another point the previous speaker made. The separation of highways—for example, the Pacific Highway was mentioned—is an important separation that needs to be made. I would also agree, taking it to the next step, that regional roads need to be separated. Both the highway network and the regional road network can receive an awful lot of money through Commonwealth and state revenues. It is that next tier down, the local road network, that has failed. I am not just using that as scare language. I think the various engineers associations that work with the road networks have been making that call for many years now. In a region such as mine, not only has the funding model led to failure of the local road network but we have once again over the last month just been through another flood, which increases the speed of the damage. That is on the back of a flood last year and natural disaster relief funding for those roads has yet to come through. So it is a flood upon a flood, damage upon damage and a bill upon a bill in circumstances where there is already an enormous backlog and a failed funding model.

The GST review is on. John Brumby and Nick Greiner are good men and I would hope they are not just going to serve up a no-change model. I think there is an opportunity over the next couple of months to really consider all options in light of the circumstances that Australia faces. This motion is trying to get the local road network on the agenda, if not via direct funding to local councils then by somehow changing the funding model so that we can start to address what is a failed network. I urge the Treasurer, the GST review committee and government members to put in some thought and reflection on that and not allow this GST review to just say that horizontal fiscal equalisation is the way to go, that there should be no change because of the current parliament and away we go.

There is an urgent need on the ground. I repeat that the network has failed. Unless there is a substantial change in funding models from the Commonwealth then this is going to create all sorts of productivity problems for the nation. I am not in the camp that says a Pape case in the High Court rules it out. I am watching closely to see another case, the Williams case, to see whether it does. I think we should buy some time on constitutional recognition and make it a financial issue and address it.