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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6419

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (16:48): I would like to draw the minister's attention to the Princes Highway in south-east Australia, which he is very familiar with, and I thank him for his correspondence on this issue. This relates also to the seat of Eden-Monaro. The issue I refer to is the duplication works between Traralgon and Sale, where $140 million has been committed by the federal government and $35 million by the state. I seek clarification about the government's position on the re-profiling of the $20 million, which has been extended out from the previous financial year and which I understand was an EPBC-related issue. In that context, I would be interested in your thoughts, Minister, on what extra costs these EPBC-related issues are adding to the road construction bill in Australia. I am finding in my electorate that road construction not referred to the EPBC is extraordinarily frustrating for the local community and roads are being realigned in a manner not consistent with what was expected when the reserves were put aside in the first place. I would be interested in what reforms the government has in mind in relation to that, but more particularly about the $20 million which has been re-profiled. I know the minister understands that this is a much larger project than the $140 million which has already been allocated. I would be interested to know the minister's view in terms of any future funding commitments to that section of the road.

More broadly, Minister, I want to refer you to the Princes Highway east across Victoria and into the seat of Eden-Monaro. I have the figures in front of me for 2005 to 2010 when, from Sale to the New South Wales border, there were 22 fatalities and 116 serious injuries on that stretch of road. I am not sure what happens after that, in Eden-Monaro, but I am sure the member can tell us.

This road is not on the national network—I appreciate that—but on that stretch of road between Wollongong and Sale some off-network projects are being undertaken with support from the federal government for the Bega bypass. What is the government's attitude to the status of the highway from Wollongong through Eden-Monaro and Gippsland to Sale, where it joins up with the national road network section on which work is currently underway?

This area has quite significant heavy vehicle usage, with the timber industry, the fishing industry, the moving of agricultural products and the local and tourism related traffic increasing. Does the government see this as a priority? What advice do you have for the communities along that route to get more of the federal-funding pie to ensure we improve the safety and productivity of the road in that region? I would appreciate your feedback.