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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6421

Dr MIKE KELLY (Eden-MonaroParliamentary Secretary for Defence) (16:55): While we are talking about the Princes Highway, I do appreciate the member's question on that because it is a very significant story and one neglected by state governments. It was part of the Infrastructure Australia process. There was a bid that the New South Wales government put in. That bid made it a long way through the process and we were hopeful that it was going to get up but, of course, the Infrastructure Australia process is independent and we did not quite get there. I did do a deal with the previous New South Wales state government that, if the bid did not get up, they would pick a couple of the more dangerous spots along the highway and do Victoria Creek and Dignams Creek. To give credit to the current New South Wales government, they have maintained that commitment and that work is underway.

One of the most important elements of that project is the Bega bypass that the minister has mentioned. This particular minister for infrastructure will go down in history as the greatest friend that rural and regional Australia has ever seen in government. When I look back at the 12 years of neglect of the Howard government when services vacated the regions, this is what gave Pauline Hanson her leg-up. We saw banks, post offices and railway stations in the towns in our regions suffer.

The Bega bypass is a classic example of where judicious intervention is being exercised by this government to unlock the potential of the regions. If you look at the Bega bypass it was something that was promised 40 years ago. I was at my father's knee when they first started organising for the Bega bypass and organising the land corridor.

Honourable members interjecting

Dr MIKE KELLY: Yes, I was that short at one point in time. For all of these years we have waited for that project to be delivered. Why is it so important? Because, right now, the Princes Highway does a dogleg through the town of Bega and it is incredibly dangerous as the larger trucks come through the town. Over time they have become much, much bigger. Of course, we know that the b-doubles have to uncouple and recouple on the outside of town on both sides of town. This adds enormous costs to business and adds delay in moving traffic. We have a lot of goods that we need to move such as milk goods from Bega Cheese, timber goods, sheep and beef meat and logs. That whole array of measures require the ability of the b-doubles to move smoothly through the region. With the Bega bypass we will no longer have the requirement of those b-doubles to uncouple and recouple. Also we will be taking 500 truck movements a week out of that central street in Bega, Carp Street, which will improve safety and the air quality in the town. We are also going to see something like 360 direct jobs involved in the delivery of the Bega bypass. It is going to be a massive boost to the region and help unlock its economic potential.

The minister has demonstrated a complete grasp of the overall impact of unlocking a region's potential by unclogging the arteries of these key road links. We have here in the ACT the Majura Parkway, which is not in my electorate, but that $250 million project to which the minister is contributing $140-odd million is part of that seamless road network that we need in this region to unlock that potential. This is a region that is absolutely full of potential. It is going gangbusters. It is not just in the issues of identifying what are the current needs and impediments, but the minister was able to fund, through a $60,000 grant to the Bega council, a study done by consultants into the potential of the Port of Eden. The port of Eden is the best deep-water port in Australia, positioned halfway between Sydney and Melbourne. We have large industries that see the potential in using the port of Eden, like the Visy pulp mill in Tumut, Bega Cheese and major wind farm proponents—the Wind Prospect wind farm for Boco Rock will bring 120 turbines in to my electorate and a wind farm development in north-eastern Victoria will be using the port of Eden. We are also starting to bring in cruise liners in greater numbers. To bring those cruise liners alongside will vastly enhance the tourism potential of the region as well. This is the vision of this minister. I would like the minister to explain also how this relates to the overall productivity objective of the government and how the Infrastructure Australia part of this puzzle also introduces the independence element and a greater decision-making basis.