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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Page: 1826

Mr HOGAN (Page) (16:30): I rise to give the House an update on the duplication of the Pacific Highway in my electorate of Page. Once completed, it will transform the region, benefit businesses, create much-needed jobs and, most importantly, save lives. Last month, along with my state colleague the member for Ballina, Don Page, I had the honour of turning the first sod on the Pimlico Road diversion that will allow the second stage of the multibillion-dollar duplication of the Pacific Highway between Woolgoolga and Ballina to proceed. The major construction work between Ballina and Woolgoolga will provide more than 4,300 direct jobs and, I am told, about 12,900 indirect jobs, which of course will bring money into the local economy.

The turning of the sod also marked another milestone in this nationally significant project. It marked the end of the squabbling by the previous Labor government, who were unilaterally insisting on changing the funding split with the state government to fifty-fifty. This was after they were funding this highway at 80 per cent when it was a state Labor government. When the coalition won the state election, they wanted to suddenly revert to 50 per cent. This was unacceptable. Our government rightly took the decision that the completion of this multibillion-dollar project was far too important let be held to ransom and we have gone back to the originally agreed 80:20 split with the state government.

The Pacific Highway duplication is one of the largest road infrastructure projects in New South Wales. Infrastructure Australia has rightly named it as a project of national significance. Indeed, in terms of New South Wales, the Pacific Highway tops the priority list for Australia's most populous state. Started as a joint federal and state government initiative in 1996—Madam Speaker, you probably remember that the Howard government was the first federal government to give money to the Pacific Highway—the project will provide a minimum of four lanes of divided highway between Brisbane and Sydney.

I am happy to say that a lot of this project has been completed, and the section between Ballina and Woolgoolga, which is largely in my electorate, is the final large piece in the huge jigsaw. The upgrading of the sections to the south and north of Page have brought major improvements, including safer travel, reduced travel times with improved transport efficiency and improved amenity and safety for our local community. It is an unfortunate fact of life for those of who live on the north coast that we often wake to the news of fatal crashes on this single-lane section of the busy highway. This is one reason the families of Page are eager—or, should I say, desperate—to see the duplication completed.

Earlier this year, Senior Sergeant Bill Darnell of the New South Wales Police, who was interviewed by ABC Radio, said crashes were now far less common on the duplicated sections. He said:

… the parts of the highway that are divided now—Tweed Heads to Byron Bay, and the Ballina bypass for my end—have seen less conflict, particularly frontal conflict where opposing directions of traffic end up crashing.

This massive project also brings enormous economic benefits to the people of Page. Not only is it great for businesses but it goes to the core of my election promise of creating more jobs in the region. The highway will link the businesses of Page with the major markets of Brisbane and Sydney, offering them potentially millions of new customers.

Indeed, the completion of the upgrade is an issue the Northern Rivers division of the New South Wales Business Chamber has long called for. When they and the half-a-dozen local chambers of commerce developed their 10 big ideas to grow the Northern Rivers, the highway was front and centre.

This project is not just important for my electorate; it future-proofs the nation. The government report on the Sydney-to-Brisbane corridor strategy forecast significant growth in traffic on the Sydney-to-Brisbane corridor. It indicated that interstate freight between Sydney and Brisbane would almost triple over the next 20 years, compared with an expected doubling of freight on most other national freight corridors. Upgrading this piece of infrastructure to address freight demand and deliver travel-time savings increases Australia's productivity. In addition to moving goods and people safely and efficiently along the corridor, it contributes to developing our regions and cities.