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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6329

Mr SNOWDON (Lingiari) (19:01): I want to thank my colleague for his contribution in highlighting the absurdity of this particular motion, whilst recognising and supporting local government and saying that we wanted to have it constitutionally recognised. I'll just refer to local government in my own electorate for a moment. We have nine regional councils, three shire councils and three municipal councils, covering 1.34 million square kilometres. That's a heck of a slice of Australia. There are also 63 local authorities, 135 elected members and over 3,200 employees. These organisations are crucial to communities across the north and are the primary employers in the majority of remote communities. Local government employs and trains over 1,500 Aboriginal people throughout the Northern Territory.

One of the things that they're obviously concerned about and participate in is a major component of their work—the maintenance of roads, culverts and drains. They do this well, but they need more resources to adequately provide for the immense roadworks that exist, with a road network around, I think, 35,000 kilometres across the seat of Lingiari. When you contemplate that, along with more than 220 bridges, and thousands of rivers and creek crossings, the sort of money that we're talking about here from the federal government is mystifying, to say the least. The black spot funding has been referred to, with an underspend of 33 per cent, and, for the Bridges Renewal Program, an underspend of 53 per cent. How do we expect to address the needs of communities like mine and to help those regional councils, who have the distinct challenge of making sure that people drive safely and arrive safely? The Australian government committed $744½ million to the Black Spot Program from 2013-14 to 2021-22 to improve road safety across the nation. In the case of the Northern Territory, it's $1.87 million for the whole of the Northern Territory for 2018-19—how bizarre is that? Of this, 33 per cent was allocated to the City of Darwin. This left only three projects to be funded in my electorate of Lingiari. This is simply not good enough.

We've heard about the underspends and the commitments being made. In this recent budget, the Treasurer announced funding for the Central Arnhem and Buntine highways totalling $280 million. You would have thought, given that announcement, that that work would be imminent. But of course the great majority of it, 70 per cent or thereabouts, won't be seen until 2022 or 2023.

The people of my electorate and the people across Australia have been conned into believing—at least the government has tried to con them—that somehow or other they'll get some immediate reprieve in terms of investment in their roads by this government as a result of that budget announcement. We clearly know that's false. There's no funding for the years 2018-19 for either of these road projects—nothing; not a jot; not a cent. What sort of world do they think we're living in? This funding, if we're to get it, is very important because those roads need work to be done.

When we contemplate these roads, we know that in the national road productivity package, there's $3 million for the Roper Highway but, in the south, there's no money to continue work on the sealing of roads to Santa Teresa to the east of Alice Springs. The beef roads package is just a joke in terms of providing opportunities for increasing investment in the roads of the Northern Territory. Territorians who use the Plenty Highway and the Titjikala road will have wait to until the 2020 to receive any significant work upgrading.

The federal government has failed Territorians by not partnering properly with them on their vital needs. It's given the local government communities in my own electorate, which I've described and which cover 1.34 million square kilometres, a very raw deal indeed. It's about time the Commonwealth fronted up to their responsibility to fund local government for their roads obligations.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: There being no further speakers the debate is adjourned and will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.