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Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Page: 13733

Mr SECKER (BarkerOpposition Whip) (12:38): I would like to tell the House about a brilliant program that I am passionate about and that I want to see continued into the future. I am talking about the Roads to Recovery program. This program was introduced by the Howard government in 2000 and provided direct funding to local governments for the building and maintenance of local roads. The program is widely liked by councils. In fact most, if not all, councils in my electorate would say that Roads to Recovery has been an absolute saviour to them.

For regional people, such as all the people residing in the seat of Barker, Roads to Recovery has meant that they can use roads that were in an appalling condition previously and, in many cases, they can drive down them every day without the hassles they used to have. Many councils were struggling to keep up the maintenance, meaning the roads were deteriorating over time. On many country roads it is not just cars that have to drive down them; it is school buses, trucks and, in many cases, milk trucks. Milk trucks are not small vehicles and they need to reach the dairy farms every day, wherever they may be—and a lot are on roads that were not in the best condition, as you can imagine. Another problem was getting school buses down those roads. Well, Roads to Recovery has helped that enormously.

Last week I was pleased to be in Mount Gambier in my electorate and pleased to have the Leader of the National Party, Warren Truss, there as well. Warren Truss very much understands how important Roads to Recovery is and he has been committed to the program for a long time, as I have. I am very pleased that the coalition is committed to continuing the program past its 2014 deadline, something the Labor government has not been forthcoming on.

We all know that Labor is not a friend of regional Australia, despite what some members on the other side would have you believe—and nor are the Independents, who were wolves dressed up as lambs during the election. They are not friends of regional Australia at all. If they were they would have acted quickly on issues such as youth allowance and the carbon tax—issues that will put a dagger to the heart of regional Australia.

So the coalition has yet again come up with the goods for regional Australia and is committed to keeping this fantastic program. Councils all around the seat of Barker were pleased to hear this. In fact, last week more than 320 local government delegates from across Australia waved placards calling for the government to commit more funding for community-owned road networks. This happened in Mount Gambier, during a three-day major national roads congress that the seat of Barker was pleased to host.

Each year 1,500 people die on Australian roads and 30,000 people are hospitalised. Keeping the roads maintained is a large part of keeping our roads safe. The Independent member for New England was due to attend but used the Obama visit as a reason to withdraw. But that did not stop me or the Leader of the National Party, Warren Truss, from attending. Indeed, it did not stop Senator Barnaby Joyce from attending.

During my visit I met with a local government mayor who is hugely supportive of Roads to Recovery. And he is not alone; another local mayor in the area called for Roads to Recovery to be permanent. That is how important this program is. I believe councils do the best they can, but they need extra help. So I commend the coalition for staying committed to this vital program.

I am proud of the part I played in the formation of the Roads to Recovery program. In my first term as the member for Barker, the standing committee I was on heard evidence from the Australian Local Government Association that local roads were not keeping up with simple maintenance, let alone sealing the roads that needed sealing. This evidence was so powerful certain recommendations were made and that was the birth of the Roads to Recovery program.

One of the brilliant things about the Roads to Recovery program is that, through all the time that they have spent billions of dollars on local roads, this was done and administered by only two public servants. That is all it took, because we trusted local government to do the right thing. They did the right thing and they fixed up the roads. They spent the money where it was meant to be spent—no wastage.