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Monday, 16 June 2003
Page: 16367


Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (12:57 PM) —I rise to support this motion. It is a very important motion to the community that I represent. Before I touch upon the motion itself, I would like to respond to the comments by the previous speaker, the member for Wannon, on tollways. Not only does the Western Highway go through my electorate; so too does the Tullamarine and Calder Highway. As we know, the previous Victorian government imposed tolls on an existing freeway, not one yet to be constructed. It added one lane but actually tolls commuters on all three lanes. What we really do not need in this place is to get lessons from the Liberal Party and Liberal-National Party governments on the way to impose tolls, certainly not in Victoria.

Less than two weeks ago, the member for McMillan raised another betrayal in the area of transport: the failure by this government to deliver on its promise to help by funding half the construction cost of the Packenham bypass. The member for Ballarat's motion today highlights the failure of this government in another district; a very important district in Victoria. This government has failed over many years to deliver the funds required to fix up what is, I would contend, the most neglected highway in Australia. When the funding for the Western Highway is compared with the funding in other states and within Victoria, it is clear that the Western Highway has suffered from sustained financial neglect that in turn has compromised the safety and integrity of the road. It also should be understood that the Western Highway was formerly part of the national highway and therefore is not a road of national importance, a RONI, and must necessarily, despite the comments of the previous speaker, on the other side of the House, be funded by the Commonwealth.

There have been great efforts by the member for Ballarat and indeed me and the member for Lalor and others to raise this issue in this place and also publicly. Indeed, as the member for Ballarat has already indicated, we have met with the Western Highway Action Committee, which represents many community groups and many councils mentioned by the member for Ballarat, and we have met with other organisations, including the Rockbank Action Group. What they are saying is that they are not asking for more than their fair share; they are asking for a comparable level of funding that will ensure their safety and the safety of the commuters of their communities and the safety of the commuters that transport through their communities, so that they are not any worse off or in any more danger than any other commuters in this land. The failure by this government to properly ensure that funding would go to the construction of the Deer Park bypass, to the construction required near Anthony's Cutting and indeed to the flyover at Rockbank—a smaller work but one in some ways just as significant—is a major problem, and it is something this government has to confront. Clearly the minister has again failed to provide a decent level of funding to a very important link.

I have met also with the Caroline Springs Residents Association. Caroline Springs is a very fast-growing community on the Western Highway, and the people there are finding it increasingly difficult to get into or out of their community via the Western Highway. That same congestion is occurring throughout Deer Park. The Deer Park bypass commitment has been on the books for some time, and this government has pushed back further and further the delivery of that commitment. It has failed. There has been a fundamental breach of faith with regard to those communities—from the border all the way down to the municipality of Brimbank and including all the communities in between. They will not forget this. I will make sure they do not forget it. The fact is that this government has failed abysmally to provide a decent road and a decent and very important transport link to Ballarat and beyond. Most importantly, for me, it has failed to provide a decent link that will ensure that the communities of Caroline Springs and Burnside and Melton and Deer Park can properly go about their business without the dangers that arise from having a very unsafe transport link, dangers that are there currently. (Time expired)