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Thursday, 31 May 2018
Page: 5221

Mr HARTSUYKER (Cowper) (11:15): I am pleased to speak on this budget in greater detail and to reflect on the important budget announcement that was made to the benefit of the people of Cowper—that is, the $971 million commitment by this National-Liberal coalition government to build the Coffs Harbour bypass. I would like to thank the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport for his strong support in bringing this project to fruition, an absolutely vital project. We have been waiting for this project for a long time. The federal government has been committed to the upgrade of the Pacific Highway, with $5.64 billion to complete the duplication, and now, the icing on the cake, the missing link—the construction of the Coffs Harbour bypass—will become a reality because of this government working with the state government to provide dual carriageway, get rid of the traffic lights, get the trucks out of the main street and make our roads safer.

It is a great outcome for the people of Cowper. I would say that there has never been a budget announcement in my time in this place that has been as positively received as the funding for the Coffs Harbour bypass. There has been discussion over many years as to the priority that the government has placed in completing the upgrade works and we have, I think, rightly taken the view that the No. 1 priority was to save lives, and saving lives is done by eliminating the two-lane sections of the highway where terrible accidents were occurring.

The second, but still important, priority was getting those trucks out of the main street and freeing up our local towns from the incredible impost of the through-traffic that was occurring on the Pacific Highway. We have seen recently tragic accidents still occurring on these small amounts of unduplicated highway still to be upgraded such as at Warrell Creek, a five-kilometre section that still has accidents happening. North of Glenugie, a fatality occurred there tragically whilst the duplication process is proceeding. So it just reinforces the fact that decisions the government has made have been the right ones and now we can move on to the Coffs Harbour bypass.

The Mayor of Coffs Harbour, Councillor Denise Knight, said she was thrilled with the announcement. She said, 'We have waited a long time for this and it shows what we can do when all levels of government work together.' This bypass will be great, not only from the point of view of through traffic but this bypass will form an important part of the local road infrastructure, meaning that local people will be able to choose where to come on and off the bypass and, in doing so, take even more pressure off the existing highway alignment, which is absolutely choked at peak times, absolutely choked at holiday times.

It is certainly a very welcome development. This is part of this government's absolute commitment to building the infrastructure that Australia needs and, particularly, building the infrastructure that regional Australia needs. Greater connectivity through these Pacific Highway upgrades means that our businesses have a greater competitive advantage. This is a fantastic announcement for the people of Cowper. It is a fantastic announcement for the people of broader Australia because many people from Sydney, for example, travel the highway on a regular basis. It will make their holiday travel and business travel far easier. We wouldn't want to have invested $5.64 billion in the Pacific Highway only to have that investment effectively downgraded by the massive congestion which we know would be coming in Coffs Harbour if this work wasn't complete.

So I would like to ask the minister to update the House on what the likely impact of this project will be on road infrastructure, and the benefit such a project and others like it would bring the community. I would also like to ask the minister could he advise the House on the latest estimates for the completion of the project.