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Thursday, 5 April 2001
Page: 26624

Mr HORNE (5:40 PM) —If there is one thing I have learnt about being an elected representative in this House, it is simple: you support the people who elect you and you must do it consistently. Therefore, there are two issues I would like to bring to the attention of the House this evening. Firstly, and probably most importantly, is the intersection between Weakly's Drive and the New England Highway—part of the national highway and therefore part of the Commonwealth government's responsibility for funding. This intersection is very dangerous. In fact, it is a killer. It makes life hell for the people who use it, be they the residents of Thornton and Beresfield or the workers at the large adjacent industrial estate. My parliamentary colleague the member for Hunter, Mr Joel Fitzgibbon, and I are proud of our record with regard to this intersection. It is an intersection that lies jointly between our two electorates. Our support ranges from a commitment in 1995 by the then Minister for Transport, the Hon. Laurie Brereton, to upgrade this intersection to a visit in August last year by the current shadow minister, Mr Martin Ferguson, Mr Fitzgibbon and me.

A headline in the local Maitland Mercury `Road action demanded' called on the government to get on with the job, fund that intersection and get it constructed. But obviously it fell on deaf ears. The cost is in the order of $20 million, so I had a look at the record of this government's expenditure on this particular intersection. I found that nothing was spent in the financial year 1995-96, nothing was spent in 1996-97, $200,000 was spent on some deceleration lanes in 1997-98, half a million dollars was spent on a set of traffic lights in 1998-99 and nothing was spent in 1999-2000 or in the current year.

So you can imagine my surprise when I saw an article in the Maitland Mercury on Monday by the Liberal candidate calling for the end of politics to get this intersection built. Do you know why he wants to get rid of politics from this intersection? Because the current government have a shameful record and have virtually spent nothing on it. Of course, I am quite happy to remain political to fight for the rights of the people of Thornton and Beresfield, because that is the only way this intersection will get built. For that reason, I have placed questions on notice to the minister this week, and I would ask that he might try to find time to answer them before the election.

The other issue I would like to bring up is an issue that was raised in the House by the Minister for Defence this week, and that is the early warning aircraft, the ones that we are now buying from America, virtually complete. When the former Minister for Defence, Mr Moore, announced this project—a number of times, might I add, but certainly before the last election—it was a project of great promise. It was a project of great promise to the people of the Hunter region because it offered a new generation of high-tech jobs. It offered the sorts of jobs that Australia simply does not have. The technology in these aircraft is at a significantly higher level, and I am sure that the university students, the young people we have in the Air Force, would do the job equally as well as American technicians if they were only given the chance.

We were told by Minister Reith this week that they will not be given the chance because these aircraft are now going to be imported and that the only jobs we can look forward to are in maintenance; even then, they may be flown back to the Boeing factory in the United States for servicing. That will be a tragedy for Australia if that happens but it is also significant that it marks a return to the old days when the Minister for Defence went overseas with a chequebook every couple of years to spend billions of dollars. Australian tradesmen, Australian professionals, have shown that they can produce quality aircraft, quality submarines and quality frigates. In fact, our defence industry has great potential. The Labor Party are proud that they were instrumental in developing it and I ask Minister Reith to make sure that the tradition in defence industry continues in Australia.