Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 18 October 2010
Page: 542

Mr JOHN COBB (9:43 PM) —Roads are the single most vital piece of infrastructure for regional Australia, and for individuals and businesses alike roads are essential to the everyday functioning of our region. For Calare in Western New South Wales our potential to prosper as a region is highly dependent on the infrastructure provided today. During the last election the issue of roads was singled out as the No. 1 concern for Calare residents, and the development of the Bells Line Expressway was listed as one of my key priorities for Calare and the whole of Western New South Wales. I have listened to the people of Calare and I am committed to taking real action on these issues.

The Gillard government’s decision not to commit funding to the Bells Line Expressway was a massive kick in the teeth for the people of regional New South Wales. The government say they have a renewed focus on regional Australia but are clearly not interested and are certainly not listening to the concerns of its residents. The people of Calare and western New South Wales need and deserve a safe and efficient passageway across the mountains. The month of October has been a horrific time on Calare’s roads and is further proof of just how necessary and urgent this vital piece of infrastructure is. How many lives will it take before the government realise a safer corridor across the Blue Mountains is a priority?

During the 2007 election, the coalition committed $20 million to get the Bells Line Expressway project up and running. So far, we have not seen a single cent committed to the project by the federal government and the idea has been thrown out the window by the Keneally government, with documents stating that the project will not be on the agenda for at least 25 years. All we continue to see from both the state and federal Labor governments is more inaction, excuses and delays. It is clear that only the coalition is committed to building a safer and better road across the mountains.

The safety and wellbeing of the entire population of western New South Wales are at stake here. The population west of the mountains are sick of the traffic congestion, accidents and roadworks. We need safe, reliable and regularly maintained roads in our country areas and a commitment from the federal government to ensure they are provided.

Recent tours across the Calare electorate brought to my attention just how crucial the coalition’s Roads to Recovery program and Black Spot funding were to regional communities. Just last week I visited the spectacular Capertee Valley at the foot of the Blue Mountains. After discussions with residents it was clear that the No. 1 concern in the area was the condition of the local roads. With difficult terrain and unsealed roads, safety is always a major concern for locals. What is more, the valley’s vision for future development and tourism is heavily reliant on the upkeep of those roads. This is echoed in many other communities across Calare. With roads in most parts being the only point of access, we need to ensure that a safe path is provided, for the sake of both our residents and visitors. Calare is the engine room of New South Wales and our roads are key to opening up the whole of it. It is obvious that the coalition’s initiatives were successful and that, again, only the coalition is committed to providing essential services and infrastructure to regional Australia.

I call upon the Gillard government to seriously reconsider its approach to the Bells Line Expressway. On Prime Minister Gillard’s recent visit to Bathurst I invited her to take a drive over the mountains to experience firsthand the terrible state of the roads. My invitation was declined. It is clear that the Gillard government has little interest in regional Australia—certainly in that part of it. Roads are the lifeline of country Australia and are essential to the long-term prosperity of the regions. We need a federal commitment to funding for our regional roads. The Bells Line Expressway must be put back on the agenda now—immediately, not sometime during the next 25 years. The people of Calare, western New South Wales and regional Australia have had enough of the excuses and delays. We need commitment and we want to see real action.