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Thursday, 19 September 2019
Page: 3699

Dr WEBSTER (Mallee) (16:12): I'm pleased to talk today about the Australian government's commitment to regional infrastructure. Since 2013-14, the Liberal-National government has invested $32.8 billion that specifically benefits regional areas—over $2.8 billion to grant programs helping regions unlock local competitive advantage and access new markets and around $30 billion to deliver road and rail projects to better connect regional communities. The Australian government is investing $100 billion in infrastructure across the next 10 years from 2019-20, through its rolling infrastructure plan involving a combination of grant funding, loans and equity investments. This includes the government's $4.5 billion commitment to upgrade key freight routes through the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative. We have announced $4.2 billion worth of commitments under ROSI to 26 key freight corridors and around 50 projects across this country.

ROSI primarily supports network improvements which involve packages of investment to raise the standard of roads, including feeder roads, to provide more reliable road networks. This corridor approach provides a more reliable road network, improves access for high-capacity vehicles, better connects regional communities and facilitates tourism opportunities. We are working closely with state, territory and local governments to get projects underway as soon as possible.

I'm pleased to say that the Australian government is continuing to contribute significantly to the funding of road improvements and upgrades across the Mallee electorate, including the Calder Highway upgrade, the Western Highway upgrades and the Henty Highway upgrades between Horsham and Warracknabeal. But the funding won't stop at these projects. We know that better roads lead to safer travel and to improved economic and social outcomes as people find it easier and safer to travel. Driving throughout my electorate on our roads—from Warracknabeal to Dimboola, from Charlton to Maryborough, from Berriwillock to Birchip and from Ouyen to Swan Hill—it is apparent to me that there are plenty of roads that need upgrading. I want to encourage all Mallee local councils and the Victorian state government to continue to submit projects to the Roads to Recovery Program supporting the maintenance of these local roads.

The Liberal-National government has announced further funding for this program as part of the 2019-20 budget, with a $100 million commitment each year. I'm pleased that the Liberal-National government has delivered on its promise of $240 million for the Murray Basin freight rail project while supporting up to 500 jobs during construction and a further 47 long-term jobs in the region. However, there is currently a great deal of ill feeling in my electorate about the incompletion of the Murray Basin Rail Project, and I have called on the Victorian state Labor government to work cooperatively with the federal government to complete the project. Currently farmers in Murrayville cannot use the line, because the rail is in such poor condition that trains can only travel at 15 kilometres per hour. This does not in any way provide access and equity for these farmers to trade and send product to port.

The freight transport mix must always include both road and rail. The reality is that many of our roads in Mallee are not suitable for the B-quads that now transport much of the growers' products to both domestic destinations and ports for export markets. For every train, over 40 trucks a day are removed from our roads. The community's safety and economic wellbeing motivates me to continue to advocate for the completion of the Murray Basin Rail Project and hold the Victorian Labor government to account.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): The time for the discussion has concluded.