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Monday, 6 December 1993
Page: 3848

Senator WEST —I direct my question to the Minister for Transport and Communications. I note the recent opening of the last section of the F3 freeway between Newcastle and Sydney. How much of the funding for this road was from federal government sources? Will there be any benefits from this road to areas other than Newcastle?

Senator Panizza —Oh, come off it! Of course there will be benefits.

Senator COLLINS —I hope that Senator Tierney is not too offended by that outburst from his colleague Senator Panizza. I am pleased to say that Senator Tierney was in attendance at the opening of this extremely important transport link.

Senator Murphy —In the front row?

Senator COLLINS —He was in the front row and I was pleased to see him there. Last Wednesday the New South Wales transport minister and I officially opened the last connecting section of the F3 freeway from Sydney to Newcastle. This section covers the last 19-kilometre stretch between Freemans Waterhole and Minmi, plus an extremely important seven-kilometre dual carriageway link to Wallsend. That is the Newcastle connector link.

  Originally, that link was not due to be completed for another two years, but it was fast tracked in order to coincide with the opening of this magnificent new freeway, and magnificent it is scenically as well as technically, as I am sure Senator Tierney would agree. The connector link will maximise the benefits to Newcastle of the additional significant tourist potential that this freeway will create for the Hunter region.

  The total cost of the highway extension is $225 million, with an additional $15 million for the approach roads to the north. As part of the national highway system it was fully funded by the federal government. The new freeway is estimated to provide a 15-minute time saving on the trip from Sydney to Newcastle. More importantly, it provides drivers on that route with the assurance of a safer and more convenient trip. The freeway also provides better access from Sydney to the Hunter region, which will add to its tourist potential and encourage greater interaction between industries in the central coast regions of New South Wales. The freeway construction—

Senator Tierney —Wait until Christmas and see what happens.

Senator COLLINS —That is not what Senator Tierney told me he would say in the Senate this week. That is extremely ungracious of him. The freeway construction involved a massive engineering task through extremely difficult terrain and it has resulted in a world class road. This included the construction of 23 bridges and the movement of over seven million cubic metres of earth and also the inadvertent mining of 25,000 tonnes of coal which was exported.

  In driving along that road, I noticed how extraordinarily quiet the drive was. This is the highest standard of pavement construction that I have seen. Engineers present at the site say that it is the best they have seen anywhere in the world. The reason I mention this is that it is an absolute textbook example of the excellence of Australian construction and, I might add, world class standards of Australian construction at world competitive prices.

  I know that the Abigroup and Leighton Constructions that built the road are actively tendering for international projects in our region and this road would certainly act as a very good advertisement for the excellence of their work. Our expertise in road building, particularly in difficult terrain and in tropical climates, is currently being sought by a variety of rapidly developing nations throughout the Asian region.

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr Deputy President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.