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Wednesday, 25 November 2015
Page: 8983

Senator MUIR (Victoria) (15:50): I move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

(i) there is a political stalemate between the Federal Government and the Victorian State Government in relation to the East West Link,

(ii) there is approximately $1.5 billion in unspent allocations to the East West Link,

(iii) evidence presented to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee inquiry into aspects of road safety in Australia by the National Rural Health Alliance demonstrated that those who live outside the major cities make up 30 per cent of the population and 52 per cent of deaths due to land transport accidents,

(iv) rural roads play a vital role in putting food on city tables and bringing resources to urban areas,

(v) the annual economic cost of road crashes in Australia is enormous - estimated at $27 billion per annum - and the social impacts are devastating,

(vi) many rural roads are in dangerously poor condition and in desperate need of repair,

(vii) some local councils in Victoria do not have the necessary funding to fully maintain the extensive road networks in their electorate due to proposed rate caps and the federal freeze in financial assistance grants,

(viii) a life in rural and regional Australia is just as important as a life in urban Australia,

(ix) until there is a change of Victorian State Government or a change in Federal Government, a resolution to the East West Link is unlikely, and

(x) there is a strong need in Victoria to invest in rail and road infrastructure in order to ease congestion and improve productivity into the future; and

(b) calls on the Government to withdraw the allocation of federal funding set aside for East West Link and to reallocate this funding to projects to improve rural road infrastructure.

I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for one minute.

Senator MUIR: At the time of writing this motion there was a significant stalemate between the Victorian state government and the federal government in relation to the $1.5 billion unspent allocations for the East West Link. I understand that in recent time there has been some conversations between the parties but no outcome as of yet. My motion acknowledges that only 30 per cent of the population lives in rural and regional Australia yet over 50 per cent of road fatalities occur in these areas. It was my intention to encourage all sides of government to consider the increasingly poor conditions of rural roads and the subsequent fatality rate and to spend the unspent allocations on upgrading rural roads, where the funding is desperately needed for safety reasons, not just congestion.

I acknowledge the federal Black Spot Program and Roads to Recovery program and note the increased allocations of funding over coming years. However, the need to repair many rural roads is more immediate. I had encouraged the public to send in pictures of damaged rural roads to visually highlight the issue. There is a large amount of interest, and I am still receiving them. I will continue to collect these pictures and will table them at a later date.