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STANDING COMMITTEE ON RURAL AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT
24/02/2009
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO
Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government

Senator CORMANN —I have some questions about a road project around Bunbury that the federal member for Forrest, Nola Marino, is very interested in. Labor, during the election, committed $136 million towards the Bunbury port access road and outer ring-road stage 1, with the state government contributing the balance to remove a major bottleneck in the Perth-Bunbury corridor. As I understand it, to date only $2 million has been allocated by the Commonwealth. Very simply, my question is: where in the forward estimates is the additional $134 million for the port access and outer ring-road reflected?

Mr Maher —On the Bunbury port access and outer ring-road stage 1, the Australian government contribution is $2 million in 2008-09 and we do not have a profile for the remaining funds in future years.

Senator CORMANN —What does it mean when you say you do not have a profile for the remaining funds in future years?

Mr Maher —It would be subject to the advice of the WA government.

Senator CORMANN —So what you are saying is that at this stage the Commonwealth has not committed the additional $134 million?

Mr Maher —The funding is available if the project proceeds, absolutely. But at this stage $2 million has been provided for planning for the project. I think it would be too early to describe a detailed funding profile for the project.

Senator CORMANN —When do you expect that to be clarified? When do you expect the funding profile to be finalised?

Mr Maher —At the conclusion of the planning process. Part of the planning process would be to identify a detailed funding profile and construction schedule for the project.

Senator CORMANN —I understand that it is at the conclusion of the planning process, but when? Can you give me an indicative time frame?

Ms McNally —It is early 2010.

Senator CORMANN —Early 2010 is when you expect the planning to be finished. And is that when the Commonwealth will commit the remaining $134 million?

Mr Maher —Can I just clarify that? I think the planning process will conclude in December 2009. So I would expect that at that stage we would have a detailed funding profile for the project.

Senator CORMANN —Subject to that detailed funding program being finalised, the $134 million that is still outstanding will then be committed?

Mr Maher —Correct.

Senator CORMANN —Thank you.

Senator BUSHBY —During the campaign prior to the last election, the then opposition undertook to extend Tasmania’s national network to include the Brooker Highway from Granton to the Port of Hobart and the Tasman Highway from Hobart to the Hobart airport. Has this been achieved yet?

Mr Rokvic —The government has formalised the arrangements to extend the Brooker Highway.

Senator BUSHBY —Does that mean that you have taken over control and responsibility?

Mr Rokvic —That enables the state to utilise maintenance funding in relation to maintenance on the highway.

Senator BUSHBY —Those sections of those two highways now have the same status as other national roads?

Mr Rokvic —Correct, Senator.

Senator BUSHBY —What date did that take effect?

Ms McNally —That was in February 2009.

Mr Rokvic —Early February 2009.

Senator BUSHBY —Just very recently.

Mr Rokvic —Correct.

Senator BUSHBY —Has the department revised any of its estimates for costings as a result of the responsibility for taking over those two sections?

Mr Rokvic —The maintenance funding that has been provided provides for the Brooker Highway.

Senator BUSHBY —Has it increased as a result of taking on those two?

Mr Rokvic —The funding is as committed by the government. It was $31 million for maintenance funding plus the additional $1 million provided as part of the nation building.

Senator BUSHBY —That is not just for those two sections though.

Mr Rokvic —That is for the network as a whole.

Senator BUSHBY —The national network. And that has not changed as a result of taking over the responsibility for those two sections in February of this year.

Mr Rokvic —Correct.

Senator BUSHBY —There is currently work being undertaken on both those sections of highway. Have the funds to cover the cost of work on those two sections been accessed from federal funds under that maintenance program?

Mr Rokvic —I will have to take that on notice, Senator. The question is about timing as to when those works were undertaken.

Senator BUSHBY —Apparently the work is being undertaken at the moment.

Mr Rokvic —The extent to which the works are currently being undertaken on those highways, those works are subject to the maintenance funding that has been provided.

Senator BUSHBY —Prior to their being taken over was there any discussion between the federal and state governments regarding the need for immediate works?

Mr Rokvic —No, Senator, there has been no detailed discussion in terms of remedial works.

Senator BUSHBY —The federal government had no discussion with the state government regarding the state of repair and the need for works for those two sections prior to taking them over?

Mr Rokvic —The state government is responsible for determining the level and nature of maintenance that is undertaken and for how it utilises the funds which are provided.

Senator BUSHBY —As I understand it, the federal government in delivering the promise that it had made at the last election has taken over these two sections, which have been in disrepair for many years. The federal government would not, as part of its due diligence process before taking that over, ensure that what it has taken over has been properly maintained?

Ms McNally —When a number of election commitments were made and added roads to the network right around the country in terms of provision of overall maintenance, those issues are discussed as part of the network determinations that are made. They are usually discussed at a broad state level rather than at individual project road level.

Senator BUSHBY —At least in two sections of road or anywhere in Australia, from October 2007 when the announcement was made that the federal government would be taking it over, there was no due diligence process or any process in place to ensure that the state governments then do not immediately stop spending money on roads that need it, effectively, shifting the cost to the federal government. You take no steps to ensure that state governments do not immediately abandon their responsibilities and leave it up to you until such time as when you take over.

Ms McNally —States are still required to spend the same amount of maintenance as they have in the past. The amount of money that is provided by the Commonwealth does not replace the amount of money spent by the states. The memorandum of understanding on bilateral agreements we have with states and territories require them to continue the provision of maintenance across the state overall.

Senator BUSHBY —That is fine. You have a fixed bucket of money which you want to spend on those roads and that is not going to get any bigger. Effectively what has happened here in this particular case is the state government, which had a responsibility up until February 2009 to maintain those roads and has neglected that for many years, in the hope that the federal government would take it over has won the jackpot and it seems like it has managed to avoid the cost. Almost immediately after the announcement that the responsibility for maintenance has shifted from the state to the Commonwealth the state government gets in there, dips into the federal money and starts doing something that it has not done for years. It seems to me that there is a clear case of cost shifting from the state government to the federal government out of a fixed bucket of money. They are fixing a road now that they had refused to do because they hoped you would pay for it in the end.

Senator Conroy —The COAG agreement, which has been signed off—and I think one of your colleagues may even have asked me a question about this in the chamber—is quite clear about the requirement that the state governments have signed up to. So the basic premise of your question is handled by and responded to by the COAG agreement, which is very black and white about the responsibilities.

Senator BUSHBY —And what does it say with respect to this?

Senator Conroy —I will happily get you a copy of it. As I said, I did read it out.

Senator BUSHBY —But the particular question I am asking—

Senator Conroy —You are trying to suggest that there is cost-shifting—

Senator BUSHBY —There quite clearly is.

Senator Conroy —The point that I am making is that the Prime Minister and the premiers signed up to a COAG agreement, which we will get for you and I will read out to you again. I think I read it out three times, from recollection, in the Senate in response to your questions. It is very clear about stopping the cost-shifting blame game. But I will get you a copy of it.

Senator BUSHBY —Minister, here we have a situation where in early February an announcement was made—I was aware that it was early February, but I just wanted to clarify that to make sure my information was correct—that the responsibility for maintenance had shifted from the states to the federal government. The following week works that had been planned but held off for many years started—immediately following. What a coincidence. The people of Hobart had been complaining for years about the state of both these roads. In a climate where there was an awful lot of speculation and then a commitment by your side of the parliament—

Senator Conroy —The federal government.

Senator BUSHBY —to undertake, in a climate where people were hoping that the federal government would take over responsibility, the state government did not spend. It was obviously costed and what needed to be done had been worked out for years. The very week that it is announced, immediately the work starts. It does seem to me to require a fairly close look at your—

Senator Conroy —That is a question that should properly be put to the Tasmanian government. I am not sure the officials are able to—

Senator BUSHBY —I am sure that that question will be put to the Tasmanian government, but what is—

Senator Conroy —But I am not sure the officials can actually answer a question about the work programs—

Senator BUSHBY —the due diligence taken by the federal government to ensure that when you take over responsibility you have actually done your job in the first place?

CHAIR —Can we just have a bit of order. If senators wish to ask a question, great—but can they at least let those on the other side answer and then proceed, rather than talking over each other? Ms McNally, you wanted to say something?

Ms McNally —Yes, I just wanted to clarify that adding roads to the network does not mean that the Commonwealth has taken responsibility for those roads. The roads are still the responsibility of the state government. What adding a road to the network actually does is allow funding under a part of the AusLink act to be provided for those particular roads by the Commonwealth government and allows a bucket of money to be provided to a state for the maintenance of those roads. But it does not actually abrogate the state’s responsibility for the road.

Senator BUSHBY —But it does give the state government access to funding to fix roads that does not have to come out of their consolidated revenue.

Ms McNally —All of the states and territories get a bucket of money for maintenance. In a number of cases that was increased as part of the 2007 election commitments. There was also the commitment as part of the COAG communique for a potential further increase of $150 million across the country, subject to states and territories agreeing to sign the conditions of the memorandum of understanding by 1 March, which includes a requirement that they maintain their current level of spending on the roads.

Senator BUSHBY —So there is a requirement that the Tasmanian state government maintains its current level?

Ms McNally —That is right.

Senator BUSHBY —Okay. But this frees up funds that it would otherwise have to have spent itself on maintenance of those two sections—

Senator Conroy —That is a question for the Tasmanian state government, not the—

Senator BUSHBY —That is right. I have some other questions I would like to ask about the promises in relation to Tasmanian roads, but we are limited on time. One thing I would like to ask is a general question on the overall package—I think it was worth $445.45 million—announced during the election campaign for a range of transport initiatives in Tasmania, including rail and major roads. In the election announcement it was announced that that would be fully funded and delivered between the date of the election and 2014. Do you have anything available to you that suggests that 2014 will not be the year in which all of those projects will be completed? Will they be completed by 2014 on the basis of the information before you?

Ms McNally —We are expecting so, Senator.

Senator BUSHBY —I would just like to have that on the record. Thank you.

Senator WILLIAMS —Ms McNally, do you have any idea how much is coming out of the stimulus package for local roads?

Ms McNally —How much is coming out of the what package?

Senator WILLIAMS —The $42 billion stimulus package. How much of that is directed towards local roads? Perhaps the minister might be able to help us.

Ms McNally —For local roads, out of that stimulus package, there is an amount of money that has been set aside for black spot funding, which can be used on local roads or it can be used on other sorts of roads. That would be the only sum of money out of the stimulus package that could be applied to local roads.

Senator WILLIAMS —How much is that sum?

Ms McNally —There was an additional $90 million for black spots.

Senator WILLIAMS —$90 million for black spots, yes.

Ms McNally —That is all.

Senator WILLIAMS —Will the funding go directly to local governments or will it go through state governments, if it is to go on, say, a local road that a local government is responsible for?

Ms McNally —That goes via the state governments. The state governments have an advisory panel process in which they are required to consult with local communities and with councils and so on. They then put up their priorities for that funding through that advisory panel. That is the way the decisions are made. So they are required as a part of that process to undertake consultation.

Senator WILLIAMS —One of the reasons the Roads to Recovery program went direct from federal government to local government was to prevent the state governments from hanging their big siphon hose into the amount. Will the same thing happen here? I suppose it is hard for you to answer, but no doubt, going through the state governments, that siphon hose may be able to be placed into the amount of money.

Senator Conroy —I am not sure that quite amounted to a question, Senator Williams. I may agree with the sentiment of what you were opining.

Senator MILNE —Cost-shifting.

Senator Conroy —I am not sure it is a question for the officials.

Senator WILLIAMS —What is the criteria used for the allocation to councils? Obviously, from the stimulus package, you have already explained that, but are there other moneys paid from your department directly to local governments?

Ms O’Connell —In the stimulus package there were four measures. One measure relates to road maintenance, one measure relates to black spots, a third measure relates to boom gates at level crossings and a measure relates to the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, which is non-road related. I am happy to consider covering that now, but under the program that would normally be considered under item 13 on the schedule.

Senator WILLIAMS —Who is responsible for New South Wales infrastructure? I see some of the people on the list here are obviously not here today. Anyway, I want to raise one issue about a black spot on the New England Highway. The New England Highway, of course, is Highway 1, which is the total responsibility of the federal government. In general, the New England Highway is in pretty good shape. There has been a lot of work done at places like Black Mountain near Guyra and bridges near Tenterfield et cetera. There is an area known as Bolivia Hill. Would you be able to do some investigations on Bolivia Hill? How can we go through that process? There was a young fellow killed there about three weeks ago and it is a place that requires the most attention on the whole New England Highway, as I see it. I was wondering if your department could perhaps have a look at that Bolivia Hill problem. No doubt it would be an expensive job to repair, but on the main highway, on one like this, it certainly needs attention and I would appreciate it if you, through the department, could have a look at that area.

Ms O’Connell —Certainly. I will take that on notice and have a look.

Senator WILLIAMS —That would be wonderful. Thank you.

Senator MILNE —I am not sure if my question comes under Infrastructure Australia, in which case it has gone, or whether you can answer it, but one of the issues that the railway community raises with me quite often is the need for an national digital train control system for Australia. Can anybody tell me whether that is being progressed? It is part of the intelligent networks we need around the country. We are talking about broadband, we are talking about an intelligent electricity grid and it and it seems to me that a parallel project ought to be a national digital train control system. Could you tell me whether there is anything happening on that front?

Mr Williams —As part of the nation-building statement in December last year, part of the moneys being provided to the Australian Rail Track Corporation included $45 million for the trial phase that is currently being undertaken by the ARTC. It is a $90 million trial in South Australia looking at the advanced train management system, which is effectively a digital train management system. If the technology is proven and it is moved into the implementation phase it could see the removal of track-side signalling. It would effectively use satellite and other technology in the cabins. That has the potential to significantly increase the productivity of the rail system in terms of being able to have more trains on the track and the headway or distance between trains could be reduced allowing for more efficient use of the train tracks. I also note that it was on the Infrastructure Australia priority list as something that needs to be looked at.

Senator MILNE —You have just indicated that it is $90 million pilot and that $45 was allocated.

Mr Williams —The amount of $45 million is coming from the Australian government through the equity injection into ARTC, and the other $45 million is coming from internal reserves and revenues from ARTC.

Senator MILNE —When will the trial be completed and, assuming that it is successful and proves what the proponents say in that it is shown to lead to a much better outcome in terms of productivity, what is the projected cost of implementing the system nationwide?

Mr Williams —I would have to take those questions on notice.

Senator MILNE —When do you expect the trial to be completed and evaluated? If I could have two separate dates for when you expect to have some recommendation for government.

Ms O’Connell —I will ask David Marchant to talk further after lunch specifically in relation to that trial. David is from ARTC. In terms of the advanced train management system and the trial, for reference it is outlined on page 49 in the nation-building booklet.

Senator MILNE —I look forward to that happening nationally at some point. I want to go on and ask about the boom gates and active controls at level crossings. Whilst I welcome that funding it has been put to me that, if it does not have an education program with it, it will not necessarily improve safety outcomes. It has been put to me that young women in particular—which surprised me again—actually race the boom gates. And in Queensland they had to engage in a program of education in infant schools to get children to say from the back seat, ‘Stop the car mummy.’ So it is counterintuitive because you would assume boom gates would make it much more safe, and I certainly hope it does and certainly support the initiative. I wonder whether there has been any consultation with safety authorities about the education program that might go with it?

—The primary focus of the boom gates measure is on the infrastructure side of things in terms of the installation of boom gates and other active control measures at level crossings. I know that a number of the states have their own programs relating to level crossings. A number of those have elements of education campaigns. Also through the Australian Transport Council process, there is a rail level-crossings group, whose membership includes state and territory governments, the Commonwealth, local government and industry. That brings together all of the issues relating to level crossings. Through that process there is coordination of effort in relation to level crossings across the country.

Senator MILNE —Would you please take on notice a question to be put to that coordinating group as to whether there has been any consideration given to an education campaign to be rolled out across the country in conjunction with this infrastructure spend on level crossing boom gates.

Mr Williams —Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Would it be appropriate to go back to Infrastructure Australia now that the letter had been tabled? Senator Bernardi has some questions, and I might just follow up on those before we—

Senator Conroy —If we can wait 10 minutes to get Infrastructure Australia back, that will be fine.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Okay.

Senator Conroy —We are just seeking more information. We are anticipating coming back at around 11.30, if that is okay.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Okay. That is all right. Talking about the boom gates, this was part of the $42 billion package, wasn’t it? Has that been rolled into the nation building fund? You are in charge of the infrastructure in the $42 billion package?

Mr Williams —I have responsibility for the boom gates program.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —But all of the infrastructure programs, the spending will come through your department?

Mr Tongue —Those bits of infrastructure are associated with the transport system, but—

Ms O’Connell —That is right, but not the infrastructure related to, for example, schools. That is being managed by a different department. But the four measures I outlined were the four measures of the $42 billion nation building package: boom gates, maintenance, community infrastructure and black spots.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —What is the figure that your department will have to spend?

Ms O’Connell —It is approximately $890 million.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I thought it was more than that.

Ms O’Connell —No, that is just from that particular measure, from that particular stimulus package. There are the December nation-building stimulus package components as well.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —So what did you say?

Ms O’Connell —$890 from February.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —And how much from December?

Ms McNally —$711 million on roads.

Ms O’Connell —And there was $1.2 billion on rail.

Ms McNally —Of that, the boom gate level crossings is $150 million.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —And that is additional to all of those other figures you have given?

Ms McNally —It is incorporated in the $890 million.

Ms O’Connell —And that is on top of the existing commitments around road-building, rail et cetera.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Do you have a global figure for what those existing commitments are?

Ms McNally —We will have to take that on notice.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Going back to rail, the Premier of Queensland announced, following a couple of horrific level crossing accidents earlier this year or late last year, that she would be putting boom gates on all of the crossings across the major highways in Queensland. I assume that you will not be spending money on that because that is a commitment of the Queensland government’s prior to this announcement, and there is no cost shifting. So you will not be funding boom gates along any section of Queensland’s major roads. Is that correct?

Mr Williams —The states have to come up with their priority list for funding from the program within the next couple of weeks. Certainly, as mentioned previously in the COAG communique, the existing level of funding on rail level crossings would need to be maintained by the state government.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —The Premier announced it. I am not sure that she had any money for it, bearing in mind the Queensland budget is now in deficit—comparatively even worse to what the federal government will be in.

Senator Conroy —We’re going to get a bunch of Queensland state questions, are we?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I am a senator for Queensland, Minister; most of my questions are related to Queensland, strangely enough.

Senator Conroy —No, I mean ham-fisted questions where you think you are influencing the Queensland state election.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I do not think I need to influence it, but I just want to make sure there is some openness and accountability about this. Will the states be held responsible only for things that are in their budgets? Or will they be responsible for things they announced that they were going to do before anyone knew the Commonwealth was going to be this generous with boom gates in this package? Perhaps that is not a question for you; it might be a question for the secretary.

Ms McNally —Queensland has set up a task force to look at a number of the boom gate issues, particularly after the Cardwell accident. We have $150 million available for boom gates, and, as my colleague Neil Williams advised, we will be asking states to come forward with priorities. The basis upon which they determine those priorities will be done using the ALCAM algorithm.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —So you will be funding those boom gates out of the $150 million?

Ms McNally —We will be funding those ones that are determined as priorities. We will also be asking states and territories to report on those ones that they are already proposing to fund.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —You will be asking them to report on that, but are you saying that you will not fund gates that the Queensland government had previously committed to funding?

Ms McNally —That would be a matter for the government to decide at the time they make decisions about which particular projects they—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Okay. Minister, in view of the fact that we were not going to have cost shifting from states to the federal government, will you confirm that announcements made by the Queensland Premier prior to your announcement on boom gates will not be funded?

Senator Conroy —I got the impression from the answer by the official that no decision has been made yet, but I am happy to take that on notice and come back to you.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —So you are conceding—

Senator Conroy —No, I said I would take it on notice.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —You are agreeing with the officer, who was indicating that, if the Queensland government had a priority for a boom gate that they had already announced, you would fund it.

Senator Conroy —No, I did not say anything of the sort. I think you have attempted to put significant words in my mouth, Senator Macdonald. As I said, I am happy to take that on notice and get you a full answer.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —When could I expect the answer, Minister? Not before 21 March I guess.

Senator Conroy —What is the date that—

CHAIR —I can help you out there, Minister. In my opening statement it was 17 March 2009 and 15 April for answers to questions taken on notice.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Lucky it is not on written notice! The concern is that Queensland will allow cost shifting from the Queensland government to the Commonwealth government, and that is the basis of the question. Can someone tell me where we are at with the Tully flood plain highway on the road we have been spending Commonwealth money on for four or five years now?

Ms Goodspeed —In 2008-09, the government committed $127 million for the Tully flood unity project. This project is nearing completion.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Can you get me an update on that? I think half of it has been washed away again.

Ms Goodspeed —Yes. The project is currently open to traffic, with the final completion of the project expected in March 2009.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —That is convenient, isn’t it. Will I be invited to the opening, do you think, Minister?

Senator Conroy —I will take that as an expression of interest and pass it on to the minister.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I am sure I would be.

Senator Conroy —I have not found it possible to go into North Queensland without you gate crashing.

Senator HEFFERNAN —You do not have to be invited; just turn up.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —The port access road in Townsville, does that have federal funding?

Ms Goodspeed —The government has a $95 million commitment towards the Townsville port access road. It is a $190 million project all up—a half share with the state government.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I know you will tell me that you do not do the design, but are you aware that this port access road actually crosses the main Bruce Highway rather than having a flyover? That means there will have to be stop lights there. The purpose of the port access road is so that triple road trains can run into the port with cattle and minerals. Has anyone done any studies on the greenhouse gas emissions from when those road trains stop and then take off again at traffic lights? There is an enormous amount of road transport that uses the Bruce Highway which will have to stop there similarly and which would be avoided by having an overpass in the initial planning.

Ms McNally —I understand that Mr Pitt has actually committed to looking at the idea of an overpass as part of looking at the planning work. He wrote to the local Townsville newspaper in December 2008 on that matter in relation to the issues you raised on that topic.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —He said they were going to do it in 2015.

Ms McNally —That is a matter for the—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Would it not be in the Commonwealth’s interest, particularly with greenhouse gas emissions et cetera, to do the job properly in the beginning by putting an overpass over the Bruce Highway?

Senator Conroy —I am not sure that the officers are in a position to answer a question that is an opinion, is a question of policy or—on a third level—is possibly something that the state government determines themselves. The question, and the way you asked it, was not a question they could answer.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Let me rephrase it. There was $95 million of Commonwealth funding in this. Did the Commonwealth have any input into value for money in spending that $95 million?

Senator Conroy —All Commonwealth expenditure is subject to the FMA Act, which includes value for money.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Then why did the Commonwealth not decide that it would be better to fund the overpass now rather than leave it for another six years with all the consequent greenhouse emissions, let alone road safety and human life, which are obviously not terribly relevant from this decision? Were those things looked at?

Ms McNally —The Queensland planning that was undertaken by QDMR advised that the inclusion of traffic lights at that intersection would be based on meeting traffic requirements and road capacity requirements out to about 2014 while they undertook a more detailed study to look at the concept of an overpass. The idea was to build a roundabout and put in the traffic lights to allow the more detailed analysis to be undertaken—to cope with immediate requirements.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I am no road engineer, but the Bruce Highway carries an enormous amount of road traffic—and carries me from my home to my office every day, I might add—and all that traffic will have to stop. The road trains coming from the west which cross it will also have to stop, and all will have to take off again. The greenhouse gas emissions will blow our targets on one intersection, and this from a government which is so keen on looking after these things. I cannot believe it was not looked at when we committed $95 million.

Ms McNally —The immediate issue is to look at the immediate capacity and constraints and then to look at longer term planning over the next couple of years when those issues could be taken into account.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Is there any work being done on duplication of the Burdekin Bridge? I have raised issues with the minister on the absolute need for this, which was demonstrated again by the floods just recently.

Ms Goodspeed —Since your last question on notice, the Australian government has committed $25 million for maintenance and rehabilitation of the bridge.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —No, that was before the question on notice. That is annual maintenance that you have got to do on any bridge. I mean planning work on a duplication. It will be 10 years down the track. I have raised it with the minister and got the political reply that you would expect. I am just hopeful that perhaps he took some notice and that planning work might have been ordered to start. Has it?

Ms McNally —The Australian government is not contributing any funding to any particular planning work, but we can take that on notice and have a look at what the Queensland government is doing in that regard.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I have a series of questions about the Cooroy to Curra section of the Bruce Highway. Just to put this into perspective, this is a piece of highway that is badly needed. It has been a long time coming, but it has been messed around by the prospects of the Traveston Crossing Dam. Can you update me on this?

Ms Goodspeed —The Australian government has committed $200 million to undertake the planning and design of the 65-kilometre stretch of the Cooroy-Curra section of the Bruce Highway. The Queensland government has undertaken a major planning study for the future upgrade. That final study was released in July 2008 after a large public consultation.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I understand Mr Garrett is very concerned about the Traveston Crossing Dam. Will he and his department be talking to your department or vice versa about not needing to spend the extra money to go around the proposed Traveston Crossing Dam?

Ms McNally —There have been discussions between the Queensland government on the issues surrounding the Traveston Dam. There have been discussions with us on the progress of the issues they are looking at. Certainly, as part of the $200 million for detailed planning and design, the issue about the Traveston Dam has been taken into account.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —So the roads are being designed on the understanding that the Traveston Crossing Dam will go ahead and then will require a re-routing of the Bruce Highway.

Ms McNally —That is right.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Is it convenient now to go back to Senator Bernardi and Infrastructure Australia? I am not saying we are finished with these people.

Senator Conroy —Thank you for your patience. We will bring Mr Deegan back to the table.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —But do not let these people go, will you?

Senator Conroy —No, do not leave town.

 [11.37 am]