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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1919

Mr SNOWDON (Lingiari) (10:48): Today is a very important day for south-east Arnhem Land as we see the official opening of two high-level bridges over the Roper and Wilton Rivers. These are important. I announced these projects in August 2012 at Roper Bar. The funding was a commitment to regional roads by the previous Labor government.

The Roper Highway project was identified as one of six regional roads to receive funding from a $90 million Regional Roads Productivity Package, so when these roads are ultimately opened, they will express a significant investment in the roads of the Northern Territory and in the communities it will benefit substantially as a result of this investment, principally Ngukurr and also Numbulwar to the north-east of Ngukurr. What we want to see next are bridge and road upgrades between Ngukurr and Numbulwar, which will mean those two large communities—in excess of 1,000 people—will have close to all-weather access all year. That's vitally important.

Among people who don't know the Northern Territory or northern Australia, for that matter—and that includes most people in this place, unfortunately—I don't think there's a real understanding of the need for the development of infrastructure like roads and bridges in the north of Australia and how important they are to these communities. We know that funding has been made available for beef roads in the Northern Territory. During question time recently I asked the then Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, a question about funding of $80 million allocated to the beef roads program, less of which has actually been invested in upgrading the roads for the cattle industry. I asked what has happened to that money. I got no answer because there is no answer. The difficulty we have now is that we have a former Deputy Prime Minister and we have a new Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. I wish him well in his new role, but I do want to make sure that we get these funds expended for the use and purpose for which they were made available—that is, for the beef roads in the Northern Territory and northern Australia generally. By the way: at the time of the announcement of the beef road funding allocations during the last election, $30 million—$30 million only—was allocated by the Turnbull-Joyce Liberal-Nationals government to the Northern Territory. That's a pittance. It will go no way to meeting the real demands of road infrastructure for the beef roads, let alone the broader infrastructure needs for community roads across the north.