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Monday, 24 March 2014
Page: 2741

Mr RUDDOCK (BerowraChief Government Whip) (10:13): This is one of the most pleasurable opportunities for me as a member of the House of Representatives, to move a motion commending the government for fulfilling a promise it took to the people at the last federal election with the announcement of the $3 billion plan for the M1-M2 link, to be named NorthConnex. I move:

That this House:

(1) commends the Government for fulfilling the promise it took to the people at the last federal election with the announcement of the $3 billion M1-M2 Link, ‘NorthConnex’;

(2) notes that:

(a) investment in infrastructure is a crucial component for economic growth; and

(b) the Government:

   (i) is delivering on its commitment to build the M1-M2 Link; and

   (ii) gives credit to the New South Wales Government and Transurban for their role in this development; and

(3) recognises:

(a) that the M1-M2 Link is a greatly needed piece of infrastructure and is the missing link in Sydney’s transport system;

(b) the benefits that the link will provide in reducing travel time, traffic congestion and pollution, and providing safer roads; and

(c) that this infrastructure will not only benefit the people of North-West Sydney and the central coast, but will have a flow on effect to all areas of Sydney.

This motion notes that investment in infrastructure is a crucial component to economic growth, that the government is delivering on its commitment to build the M1-M2 link and gives credit to the New South Wales government and Transurban for their role in this development. It recognises that this is important and greatly-needed infrastructure that provides benefits in reducing travel times, traffic congestion and pollution and provides for safer roads. This infrastructure will not only benefit the people of North-West Sydney and the Central Coast but will allow a flow-on effect to all areas of Sydney.

Isn't it a great day when you can move a motion commending major infrastructure of this type that will be delivered in the next five years or so? I have been waiting for a long time to be able to comment in this positive way. I note that on 27 May last year I was still complaining in this House about the lack of action in relation to addressing Pennant Hills Road, as I know it. When I first moved to Pennant Hills Road 50 or 60 years ago or more, there were a mere two lanes running through Pennant Hills in each direction. It was still the only major way of reaching the Central Coast and north of Sydney, but the amount of traffic that was carried required little more. But over the years we have seen a growth in traffic. We have seen a major piece of infrastructure required that should have been built years ago, yet it has been left.

I always suspected that one of the reasons it was left may have been that the area supported me and my predecessors so strongly that governments, maybe, felt they did not need to put money into this development. It may be that they saw the national interest. It may be that, as with the Labor Party when they started to focus on this, it was relevant to marginal seats on the Central Coast. But, whatever it is, this is a very significant and important development. It affects my electorate, which carries the burden of this piece of infrastructure. It affects electorates surrounding me: Mitchell, Bradfield, Dobell and Robertson. I notice the member for Reid here. His constituents who travel north would be very much affected by the lack of opportunity to be able to move other than on a congested highway where they have to traverse numerous traffic lights and are frequently held up by trucks breaking down or involved in major accidents.

The problem is that this has been the missing link in infrastructure in our great city of Sydney. I often used to speak on this, and I look at the speech that I gave back in May last year. I would talk about the way in which roads cross Sydney north to south and south to north. The M7 freeway, the Cumberland Highway, Woodville Road and Silverwater Road—each of these major pieces of infrastructure—joined at one place: the junction of the M2 and Pennant Hills Road at West Pennant Hills. Then there were the mere three lanes in each direction on Pennant Hills Road that everybody would have to traverse. There is no other route. There was only this route. To address it was a major missing link in the critical infrastructure for Sydney and, so far as I am concerned, unless this were addressed Sydney was going to be a major block to trade between Melbourne and Brisbane. It is the only real thoroughfare for vehicles to be able to traverse this passage through Sydney.

While the Labor Party were in office—I forget for how long, but decades in the New South Wales government and another 11½ years or so in which they were in office federally—I always lamented that nobody was prepared to turn their mind to this issue. When the Labor Party came into office in 2007, I thought when they wanted to spend money on critical infrastructure that they might have wanted to do something about Pennant Hills Road. If the plans had been developed and were ready, they might have been able to do so, but nobody had seen fit to do any of the engineering or design work or, essentially, to settle on what might need to be done. Instead of expending money on pink batts and the like, we could have had critical infrastructure pursued if the Labor Party had been ready.

The only time I heard the Labor Party talk about Pennant Hills Road was when the former minister, Mr Albanese, identified it as possibly relevant to the Central Coast seats. So, before an election they were about to lose they suddenly discovered that there might be a need to do something about Pennant Hills Road. I must say that the Howard government, back in 2007, made a commitment to a $1.5 billion investment to address this problem. It was not unknown to the Howard government that this is something that needed to be addressed. For my part I was particularly pleased that in August last year, under Tony Abbott as leader, the coalition committed to this missing link and is now delivering on it. We have a situation where the coalition government, the New South Wales government and Transurban, who have identified this as a major shortfall in the infrastructure in New South Wales, have committed to a joint public-private partnership to build this long-awaited link. It was an important matter for me when the Prime Minister announced in the last few weeks that construction would begin within at least 12 months, and possibly this year.

This proposal means there will be a tunnel that could take something like 5,000 trucks a day off Pennant Hills Road. It will reduce the travel time for travellers on that road by something in the order of 15 minutes. It will cut out something like 21 sets of traffic lights on Pennant Hills Road. The building of the tunnel on this link will mean that people can drive from Newcastle to Melbourne without a traffic light. It will make travelling on Pennant Hills Road much safer for my constituents. We have had numerous accidents on this road that have been life threatening. The tunnel will be good for the environment as there will be fewer cars and less pollution, because the cars will be able to travel much more quickly. I am pleased that the proposal is for three lanes. While it initially will not be used in that way—one of them will be a breakdown lane—the way in which it can be expanded in the future is particularly important.

I want to thank our Prime Minister, Minister Warren Truss, Barry O'Farrell and my colleagues who represent seats in and around this area for their support in ensuring that this important development is going to be able to proceed. For those who have been suffering for so long this is a worthwhile advance, a very significant improvement in the amenity of north-west Sydney, and I am delighted that it is going to be delivered by coalition governments in New South Wales and Canberra.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?

Mr Laundy: I second the motion.

Debate interrupted.