House debates

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Constituency Statements

Lyne Electorate: Roads and Timber Bridges

10:16 am

Photo of Robert OakeshottRobert Oakeshott (Lyne, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to talk about local roads and timber bridges in the electorate of Lyne, an ongoing issue of concern. On 7 September last year an agreement was reached to provide a stable minority government for Australia until the next election. A key part of agreements reached was around roads and timber bridge funding. The first in regard to the electorate of Lyne is the perennial issue of the Pacific Highway, with a billion dollars of federal funding brought forward in the May budget. If and when matched by the New South Wales government in their first budget in September, we as a community will be on track for a 2016 upgrade completion. National funding of vital national infrastructure does make sense in every way.

The second is the $12.7 million secured for various roads and bridges in the Manning Valley, and the third is the $17.6 million that was secured to upgrade Bucketts Way between Gloucester and Taree. As all members are, I am certainly determined to get a fair share for my electorate. I have had visitors to the area break their drive along the Pacific Highway to visit my electorate office just to tell me how bad local roads are, and I can only concur. Report cards from Engineers Australia back up this assessment.

To be frank and honest, I think it is absurd that fixing a timber bridge on a council road was a key element in determining who governed Australia. Something is wrong when the Prime Minister of this country is helping to set road maintenance budgets for Greater Taree City Council or any council. I certainly stand by the result, but I despair of a funding model that makes beggars one and all of local members of parliament. Vertical fiscal imbalance is alive and well in Australia today and is, in my view, best exemplified by funding inequality in regard to timber bridges and local roads.

Yet, as always, there is hope. Over five years we have had the Productivity Commission, the Henry tax review and the COAG road reform plan all sketching out a new approach to pricing and funding road use. Ken Henry was born in the Manning and I hope Manning roads are certainly better now than when he was a boy. That tax review said that fuel taxes and registration charges by themselves cannot adequately price or fund road use. Instead it recommended pricing that takes proper account of the mass, distance and routes of heavy vehicles, pricing that correlates with road congestion and road damage. Better pricing and funding promises substantial productivity improvements to be realised and shared as general economic gains and specific road improvements.

These are important considerations for the future of Australia and addressing this problem of vertical fiscal imbalance. I hope the experience of other members of parliament in chasing road funding will make this a priority issue and we do get this important issue resolved sometime soon. (Time expired)