House debates

Monday, 9 September 2019

Private Members' Business


6:37 pm

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes with concern the growing congestion in our major cities, which makes it harder for workers to commute and takes time away from people to enjoy with their families;

(2) recognises that governments at every level need to invest in congestion busting infrastructure to provide the best outcomes for their citizens; and

(3) commends the Government on committing additional funding across urban and regional Australia, in particular the additional $3 billion to the Urban Congestion Fund so that $4 billion is now available through the fund to target pinch points in major cities to further reduce congestion.

Photo of John McVeighJohn McVeigh (Groom, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Vince ConnellyVince Connelly (Stirling, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion.

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This motion is about noting the growing concern of congestion in our major cities, which makes it harder for workers to commute and takes time away from enjoyment with their families. It also seeks to recognise that governments at every level need to invest in congestion-busting infrastructure to provide the best outcomes for their citizens. Finally, it commends the government on committing to additional funding across urban and regional Australia—in particular, the additional $3 billion to the Urban Congestion Fund so that we can target the pinch points in major cities and further reduce congestion.

The Morrison government recognises the challenges of a growing Australia and, for me, the great state of Queensland, particularly the south-east. It's one of the regions across the country experiencing record residential and industrial development—in particular, the northern Gold Coast corridor in my electorate of Forde. In my discussions with local residents and business owners, it is clear that the transition from a largely rural community to, now, a high-density residential community is presenting challenges to infrastructure and services across the northern Gold Coast area. Included in these challenges is the growing congestion on the M1 Pacific Motorway, but also, increasingly, in the western part of my electorate, the area around Park Ridge and the developments at Yarrabilba and Flagstone impact on the Mount Lindesay Highway.

The government is addressing these challenges by continuing to deliver on our record $100 billion investment in infrastructure projects across Australia. The government has committed over $25 billion to fund land transport infrastructure in Queensland from 2013-14 to 2028-29. Of this we've already delivered more than $9 billion of projects in Queensland since coming to government and we'll invest a further $9.8 billion from 2019-20 to 2020-23. Importantly, we're getting on with the job of delivering these projects to the people of south-east Queensland. We are working to ensure that Queensland commuters and businesses benefit from this record investment in key projects across the state, but particularly in the south-east. Whether it is the recently completed Gateway Motorway upgrade and now the additional upgrade from Bracken Ridge to Pine River; the Brisbane Metro; the M1 Motorway upgrades, which I'm most pleased about, having fought hard for those since initially coming to this place in 2010; or the Ipswich Motorway upgrade from Rocklea to Darra.

All these projects are helping to make the Queensland transport network safer, more efficient and reliable. It is supporting thousands of jobs over the life of these upgrades. Importantly, it is not just about doing a single project but a pipeline of projects which, particularly in relation to the M1, I'm very pleased about because that allows the continuity of construction which helps mitigate some of the costs of that construction and means we get more bang for our buck.

As I've just touched on, the M1 Motorway upgrade is one of my key projects and we're actually delivering on that right now. We're working on stage 1, which is the Gateway to Springwood upgrade, southbound—that was $115 million investment. But, once our total package of $1.7 billion of upgrades to the M1 is completed, it will ensure the M1 is eight lanes from Nerang to the Gateway, which it should have been in the first place.

These upgrades include construction of additional lanes, lane widening and new managed motorway technology as well as upgrades to busways and active transport. These commitments will address congestion and improve safety and travel times along the corridor. The government has committed three projects in delivering this in the northern part of the M1 which directly impact my electorate of Forde. Firstly, the $115 million for the Gateway merge, which I've already mentioned; $375 million for the M1 Pacific Motorway Eight Mile Plains to Daisy Hill section; and a further $500 million for Daisy Hill to Logan Motorway. This will complete the stretch of the M1 through Logan which had largely been ignored by successive governments to date.

In addition, we've committed $50 million to upgrading exits 41 and 49 under our Urban Congestion Fund. Those particular exits service the areas of Ormeau, Pimpama and Yatala. In particular for Yatala, it relates to our business communities because these upgrades are essential to improving congestion for businesses in the Yatala enterprise area. We see, frequently, large queues, particularly in the morning, from the exits back onto the M1, which are incredibly dangerous.

It's through these projects and delivering this infrastructure that we're going to ensure that businesses and our community more generally are able to get home sooner and safer. It also means our businesses are more economically efficient—they can get to work quicker, they can get their goods to the port in a more timely manner—and that's incredibly important, particularly when we're looking at just on-time delivery for many goods now across the economy.

But, if we take real-life examples, Emily from Bahrs Scrub says her usual 10-minute commute can take up to an hour in traffic congestion on the M1; Queenslanders living in suburbs such as Ormeau, Pimpama and Upper Coomera are struggling to get their kids to school in the morning because of congestion on the M1 or on those exits I've mentioned; or Queensland businesses like Swagman Motorhomes who rely on the M1 to get their staff to and from work but also their product to market. These traffic improvements will make an enormous difference and remove that extra 10, 20 or 30 minutes sitting in traffic, which means that they can get home sooner or they can get on with doing business.

I make no apologies for the fact that we are focusing on busting this congestion. It is why we are investing some $4 billion to improve congestion in our major cities, through the Urban Congestion Fund, which includes an additional $3 billion in the 2019-20 budget. Of that $3 billion, more than $590 million is going to Queensland alone. These projects will help get commuters home sooner and safer by reducing travelling times, reducing vehicle operating costs and delivering a more reliable road network for commuters and our freight task. Importantly, it will reduce the cost of doing business.

This infrastructure plan continues to deliver for citizens right across my electorate of Forde. I recently visited the intersection of Darlington Drive and Pearsons Road. We've invested $3.3 million to upgrade that intersection to deal with the increased freight task through there as the Yatala Enterprise Area continues to grow. We have already invested some $16 million in safety upgrades on the Mount Lindesay Highway, together with another $30 million of additional funding for further upgrades which we are presently negotiating with the state government.

The government is committed to vital upgrades on local roads, including $1.4 million to upgrade the intersection of Jellicoe Street and Station Road at Loganlea, $5 million to upgrade the Beaudesert-Beenleigh Road, $11.5 million for the Chambers Flat Road upgrade between Park Ridge Road and Derby Road and $2.4 million to upgrade High Road and Easterly Street in Waterford, a major bottleneck around Canterbury College. And there are some exciting announcements to come with that too, which those road upgrades will facilitate. There is $1 million for the Williamson Road-Days Road intersection upgrade at Upper Coomera. Importantly, there is $45 million for additional car parking at Coomera, Loganlea and Beenleigh train stations. All of these upgrades are focused on getting people home sooner and safer and delivering on the much-needed infrastructure that we require.

Photo of John McVeighJohn McVeigh (Groom, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of John McVeighJohn McVeigh (Groom, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I call the member for Blair.

6:47 pm

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel) Share this | | Hansard source

If the Howard government's attitude to infrastructure—their failure to invest in infrastructure—could be characterised as ignorance then this government's attitude towards infrastructure can be characterised as inertia. The government has sat on its hands when it comes to important infrastructure projects. The Howard government and this government—one in opposition during the Rudd-Gillard years—campaigned and voted repeatedly against the upgrade of the Ipswich motorway from Dinmore to Darra. Again and again they voted against appropriations that provided funding for that particular road. Even now, in contrast to the comments made by the member for Forde, they've had to be dragged kicking and screaming, and following the Queensland government and the federal Labor opposition, and finally agreeing to upgrade the Darra to Rocklea section of the Ipswich Motorway.

In every budget since 2014 this government has not met its infrastructure spending allocation. In fact, over five budgets, they have spent $5 billion less on state transport projects. In fact, less than 30 per cent of the much-heralded $115 billion in infrastructure programs is budgeted over the next four years. So they will go to election campaigns and tell voters they are going to fund certain projects, and then in the forward estimates, in budget papers 1, 2, 3 and 4, they won't actually allocate any money. It's deceptive, and it's deceiving in relation to voters. It's an insult, to be honest with you. This government, when elected in 2013, cut all spending to new public transport projects like the Cross River Rail in south-east Queensland.

This government has failed monumentally and not listened to the experts. For example, Infrastructure Australia's third national audit confirmed that the cost of road congestion to our major cities will more than double by 2031, while the cost of public transport crowding will increase fivefold. We've seen the Reserve Bank governor call repeatedly for fast-tracking infrastructure investment and the government rejecting that. We've seen the HILDA survey findings that, over the last few years, the average weekly commute rose from 3.7 hours to 4.5 hours for residents in our major cities. So this government's attitude is to say one thing but do another or, in fact, not do anything as best it can and get away with as little spending as it possibly can.

The best example I've seen locally in my electorate of the government's failure to find a real plan to protect jobs, to curb rising congestion in our cities and to stimulate the economy was in their third term and on two roads that cross Ipswich and go out the sides—the Warrego Highway and the Cunningham Highway. For the Cunningham Highway, the road project needs upgrading between Yamanto and Ebenezer Creek, so Labor made a commitment at the last election to put $170 million in there. The government has budgeted money in there but has done nothing about negotiating and discussing it with the Queensland government to get that project done. There have been some discussions between the levels of government.

Commuters might live in Yamanto, Flinders View or Willowbank. I urge the Deputy Prime Minster to go to the Willowbank area group and hear what they say. There'll be 50 to 100 people there, urging him to meet with the Queensland government and urging the Queensland government to sit down with the federal government and sort out the agreed proportion to get that road project done. It's really critical.

This is a government that has ignored the fact that there is road project infrastructure that needs to be done outside the biggest military base in the country. In addition to that, they've put money in the budget for the Warrego Highway, but they've done nothing about the worst intersection on the Warrego Highway, the Mount Crosby interchange. If you live in Corunna Downs or Karalee or Tivoli or any part of northern Ipswich, you need this done. I urge this federal government—who boast and brag and pose and preen about infrastructure expenditure—to sit down with the Queensland government and negotiate better outcomes for the Warrego Highway and for the Cunningham Highway and to not let the people of Ipswich down.

6:52 pm

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What a disappointing speech from the member for Blair, with the apologies that he was trying to make on behalf of his state Labor colleagues. There were plenty of excuses why his state Labor colleagues in Queensland can't get on with the job, but in each of the examples he gave, or at least in most of them, did you notice how it was the federal government with money on the table for those infrastructure projects and yet here he was calling on us to hurry up negotiations with the state government? The federal government is the one with money on the table. You would think that the state Labor government would be falling over themselves to work with the federal government in order to get these projects done for local residents, but we don't see that as the case. He even managed to blame the delay of the Cross River Rail on the federal government. The last time I checked, it was a state project that Deputy Premier Trad said was fully funded by the state government. The only one delivering Cross River Rail, if that's the issue the member for Blair has, is the Treasurer of Queensland and the state Labor government.

It is important to tackle traffic congestion, and I completely agree with the member for Forde's motion. He gets it. He gets it in his local area, as I do in the Ryan electorate. It is the biggest issue for commuters and residents of the Ryan electorate, to tackle traffic congestion. It's not an end in itself, but it allows families to spend more time together. It allows them to jettison the frustrations of being stuck in traffic. It allows them to move freely around the area that they love living in and the community that they enjoy. Population growth will happen, particularly somewhere like the Ryan electorate, which is such a wonderful place to live. People love to live there. They want to move there. We want them to come. But we need to make sure that we tackle congestion in order to continue our lifestyle and our standard of living, which is why I'm so pleased that the Morrison government is investing over $100 billion in roads, rail and airports to ease congestion. They are investing $25 billion to improve Queensland highways, fix bottlenecks and build commuter carparks. In a city like Brisbane we have committed to a number of large and small projects. This government has contributed and put $300 million on the table for the Brisbane Metro project. This is a project that can revolutionise public transport in Brisbane.

The motion specifically talks about all levels of government contributing funding to tackle traffic congestion. But here we have another example of the Labor state government failing to support an infrastructure project. It doesn't require any funding from the state Labor government. Brisbane Metro is fully funded. It has $300 million on the table from the federal government and $700 million on the table from the Brisbane City Council. There have been over 200 meetings between the Brisbane City Council and the state Labor government, who just have to give it the tick and we will have a separated busway for the majority of the city and revolutionise public transport, and yet they can't even do that. The Treasurer, Treasurer Trad, has the time in her diary to buy houses on the Cross River Rail infrastructure area but doesn't have the time to give a tick-off to a project which is fully funded, by council and the federal government, that would revolutionise public transport usage in her own inner-city electorate.

In Ryan, through the $4 billion Urban Congestion Fund that the Morrison government has in place we're committed to removing some important traffic pinch points. It's as important to tackle the smaller local bottlenecks as well as the big projects. I heard and reflected on the Deputy Prime Minister's remarks in the chamber today about people being able to travel from the west of Toowoomba all the way through to the port without a single set of traffic lights. It is because of projects like the Legacy Way tunnel, which, again, are partly funded by the federal government and were initially committed to by the Howard government.

In Ryan, we have $25 million to tackle the Indooroopilly roundabout, working alongside the Brisbane City Council, who are committed to tackling congestion in our city. It is because of this federal funding that this project has been kickstarted after several years of design and land purchases. The $25 million on the table from the federal government has allowed this project to get moving, and public consultation is now open.

It was only last week that I was up there with Minister Tudge looking at the different design options and talking to local residents about them. I look forward to working with the Brisbane City Council to complete that project.

6:57 pm

Photo of Patrick GormanPatrick Gorman (Perth, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Right now in Western Australia it's just hit 5 pm. Thousands and thousands of Western Australians are sitting in cars along the Mitchell and Kwinana freeways and those other congestion points across the Perth metropolitan road network. As they sit bumper to bumper in my electorate, the member for Stirling's electorate and far too many other electorates, I would dare say that they would have some very harsh words for some of us in this place about some of the congestion challenges they continue to face.

Unfortunately, the picture that was painted by the Infrastructure Australia report Urban transport:crowding and congestion tells a story that only gets worse and worse. By 2031—that is, in less than 12 years—drivers will spend 60 per cent of their commute stuck in congested conditions. That's up from the current figure of 50 per cent in 2016. That's more time listening to AM radio—720 ABC or 6PR depending on whether you're a Jeff or an Ollie fan—rather than spending time with your family.

The latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey found that over the past decade the average commute rose from 3.7 hours to 4.5 hours—4.5 hours in commute! It's not good enough. We do need to invest more in congestion busting, as some would say, or just lifestyle enhancing, infrastructure.

Transport infrastructure naturally fascinates. My son is almost two. Our dear friends Nadia and Bianca very kindly got him his first set of toy cars, and, unfortunately, also some of his first branded toys, and now I've watched Cars, Cars 2 and Cars 3 more times than I dare to recall! One of our favourite songs is Wheels on the Bus go round and round. But right now, again in the Perth electorate, those wheels on the bus are not going round and round. They are stuck in a congested environment.

It wasn't that long ago—a few leaders back—that the current government was refusing to fund public transport infrastructure in Western Australia. I'm glad that they eventually saw sense and funded the Metronet project. With the Perth-Bayswater-Morley-Ellenbrook line, we will finally see new track laid in Western Australia as that project starts rolling out later this year in my electorate. It will be a serious new line serving the people of the inner north, inner east and all the way up to Ellenbrook.

The more you look into the infrastructure challenges we face, the sadder and sadder the numbers get. One in six Australians spends more than two hours going to and from work every day. That's two hours of lost productivity. Of the $100 billion transport infrastructure program that we are lectured about day in, day out in this place, less than 30 per cent is actually going to be built in the next four years. We've got the Reserve Bank governor crying out for more investment. We've got a plan with shovel-ready projects that can be brought forward, making sure that Western Australians and other Australians stay in work and, at the same time, making sure we leave that great legacy of infrastructure. The other thing I have learnt is that, sadly, the $100 billion program doesn't, in fact, add up to $100 billion. Maybe Senator Mathias Cormann did the counting on that one!

When you look at some of the contrasts between the government's approach and the approach of the Labor Party, it's clear that Labor is the party in Western Australia committed to public transport infrastructure. I grew up in Fremantle. It is well known by everyone who lives in Fremantle that it was the Liberal Party that closed the Fremantle rail line. It sat dormant for years and years. It took a Labor government to reopen it. It's only because of Labor governments that the big congestion-busting projects in Perth have gotten started. Indeed, it was the Leader of the Opposition who got the Gateway project started. I congratulate the current government on opening that project, but it only started because of the work of Anthony Albanese. I mentioned the Metronet project, a project that makes sure that people in my electorate can get to Ellenbrook and people in Morley and Noranda can get into the city, halving, if not cutting to one-third, their commute into the CBD.

There are many more things to do. The member for Stirling and I probably agree that Scarborough Beach Road would be a great place for a light rail down to Scarborough Beach. I'd love to see an inner city light rail. I'd love to see more investment in the National Broadband Network so that it can actually achieve the vision of making sure we have fewer people in cars and more people taking advantage of clever working opportunities.

7:02 pm

Photo of John AlexanderJohn Alexander (Bennelong, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to commend my friend the member for Forde for calling for this important debate. The first point 'notes with concern the growing congestion in our major cities'. It will surprise very few people to know that I share this concern. My electorate of Bennelong has been at the epicentre of growth in Sydney, and we've been suffering for it. Back in 2015, the state government announced three urban activation precincts across the top of Bennelong—in Epping, Macquarie Park and North Ryde. Together, they would generate 13,000 new dwellings. Additionally, the boom in housing prices up to 2017 incentivised more growth in apartments, with thousands more dwellings going up in Gladesville, in Carlingford and especially in Meadowbank. Melrose Park has just seen manufacturing plants being removed and replaced with plans for another 10,000 homes. If you haven't been to Bennelong since 2012, you wouldn't recognise it.

Some of these developments are better than others. The initial three precincts are all built on train lines which have just been upgraded into Sydney's first metro line. The ability for this train to whisk people from their homes to interchanges at Chatswood and Epping is incredible, and when the full line opens up to the Sydney CBD in coming years we will have a world-class piece of infrastructure that will make a huge difference to our community. The new apartments at Meadowbank are also next to a train station, as well as being served by Sydney's ferries. It would be optimistic to suggest that everybody in these new apartments would catch public transport, no matter how close or frequent the service, so there will always be more to be done here. However, there are other developments that have no public transport at all and are purely a source of traffic congestion.

The new complexes at Gladesville provide no source of transport beyond driving down the heavily congested Victoria Road, already one of the most notorious roads in Sydney and only getting worse with more cars. Even worse, the homes in Melrose Park will be dependent on the new light rail from Parramatta to Homebush Bay, or the ferry wharf if they want to avoid Victoria Road. This would be fine except the wharf is yet to be built and there are reports that the light rail line will not go ahead at the present time. This is the antithesis of the planning we should be doing.

Our development is not just a function of transport infrastructure. Our growing suburbs need infrastructure of all sorts: schools, hospitals, parks, sporting facilities—and tennis courts. When they first announced the developments in Epping, there was no provision for extra schools because everybody knows that people in two-bedroom apartments don't have kids! Sense has prevailed, and the Berejiklian government has been commended for building new schools. They are building in Bennelong, where there is so much catching up to be done.

But back to congestion: Bennelong has five of the busiest roads in New South Wales, and, with many of them travelling through these previously mentioned growth suburbs, they are only getting to be more congested. We urgently need funds to retrofit solutions into our bulging suburbs, and the Urban Congestion Fund is one such mechanism for this. My electorate has been fortunate to get $3 million in this, to remove the bottleneck at Balaclava and Blaxland Road in Eastwood, which I was delighted to be able to announce with the minister for urban infrastructure, Alan Tudge. This is an excellent project, and I hope that we'll be able to get more projects like this approved locally.

That said, while this is a fantastic fund, it is essentially a bandaid. It will have a great effect in fixing some specific small-scale issues and bottlenecks, but what our cities need is planning. Our cities have never been master planned, nor has our settlement at large, and we can see the flaws that this has created every day. We need a plan of settlement, one that prioritises decentralisation facilitated by rapid transport options to our regions. Sydney and Melbourne are going to grow by millions in the next decades. These new residents won't find space in our existing suburbs. We need to incentivise movement to our nearby regions with transport that can initially make the commute easier and eventually be the conduit for business to these new centres gain economic independence of their own. Congestion is a real curse, but fixing this crisis presents us with the opportunity to improve the quality of life and our productivity.

7:07 pm

Photo of Zali SteggallZali Steggall (Warringah, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak on one of the biggest burdens to Australia's productivity, economic growth and community wellbeing: road congestion. It's a wicked problem with no easy solution and, despite record investment, shows no sign of lessening.

Congestion is well known in Warringah. The northern beaches community satisfaction survey, 2019, shows that traffic management is an issue in the region. In fact, satisfaction in Warringah is 10 per cent below the New South Wales metro average. People from back home, who will be watching this speech, know the dread of crawling up Spit Hill, edging along Warringah Road on the way to work in Chatswood, or being stuck behind a noisy truck on the weekends, battling your way through the Saturday morning traffic. This is not just a work commute problem; it is a problem seven days a week.

These roads are some of the most congested in Australia. According to the recent Infrastructure Australia audit, Narraweena to Chatswood via Warringa Road is the third most congested road in Australia. The congestion on this road between 7 am and 9 am causes 26 minutes of delay per vehicle and is projected to grow to 30 minutes by 2031. This time and money could be better spent being productive with family, writing proposals or going for a surf on the weekends. The cost to the greater economy is enormous. Just one corridor, the northern beaches to north Sydney corridor, which is 60 per cent based in Warringah and 40 per cent in Mackellar, costs the Australian economy up to $160,000 per day in lost productivity. This is expected to rise to $200,000 by 2031. That would be $73 million of lost productivity per year.

There have been some efforts to improve congestion along these roads. The state government has shown great initiative, responding to the call of the residents by implementing a B-Line from the beaches to the city. This line has been a victim of its own success though. This line has quickly reached capacity and will require further investment.

The state government has also responded to over two decades of calls and committed to building a new tunnel connecting the Northern Beaches to the city, which will reduce pressure on Spit Road and Military Road. I look forward to the release of the project's environmental impact statement and working with the state government to get the best outcome for Warringah. The tunnel must be futureproofed and done right, minimising health impacts on surrounding residents, especially schoolchildren. But the tunnel is at least six to eight years away. We do need investment and solutions today.

That leaves the dreaded Dee Why to Chatswood corridor. A solution is on the table but it should be fast-tracked. I urge the New South Wales government to build on the success of the B-Line and implement a similar bus rapid transit service as soon as possible from Dee Why, Frenchs Forest and Chatswood. The 136 that services that route is insufficient. It is simply too slow and has too many stops. The estimated cost of the Dee Why to Chatswood service would be about $7 million less, plus fares revenue per year.

I call on the federal government to play an active role and help fund this initiative from the Urban Congestion Fund. The bus line would service Warringah, Mackellar, Bradfield and Bennelong and be a huge boon to thousands of constituents in those areas, so I also call on the members for Mackellar, Bradfield and Bennelong, as government members, to make this happen.

Finally, we cannot talk about solutions to transport and congestion without addressing the consequences to our environment and air quality that come from our road congestion. Transport represents 18.8 per cent of our carbon emissions, and this is growing. We need a plan to move to clean transport options, with investment in electric vehicles and raising our fuel quality standards and vehicle emissions standards.

7:11 pm

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Urban congestion is a major issue in Australian cities. Sydney, where the Berowra electorate is located, is no different. That's why I'm very pleased to be part of a government that has a $100 billion infrastructure plan that will cut commute times and give Australians more time with their families, improve road safety and improve travel times between our cities and regions. My electorate of Berowra is benefiting from these investments, and they are extremely important. The federal government's $412.3 million investment in NorthConnex is a game changer for Australia's worst road—Pennant Hills Road, which runs right through the electorate. Pennant Hills Road carries about 80,000 vehicles each and every day. I listen to the traffic from those vehicles all day at my office. At night I can hear the trucks changing gear as they race down the road. There is never a moment when there is not the sound of a truck braking or a horn beeping. Peak hour lasts from dawn until night-time.

Congestion robs people of time with their families, causing a loss of productivity for people unable to get to work smoothly. Hundreds of thousands of lost hours are wasted on that road every single week. In traffic on a Friday night a 6½ kilometre journey from Pennant Hills to Hornsby can take over an hour. For too long local residents have been coping with this blight on their landscape and the serious inconvenience to their daily lives. NorthConnex is going to transform our community by taking 5,000 trucks off Pennant Hills Road every single day. It will reduce travel times for motorists and return a critical road in my electorate to the local community, allowing us to reclaim it for our shopping trips and school drop-off runs. The project is well on its way to being finished, with 85 per cent of the paving completed and the lining of the tunnel having reached completion. NorthConnex is set to open to motorists by the end of next year.

NorthConnex is just one of the projects that we're undertaking in Berowra to address congestion. With NorthConnex coming online at the end of next year, New Line Road will inherit the mantle of the worst road in my electorate. New Line Road is the main link road between Pennant Hills, Cherrybrook and Dural. It's the main service road for communities even further north and west—from Galston, Arcadia, Glenorie, Kenthurst, Annangrove, Maroota and Wisemans Ferry. Despite the level of traffic it takes, much of New Line Road is only a single-lane road each way, causing major bottlenecks. This is going to get worse as developments outside my electorate put more traffic onto the road. The 18 kilometres from Arcadia to Pennant Hills can take over an hour in the morning. One accident or a slow truck completely blocks the road. It continues to be a massive headache for families in my area. Recent developments in the semirural areas have increased traffic volumes, causing major congestion issues at peak hour, particularly around school drop-off and pick-up times.

New Line Road is a state road, but when I first ran for election in 2016 I pledged to do what I could to ensure that New Line Road would be widened. I have worked with state colleagues and my colleagues here in the federal parliament, particularly Minister Fletcher and Minister Tudge, to see that the problems with this road are addressed. The Morrison government is the first to inject government funds into New Line Road to get it shovel ready for improvements. To plan improvements to the road, $10 million was committed as part of the budget to get it ready for state government investment. With the developments fully scoped, the New South Wales government will be able to get going with making this overdue improvement. I'll keep campaigning for the important widening of this vital road.

The investment the government is making in infrastructure is absolutely vital to keeping our communities moving and improving our productivity as a nation. Those investments are significant in Berowra, but they're also significant for the entire nation. Our neighbours in Western Sydney will see billions invested to enable smooth transport in that growing part of our city. Investments in road and rail will ensure that the region is ready for the 2026 opening of the new Nancy-Bird Walton airport, a major development for all of Sydney and a project that has been discussed but not achieved for far too long. Another $9.3 billion is being invested in Inland Rail between Melbourne and Brisbane to complete the spine of the national freight network. Goods will be able to travel between Melbourne and Brisbane in under 24 hours, meaning greater efficiency for Australia's businesses. We're scoping fast rail for commuter corridors between major cities, like the Sydney to Wollongong corridor and a fast rail from Geelong to Melbourne. They will enable important train journeys for those commuters.

To address major bottlenecks in cities across the country that are robbing people of their time every week, $4 billion is being invested in the Urban Congestion Fund. The responsible and stable economic management of the Morrison government is what makes it possible for us to continue these investments that will benefit our electorates and the whole country for years to come. I commend the government on its proactive approach to infrastructure.

7:17 pm

Photo of Meryl SwansonMeryl Swanson (Paterson, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Maitland is at the heart of my electorate—and I'll just take a moment to acknowledge the member for Warringah, who has a long family history in the beautiful city of Maitland. It is undergoing a population boom. My father used to say that the dark, rich alluvial soil of Maitland could grow babies. Well, indeed, I think it is. In fact, I know it is growing babies! You don't need to drive more than a kilometre or two out of the city of Maitland to see brand-new houses and estates or billboards promoting another house-and-land package. At the last count, our fair city of Maitland and its LGA is growing at one family per day. That's an incredible growth rate for a city like Maitland.

With this population growth has come more cars on the road, and the congestion has become unbearable for the people of Maitland and surrounding areas. There are roundabouts that should be traffic lights, and two lanes where there should have been four. There's an overpass that should've been built in two directions that only went one way under a Liberal state government a number of years ago. There are people who feel completely frustrated that our regional city has grown so quickly but the infrastructure spend has not met that growth rate. Once quiet roads have become super busy. Main Road, Heddon Greta—it can now take people ages to get out there, and sometimes it's not safe when they're trying to make a right turn to go to Maitland. It really is a substandard situation. And while members of the government stand here today congratulating themselves on projects they've completed in the city, I urge them to come to regional areas like Maitland in my seat of Paterson. They've failed these regional areas. They haven't appropriately funded projects that are most definitely overdue.

This year's budget had a headline figure of $1.6 billion for the M1 which needs to be built in my seat. It's the bypass of Raymond Terrace, from Black Hill to Raymond Terrace. Planning for that project began 15 years ago, and we've still not seen any meaningful work to get it done. In this case, the New South Wales government has committed to its share of the funding to get the project ready for construction. Forward estimates, however, reveal that just four per cent of federal funding will be made available in the next five years. The majority of the $1.6 billion committed won't be spent until 2023. This was the only election commitment made by the government in Paterson at the last election, and it is absolutely vital that this piece of infrastructure be built.

Another one: Labor announced in 2016, when I stood to be the member for Paterson, that we would raise the road at Testers Hollow. Thankfully, the government at that time matched the commitment. Plans have just been released. The road has been lifted but it hasn't been widened. In this growth region we've seen many developers build housing estates and they have been required to put in dual-lane access on the road, but Testers Hollow is only the same one-lane-each-way road. Seriously, we need to be thinking about making that a dual-lane road. The project is on track, but we do need to consider the congestion in that area.

Main Road, Heddon Greta, is another case in point. It's become a bit of a battleground. Increased demand on the Hunter Expressway has created pressure on this feeder road, and that's put so much pressure on the residence at Heddon Greta. Traffic on this road has increased by at least 5,000 cars per day. Five thousand cars per day in a small regional village is an extraordinary growth rate for anywhere. It has also been averaging between 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles using this road every day. The state and federal governments have ignored Main Road at Heddon Greta. They need to do something about it. In fact, there's a near miss nearly every day.

Also, we desperately need our airport to be upgraded to give us long-range reach into the Asian region. This could deliver over 4,410 jobs and deliver $12.7 billion into our regional economy. There are so many terrific infrastructure and congestion-busting projects in the regions. This government just needs to start funding them.

Photo of John McVeighJohn McVeigh (Groom, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.