House debates

Monday, 24 February 2020


Roads to Recovery Program

11:32 am

Photo of Rick WilsonRick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes:

(a) that from 2013-14 to 2023-24, the Government will provide a record $6.2 billion under the Roads to Recovery Program, with an ongoing commitment of $500 million each year following; and

(b) the significant benefits to the 128 Local Government Areas which will receive an additional $138.9 million in Roads to Recovery drought support funding; and

(2) recognises the real and meaningful difference Roads to Recovery is making to communities right across the country.

I rise to speak today on the Roads to Recovery Program. As the member for O'Connor, my electorate covers around 886,000 square kilometres. It's great to see the member for Durack here, who represents the other two-thirds of Western Australia. Between us, we represent around one-third of the Australian continental land mass, and of course that encompasses a massive road network, much of which is maintained and built by our local governments. I have 38 local governments in my electorate. I know the member for Durack has some 40-odd local governments. The Roads to Recovery Program, which will deliver $6.2 billion from 2013-14 to 2023-24, is much loved by those local governments. It's untied funding direct from the Commonwealth to those local governments so that they can pursue road projects that make a difference within their local road networks.

Mr Deputy Speaker Llew O'Brien, I know that you're very passionate about road safety, as am I and as is the member for Durack. With our massive road networks, we have a disproportionate number of fatalities on the country roads in our electorates. Tragically, around my home town of Katanning, a town of only 4,000 people, in a seven-day period in January we had three fatalities. These rocked the community and left us wondering what more we could do. And while I don't know the exact reasons for those accidents, obviously roads always play a part in road fatalities.

It's with great pleasure today that I also commend the government for committing another $124 million to the Roads to Recovery Program for those drought affected shires. Unfortunately, that hasn't been extended, Member for Durack, to Western Australia, but we can work on the Deputy Prime Minister for that. But certainly, amongst those drought affected shires on the east coast, there is another $128.9 million—I think that's the exact number—that has been committed to the Roads to Recovery Program, which will allow those local government authorities to get stuck in and do some road works, and get their crews and the local contractors working at a time when there's significant downturn in their local economies.

The Roads to Recovery Program complements many other very important road safety and road funding programs that the Commonwealth government is funding. The Bridges Renewal Program is particularly important, once again, for our local government authorities, who may have many bridges across their shires and a small rate base, and struggle to find the funds to upgrade and maintain those bridge networks. So the Bridges Renewal Program is very important.

The road Black Spot Program—Minister Buchholz very kindly appointed me as chair of the WA road black spot committee—the other day committed $13 million to road black spots across WA. But, importantly, 40 per cent of that money went to projects in regional Western Australia to make sure that, where danger spots have been identified, they are worked on and upgraded to improve our safety.

The Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, which is about providing adequate and appropriate pull-over space for particularly heavy road haulage drivers. They need to have their mandated breaks and they need to be able to do that in the right sorts of facilities. That project has invested in several very large projects across my electorate, which is much appreciated.

One last project that the Deputy Prime Minister was in Western Australia talking about only last week was the Roads of Strategic Importance. There's $70 million that the Commonwealth government has invested in this program. It's about our grain freight network through the central and southern Wheatbelt that crosses both my electorate and the member for Durack's electorate, and also runs into the member for Pearce's electorate, and upgrading those roads. We've got a lot of heavy vehicles, multicombinations and, sometimes, up to three trailers operating on roads that are built and maintained by the local governments. These are roads that are outside the main roads network, and they need support to maintain and upgrade those roads.

I commend the Deputy Prime Minister and the committee that put together that program. I also commend the Roads to Recovery Program to the House.

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is there a seconder for the motion?

11:38 am

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion. The Roads to Recovery Program is very important for our nation. There have been significant benefits for local government areas around the country, and this motion is a good one. I commend the member for O'Connor for putting it forward. It does recognise the real and meaningful difference the Roads to Recovery Program is making in communities right across our nation, including in my electorate of Solomon and including in my friend the member for Lingiari's electorate, which, like the member for Durack's electorate, is a big bit of dirt.

Roads are incredibly important for the economy and for us to be able to harness the massive potential of rural and regional Australia, particularly in the Territory. I'll just quickly go to my electorate. The city of Darwin, in this financial year, received $862,000 from the program, and the city of Palmerston received $411,000 from the program, with more to come in the next couple of years. There are many local government areas in the member for Lingiari's electorate that are receiving much-needed funding. Dirt roads in particular, if they're invested in, are a boon for our mango industry—that's one example—our beef industry as well as agriculture across the board and increasingly aquaculture. What congests our roads is a bit different to the big cities. Miles and miles of corrugated roads rattle the trucks that get our produce to market. So that is an expense to the farmers and, in the case of mangoes, it bruises the fruit, so any funding for those main roads in the Territory is always going to be welcome.

Roads opened up large parts of the Northern Territory to the cattle industry about 60 years ago—and this is really nation-building stuff—opening up vast areas of bush. This created a very important industry not only for the Northern Territory but for our nation that we continue to develop. Road development is an enabler of economic growth, improves productivity and unlocks the economic potential I mentioned. It enables us to access land which is in the best interests of not only industry but in our case in the Northern Territory regional communities such as those that First Nations people inhabit. Roads to Recovery is an important program, and that is why I've seconded this motion.

I also want to call on the government to do more to fund roads in the Northern Territory and around the country with a view to the merit of those programs. We've seen recently some grant funding delivered by the current federal government that to any reasonable person would be seen as being based more on politics than merit. So I want to caution the government: people in regional Australia are keeping an eye on things like the road congestion funding. A lot of urban Labor seats missed out on this congestion-busting funding to fix up our roads and improve efficiencies while some rural regional seats received this funding, like Corangamite, for example. Now, I've got nothing against the people in Corangamite, but there are rural roads around this country that also need funding so it would be much better if the federal government put the needs of our nation first when it comes to using grant funding such as the road congestion funding, rather than their own political interests. I hope that can happen. I support the Roads to Recovery program, and I thank the House.

11:43 am

Photo of Fiona MartinFiona Martin (Reid, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the motion put forward by the member for O'Connor and to commend the work of the Morrison government in conjunction with local councils in providing funding for the repair and improvement of local roads in my community and to improve safety on our roads.

From this financial year, $500 million will be released to councils under the $2.2 billion Local and State Government Road Safety Package announced in the budget. This is up by $100 billion from previous years. In fact over 10 years from 2013 to 2023, the government will provide $6.2 billion to councils as parts of the Roads to Recovery program.

I want to provide an update to the House about local projects which have been funded under the Roads to Recovery program and delivered in my electorate of Reid—these are just some of the 25,000 projects nationally that have been supported under Roads to Recovery. In the City of Canada Bay, on First Avenue, Five Dock, repairs have been carried out to the roundabout at Ingham Avenue. Resurfacing has been carried out as well as new line markings painted to replace sections of road that had sunken due to age. The Morrison government provided over $127,000 towards this project. Also in Five Dock, resurfacing works have been undertaken in Lavender Street to repair worn-out asphalt, with $97,000 provided by the federal government. In Chiswick, Blackwall Point Road has been stabilised and repaired after significant cracks appeared. I'm pleased that the Morrison government was able to contribute $232,000 towards this work. In Mortlake, Hilly Road has been impacted by constant water flow over the road surface, and the federal government supplied $100,000 towards new guttering work, a pram ramp and resurfacing to address this issue. At Concord, a $50,000 contribution from the Morrison government allowed improvements to traffic flow at the intersection of Correys Avenue and Majors Bay Road, including a bike lane marking and improved parking, which will greatly benefit businesses. Over in the Inner West Council, the installation of a speed hump on Croydon Road in Croydon and the construction of a kerb, guttering and tram ramps will improve pedestrian safety near the intersection with Parramatta Road. The federal government has provided $70,000 towards this project.

In my electorate of Reid, congestion is one of the No. 1 local issues for residents right across the area. As the density of the area grows, it becomes more and more important to maintain suburban streets, particularly if they are used as shortcuts by locals to access the main roads during peak hour. The projects funded under Roads to Recovery complement funding delivered for other road infrastructure in my electorate, including the Black Spot Program, which has funded safety improvements to roads such as Woodside Avenue in Strathfield.

Major road infrastructure has also been delivered in Reid. The first stage of WestConnex opened shortly after the election. The tunnels from Ashfield to Concord are already diverting traffic away from Parramatta Road, easing congestion across suburbs like Five Dock, Croydon, Burwood and Homebush. Shortly we will also see progress on the $50 million upgrades to Homebush Bay Drive and the Australia Avenue roundabout, which will come as a huge relief to residents of the Sydney Olympic Park, Wentworth Point, Newington and Homebush.

The benefits of the Roads to Recovery Program are even more significant this year, with extra funds released to be directed to drought affected council areas. In November the Morrison government announced an additional $138 million would be distributed into these drought affected communities, repairing roads, providing jobs and stimulating the economy. The projects I outlined today are just a handful of the many projects funded under Roads to Recovery, the Black Spot Program and the Urban Congestion Fund in my electorate, which are making our roads safer and getting our communities home sooner to be with their families.

11:48 am

Photo of Anne StanleyAnne Stanley (Werriwa, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Almost 80 per cent of the nation's roads are administered by their local governments. The federal government's Roads to Recovery Program has been in place through successive governments since 2001. It's an important program that supports local government with the upkeep and maintenance of those local roads. Any increase to that program, which assists with making these roads and by extension our community safer, is very welcome. However, look at the numbers and listen to the experts before making assumptions that the government is doing enough.

Analysis by the NRMA of local councils' financial statements shows that in 2016-17 local road infrastructure backlog in New South Wales alone increased by $2.2 billion. Clearly neither the current funding for the Roads to Recovery Program nor the recently announced increase for drought affected communities will adequately address this backlog. The shortfall is getting bigger and now runs into the billions of dollars. The NRMA has proposed an increase of $180 million to both Roads to Recovery and the financial assistance grant programs to address this shortfall, but that's just in New South Wales. Nationally the Australian Local Government Association, the peak body for local government, has called for Roads to Recovery to be increased by $800 million per annum.

This is not merely an argument about numbers in an accountant's spreadsheet. Sadly, the consequences of the government's failure to address this backlog has tragic and real-world consequences. According to that same NRMA analysis cited above, over the period 2013-17, the regional and local roads network accounted for 68.9 per cent of all fatalities and 77.6 per cent of all injuries. According to that same NRMA analysis cited above:

Over the period 2013-17, the regional and local roads network accounted for 68.9 per cent of all fatalities and 77.6 per cent of all injuries …

The impact on the New South Wales economy was a staggering $3.9 billion. Unfortunately, it's those regional communities suffering under drought and bushfire that carry the majority of that burden—close to two-thirds of that cost, or $2.6 billion. If this government had the ability and the will to undertake genuine, long-term, real leadership, it would realise that the cost of addressing this backlog is far less than the economic and human cost of death and injury on dangerous roads.

Unfortunately, this funding deficit is not just a regional or rural one. Werriwa is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country. Suburbs that were full of semirural market gardens a few years ago are now densely populated by housing estates and Western Sydney Airport development. Due to the way the New South Wales government has tied the hands of local councils, many of the major roads into and out of these new population centres remain unsealed and riddled with potholes. These roads are incapable of handling the increased amount of traffic the growth has brought, yet the state government stubbornly refuses to act. It's more interested in shifting the costs to local councils and shovelling profits to toll operators.

The New South Wales state government could allow local councils more flexibility and scope by allowing them to determine when and how developer contributions are spent. The government could also step up and accept responsibility and reclassify these once local roads as state roads, given the extra traffic that now uses them. Instead, residents in growing suburbs of my electorate such as Middleton Grange, West Hoxton and Horningsea Park are subject to grinding traffic congestion every morning and afternoon just to get in and out of their suburbs. This lack of action from state and federal Liberal governments means critical projects remain unfunded and incomplete. These include congestion-busting initiatives such as the Middleton Drive extension in Middleton Grange, the completion of Buchan Avenue in Edmondson Park, and the upgrade of Cambridge Avenue at Glenfield. Transport and infrastructure projects that could get cars and trucks off the road—such as the South West Rail Link extension, the Fifteenth Avenue Smart Transit corridor and a fuel line to the Western Sydney Airport—sit on the to-do list, consigned, it seems, to the never-never.

I'd also like to mention the rort that is the Urban Congestion Fund. In New South Wales, coalition seats and some marginal seats received 70 per cent of the $541 million allocated across New South Wales. In Sydney, the coalition targeted the then Labor seat of Lindsay, which shares a border with my electorate, with promises of over $818 million. In Werriwa, however, we got nothing—and we're the ones hosting the airport.

We all need to recognise and acknowledge the tragic impact of the drought on regional and rural communities. However, we don't need to wait for drought, bushfires, flood or any other natural disaster for state and federal governments to do the job they were elected to do.

11:53 am

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the motion by the member for O'Connor, which recognises that $6.2 billion was committed to and is being spent on the Roads to Recovery program through the current funding cycle.

There are 27 councils in the electorate of Grey, and then there are a number of other bodies that take care of rural roads as well, including the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure in South Australia, and on the APY Lands there's another body which looks after these funding responsibilities. I'm going to run through some of those councils that have benefited through this current funding cycle. On the APY Lands, for instance—and it's worth remembering that we're spending $110 million on a main access road into the lands—there's been almost a million dollars spent on sealing the streets out there in the small communities. The District Council of Barunga West has used their $1.2 million for re-sheeting roads, as has the District Council of Ceduna, which has resurfaced Decres Bay Road and Marchant Road. The District Council of Cleve has used the money for re-sheeting. The District Council of the Copper Coast has spent over $2 million on new bitumen and a reseal of other roads. The District Council of Elliston has spent $10 million on sealing Mount Wedge Road. I drove upon that recently, and actually attended the opening—$2.67 million has gone into that for Elliston council, one of the smallest in our state.

These are vital funds for very small councils, and it is right that the Commonwealth government is showing that it is deeply involved and interested in our regional communities. We've spent money with the Flinders Ranges Council and the District Council of Franklin Harbour in Cowell for re-sheeting works. The Regional Council of Goyder spent $847,000 on the Booborowie Road—most people may not know where Booborowie is, but I can tell you they need a road! These are important things. My local council, the District Council of Kimba, for street sealing and then rural re-sheeting—that is $1.9 million into another very small district council. These are very important funds. For the Northern Areas Council, we've seen Boonderoo Road, Fogarty Road and Zanker Road all re-sheeted, and, Mr Deputy Speaker, I can tell you the people there are very happy with that result. Interestingly, Port Augusta City Council spent half a million bringing Shack Road up to speed. There's a lot of people in Port Augusta that live on the beautiful western side of Spencer Gulf, up near the top, and they, too, deserve to have decent services. As I said, there are 27 councils, and I will keep going down the list. The Kingoonya to Yantanabie Road has been done up by the South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. There is Kemp Road, there's $5.2 million on the Oodnadatta Track, there's the Strzelecki Track, and the Outback Highway from Lyndhurst to Marree has been completely sealed now. I drove upon that stretch of road recently as well, and it is an enormous boon to those people that live in that part of the world to be able to get their cars up to Marree without shaking them to bits.

I should also mention the Special Local Roads Program, which is a South Australian-only program: It recognises that local governments in South Australia control 11 per cent of Australia's rural road network but receive only seven per cent of the funding under the financial assistance grants, the untied grants, which come forward to councils on a regular basis. Consequently, right back since Nick Minchin was in this place, there's been a special allocation to the South Australian state to make up this shortfall. It's something that has not become permanent, I must say. But the member for Barker and I worked very hard a year and a half ago to get it inserted in the budget for two years. It is current for the coming financial year, but, at the end of that financial year, I can guarantee you that he and I will be in this place again and arguing for the continuation of that support to South Australia. It recognises a fundamental flaw in the road-funding formulas. As long as we leave things basically the same, we must continue to recognise this discrepancy and make sure that the people of South Australia, and particularly the rural councils of South Australia—27 of which are in Grey, as I said before—receive that ongoing recognition.

11:58 am

Photo of Helen HainesHelen Haines (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Roads to Recovery motion. Roads are the circulatory system of my electorate of Indi. Our wellbeing, education and prosperity depend on the network of roads that crisscross the north-east of Victoria. Examples abound. The Woolworths distribution centre at Wodonga stocks 58 outlets with over $2 billion worth of stock via the Hume Highway every year, employing over 400 people. The Tolmie TOAST carpooling initiative gives elderly residents free lifts to Mansfield for medical appointments and coffee dates. There are hundreds of school buses that trundle up dirt roads and over bridges, to collect schoolchildren each day, not to mention the humble country roads that transport our wine, dairy, beef, and fruit from the farm gate to the market and to the world. The Roads to Recovery program has funded many projects in my electorate that make this prosperity possible.

Road infrastructure is a responsibility shared by federal, state and local government, and it's a credit to all levels of government that most people rarely give roads a second thought. We see some remarkable things when governments work together. Last Saturday when I hosted Minister Littleproud, for a visit to bushfire affected communities, we travelled down the Shelley-Walwa Road, recently reopened after a $7.6 million resealing project jointly funded by the federal and state governments, Towong Shire, and HVP Plantations. This newly surfaced road will benefit local industries and the jobs that depend on it.

Although it's a shared responsibility, local governments shoulder the load. And it's the local governments of Indi that have told me in no uncertain terms that climate change and the obvious impact of bushfire risks mean we need to evaluate our investment in road infrastructure. The recent—

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! 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 day of sitting.