House debates

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Regional Australia

2:14 pm

Photo of Pat ConaghanPat Conaghan (Cowper, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Will the Deputy Prime Minister inform the House how Australia's unique response to the COVID-19 pandemic is supporting regional Australia's recovery?

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Leader of the Nationals) Share this | | Hansard source

How good it is to get a question about infrastructure and a question about regional development from a real member of parliament! Thank you, member for Cowper—a fantastic question well asked, and about to be well answered!

Our budget was a budget for the regions. We delivered a plan and a pathway which positions Australia to recover and grow from what has been a once-in-a-lifetime event. This pandemic has hit our nation hard and in particular has hit our regions hard, but our regions are strong; people in the regions are tough. Our investment extends to every one of the 537 local government areas across the nation. The Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program delivers benefit to every council, no matter where it is. These communities are very well represented by the member for Cowper. These communities are receiving $15.4 million to kickstart local projects such as the V-Wall precinct upgrade, which is having concrete poured right now by Nambucca Valley Council. It is a project made possible through $310,000 granted under the program. This is just one of 2,100 projects already approved to date.

We are getting on with not just small projects such as that, which make such a difference—local workers on the ground, local procurement—but also large projects. Beginning construction in 2015, NorthConnex is a transformational project. It is opening this Saturday, linking the M1 and M2 motorways via a three-lane tunnel under Pennant Hills Road. We've put in $412.3 million. Those numbers are big, but what they don't tell is the story that this project will bypass 21 sets of traffic lights between the motorways. It's diverting 5,000 heavy vehicles per day which use Pennant Hills Road, reducing operating costs and boosting productivity for freight operators such as Jim Pearson Transport, which started in the member's electorate in Port Macquarie. It's been operating since 1978. Jim Pearson Jr had this to say: 'NorthConnex brings long-awaited relief for heavy road transport and the general user. Pennant Hills Road has not been adequate or safe for decades. The new route will remove stress from drivers, provide greater safety, less wear and tear on vehicles and considerable fuel savings. It will benefit all users.'

I'd like to acknowledge each member in this place who contributed to that project, but it took a Liberal-Nationals government to get on and build it. That is going to be such a great project for Sydney but also for all users of that particular road. That's what we're getting on with—we're building roads, we're building rail, we're building a better future for Australia. Through the COVID recovery, that's what we're doing—getting on with the job.