SPEECH: Federation Chamber – CONSTITUENCY STATEMENTS – Shortland Electorate: Infrastructure

May 11, 2017

The Commonwealth government has an important role to play in investing in local infrastructure, particularly in regional areas. When we talk about infrastructure we too often think of large-scale road and rail projects in our capital cities, but medium- and small-scale infrastructure projects in regions like the one I represent are also fundamentally important for our economic prosperity and for the wellbeing of our communities. So I was very pleased to meet with the CycleSafe Network’s steering committee last week to discuss their Charlestown to Coast proposal, which would see Charlestown as the major commercial centre in Lake Macquarie linked to the Fernleigh Track and Whitebridge and Dudley. The Fernleigh Track is a fantastic shared pathway that follows a disused coal haul rail line between Adamstown and Belmont and is used by cyclists, runners and walkers alike. I pay tribute to my predecessor, Jill Hall, for her hard work and commitment in securing federal funding for the track, which was also supported by the New South Wales state government and the Lake Macquarie and Newcastle councils.

The idea behind the proposal is to link the shops and significant public facilities in Charlestown to the Fernleigh Track and nearby suburbs with a new bi-directional track. And of course the more of this type of infrastructure that makes it easier for people to exercise, the healthier our country will be, and it is great that the Heart Foundation is supporting the proposal alongside the NRMA. The CycleSafe Network is working with Lake Macquarie City Council on the proposal, and I thank them for the fine work they are doing for our community. I have ridden along the Fernleigh Track many times, and it is a magnificent piece of infrastructure.

I want to briefly discuss the most significant infrastructure project in the Hunter region, the Lake Macquarie Transport Interchange, the first stage of which will open within a few months. In the budget handed down on Tuesday, the government has again ignored this project. Labor has a proud record of supporting this interchange, and we have consistently supported it because we know how important it is to our region. When we were in government we provided $13 million to the project. When the Liberals were elected they cut $1 million. This interchange will create 10,000 local jobs and unleash huge economic activity for the entire region.

In fact, every dollar of government investment will unleash $94 of private sector investment. If the Liberals were serious about jobs and growth in the Hunter, and not just in their marginal seats, they would have committed the relatively modest $13 million to this fundamentally important local infrastructure. This project has the support of all 11 Hunter councils. It is very rare for councils to support a project outside their immediate area, but all 11 Hunter councils say that this is the No. 1 infrastructure priority for the entire Hunter region. It will unlock 10,000 jobs and drive huge amounts of private sector investment. In failing to fund this interchange, the Liberals have again demonstrated that they care nothing about the people of the Hunter. It is very disappointing. Along with all my Labor colleagues I will continue to fight for this very important project.

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