Hornsby Electorate Traffic Arrangements
Debate resumed from 18 October.
Mr TINK (Epping) [11.44 a.m.]: I strongly support the motion of the honourable member for Hornsby, which urges the Minister for Roads to immediately begin planning for improvements to the operation and capacity of the intersection of Duffy Avenue with The Esplanade and Chilvers Road, Thornleigh, and for the widening of the rail bridge at Duffy Avenue. Those locations are just outside my electorate. The Esplanade runs into my electorate and carries heavy traffic north from my electorate towards Hornsby at all hours of the day and night. As people all over northern Sydney are aware, this road network is under increasing pressure. It is interlinked, being an arterial system that backs up the Pennant Hills Road link between Pennant Hills, Wahroonga and Hornsby with The Esplanade-Chilvers Road link on the western side of the railway line through to Hornsby. It is common knowledge that the road capacity is not sufficient to cope with the traffic. In peak periods the situation is chronic, as it is on Pennant Hills Road.
The matter came to a head during the last State election in 1999. I commend the honourable member for Hornsby for the detailed way in which he set out the history of the matter and the promises that were made. Many promises were made and the Labor Party, particularly in our area of Sydney, is always keen to forget its promises made during election campaigns because normally they turn out to be highly embarrassing. In addition, the record of the promises—the footprints in the sand, so to speak—are so lightly tracked that they disappear within 12 months. The honourable member for Hornsby has done everyone in northern Sydney a service by reminding the House and putting on the record where the Labor Government and the local Labor candidate stood prior to the 1999 election in relation to this matter.
The honourable member for Hornsby was perhaps a little more generous to the Labor candidate, Mr Cardamatis, than I would have been. He said that initially the promise by Mr Cardamatis of $600,000 was contingent. Mr Cardamatis subsequently firmed up when the local media pressed him—and rightly so—on the contingent promises and he removed the contingency, so to speak. So far as I am concerned, in those circumstances the promise was never contingent. It was a straight-out promise by the Labor Government and the Labor candidate to put $600,000 into that area, and specifically into the Duffy Avenue bridge. That promise was not kept. Nevertheless, as the honourable member for Hornsby indicated, the fact that the Government program for the intensification of medium density housing in the area continues apace was no better illustrated than by the development of the Ormond site.
The Government, having pressed the local government authority to dramatically increase the density of housing—and, therefore, traffic in the immediate vicinity—did nothing to increase the road-based infrastructure to cope with the extra traffic. That affects the constituents of Hornsby, particularly those in Westleigh. It has the effect of the gumming up the whole off-centred intersection in The Esplanade-Chilvers Road-Duffy Avenue area, which in turn is gummed up through the significant constriction that occurs on the Duffy Avenue bridge. Basically, this subregional traffic area binds up. The Government has pushed ahead and increased the housing density in a dramatic fashion on one site, thus dramatically increasing the amount of traffic, but it has done nothing to meet its commitment to increase the capacity of the local road infrastructure to carry the extra load. That is a specific broken promise and those who represent the Labor Party in northern Sydney as successors to Mr Cardamatis must explain why the promise has not been kept.
As the honourable member for Hornsby pointed out, Hornsby council has not been sitting on its hands with regard to this project. It has planned works for the bridge, called for expressions of interest and expects to let contracts next year for that bridge work. The problem is that no money is forthcoming from the State Government for the work. The Government is shirking its responsibilities in this regard. The Duffy Avenue bridge links a significant secondary road network directly with Pennant Hills Road, which is perhaps the busiest and most constricted road in New South Wales—probably the whole of Australia. Traffic conditions are particularly bad in that precise location.
The Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads is proceeding apace with the Western Sydney Orbital, and therefore I believe he has a fundamental duty to understand the impact of the orbital on Pennant Hills Road. He has consistently refused to do that. A study is being conducted, grudgingly and belatedly, into Pennant Hills Road options. The Minister must understand that, as the Western Sydney Orbital will precede any measures to ease the pressure on Pennant Hills Road, he has a direct and immediate obligation to improve the infrastructure of those major roads that link to Pennant Hills Road. This is a major and pressing issue. The only result from the Minister's management of this issue is increasing constriction in the Duffy Avenue area. That is why it is vital to widen the bridge as promised.
The Minister is not ignorant of this problem as the Labor candidate for Hornsby, Mr Cardamatis, made a significant election commitment in this regard. The Minister has been aware of this issue at all times, and he should be extremely ashamed and embarrassed about his failure to meet that commitment. That promise must be kept, especially as Hornsby council has made it a top priority. Hornsby council is one of the largest councils in metropolitan Sydney both in terms of population and area. It is no coincidence that this bridge and these roadworks are a priority in the shire. Pennant Hills Road, which extends from the Western Sydney Orbital, is immensely important to the State Government's infrastructure program.
The State's commitment must join that of local government and the intersection and the bridge must be upgraded. The Labor candidate for Hornsby in the next election campaign, whether Councillor White or someone else, will be held accountable for the past failures of the Government and former Labor councillors, particularly Mr Cardamatis, who made this promise initially. If Mr Cardamatis failed in this endeavour, how can we accept the word of any Hornsby councillor or any future Labor candidate on this issue? I assume that the honourable member for Cabramatta aspires to be Minister for Roads after the next election. [Time expired.]
Ms MEAGHER (Cabramatta—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.54 a.m.]: What a disappointing performance by the honourable member for Hornsby. The Government opposes this narrow and ill-conceived motion, and I will provide a fairly good summary of the reasons why. I am advised by the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] that the roads in question are a mixture of regional and local roads. I am also advised that Duffy Avenue is a local road and that The Esplanade and Chilvers Road are regional roads under the care and control of Hornsby shire council. However, I point out that the route comprising The Esplanade, Chilvers Road and Duffy Avenue is recognised as a regional route and is therefore eligible for funding under the RTA's Repair and Improve Regional Roads [REPAIR] program. By way of explanation, Hornsby council can apply to the Roads and Traffic Authority for funding under the repair program on a dollar for dollar basis for specific reconstruction and/or improvement works. To assist the council with its financial management it may use the 3 x 3 council determined allotment as its part share in the REPAIR program.
The Roads and Traffic Authority is well aware of the road issues raised in this motion. In response to the assertions of the honourable member for Hornsby, I am advised that the Roads and Traffic Authority has already provided comment to the council about the proposed Westleigh local environmental study and master planning process. This commentary included a request that the capacity of a number of critical intersections, including Duffy Avenue and Chilvers Road, be taken into consideration when the council considers future rezoning and development of the Westleigh area. In addition, the House must be aware that Hornsby council has received section 94 contributions from the developers of land adjoining Duffy Avenue, and the council is able to spend this money to help ameliorate the traffic impacts that result from the development.
I take this opportunity to advise the House that the RTA has already contributed funds to significant works in the immediate vicinity of Duffy Avenue. The RTA has contributed funding to the important roadworks at the nearby intersection of Sefton and Chilvers roads. This work includes the installation of traffic signals, pavement upgrading and resheeting the road surface. The honourable member will no doubt be aware that when the development occurred at the Ormond site, as stated in his motion, a significant amount of money was made available to Hornsby council as part of its section 94 contribution. I do not know whether the honourable member has pursued the council about how it proposes to spend that money on local road and bridge infrastructure. He would be well advised to discover what is happening with that money rather than coming into this Chamber and playing politics.
I am advised that Hornsby council has considered a number of options to widen the overbridge at Duffy Avenue to accommodate the increased traffic flow. The honourable member is obviously not aware that more than six weeks ago representatives of Hornsby council met representatives from the Rail Infrastructure Corporation [RIC] and mediated an outcome between the two parties. I am advised that both the RIC and the council have resolved significant differences and continue to work closely together. A key advocate for Hornsby council was Councillor Susan White, against whom the honourable member for Hornsby launched a cowardly attack in this House. I am advised that Councillor White made a significant and positive contribution to resolving this matter. Where was the honourable member for Hornsby?
The fact is that the honourable member for Hornsby is floundering out of his depth on this relatively simple local issue. How can he aspire to be Treasurer of this State when he cannot understand basic funding issues in his own electorate and has demonstrated that he is hopelessly out of touch with his own council and community? It is unfortunate that the narrow motion moved by the honourable member for Hornsby seeks only to be negative and carping and does not recognise the good work being done by the RTA and the RIC in that immediate area. The Government opposes this poorly thought-out and poorly delivered motion.
Mr O'FARRELL (Ku-ring-gai—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [11.58 a.m.]: The honourable member for Cabramatta is making a career of apologising to people. Not satisfied with besmirching the reputation of Tim Priest and being forced to apologise, she has now sought to besmirch the reputation of the honourable member for Hornsby.
Mr McBride: Point of order: My point is obvious. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition continually takes points of order about relevance. This debate is about Duffy Avenue, The Esplanade, Chilvers Road and widening the railway bridge. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows that better than anyone, but he has launched a cowardly attack on the honourable member for Cabramatta. I ask that you instruct him to restrict his remarks to the subject under discussion.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lynch): Order! There is no point of order.
Mr O'FARRELL: The Parliamentary Secretary then attempted to cast aspersions on the honourable member for Hornsby. Clearly, she had not been in the Chamber to hear his speech to this motion. If she had, she would not have said the things she did. That goes to show the sort of research she undertakes before coming into this Chamber. This is a simple motion that goes to legislation I sought to introduce earlier today. It goes to honesty in politics. I recognise that the Australian Labor Party candidate, Scott Cardamatis, is no paragon of honesty. That man has never passed an honesty or ethical test in his life, yet that has never stopped him being endorsed by the Labor Party or employed by the Labor Party as a ministerial staffer. During that election campaign the Labor Party candidate for Hornsby, Scott Cardamatis, said at a public meeting that he has just finished speaking to the office of the Minister for Roads and that $600,000 was ready to go to upgrade this road bridge. Now 2½ years later we are trying to get the Government to honour that promise.
I speak for two reasons in this debate. First, this road bridge is situated in my former electorate. Second, and more importantly, in February last year with the honourable member for Hornsby I attended a meeting of the Hornsby Chamber of Commerce at which the Premier spoke about his so-called post-Olympics job program—something we do not hear much about these days. The Premier spoke to the Hornsby business community about many issues that day, but from memory not one of them related to northern Sydney or the Hornsby area.
When he was asked during question time by the honourable member for Hornsby about the promises given during the State election campaign by the Labor candidate, the Premier adopted the approach of the Parliamentary Secretary for Roads and sought to personally attack the honourable member for Hornsby. It went down like a lead balloon in that audience and the Premier contributed to giving the honourable member for Hornsby one of the greatest headlines and editorials in the Hornsby and Upper North Shore Advocate he has ever received.
All the Hornsby shire wants is for the Labor Party to honour the promise that the Labor candidate gave during the last election campaign. It was not a throwaway promise; it was not a promise given on his own; it was not a promise given with qualification. It was a promise given with the rider that he had just been on the phone to the office of the Minister for Transport and the money was ready to go. What concerns me is that in its attempts to resolve this issue, Hornsby shire council, supported by the honourable member for Hornsby in this Chamber and in letters to the Premier, which went unanswered for months, has been lumbered with a bigger bill than ever. The Government is seeking to have it both ways. As successive speakers have said, it is prepared to foist increased densities upon Sydney suburbs but it is not prepared to upgrade infrastructure to cope with those densities.
The council is being forced to spend its money to replace the bridge. But it does not have to merely widen the bridge; it also has to lengthen it because of a rail infrastructure determination to make the bridge wide enough for so-called quadruplication of the rail line. Quadruplication of the line has been talked about for decades. If there were to be quadruplication, surely the State Government more than ever would have to contribute to the lengthening and widening of the bridge and not simply seek to leave the burden with Hornsby council. I am disappointed by the response of the Parliamentary Secretary. All she can do is attack and abuse; she fails to address the issues. She does not explain why, on the one hand, the Minister could give this commitment to the candidate and the candidate could give it to the public, yet, on the other hand, 2½ years later the funding is not forthcoming.
Mr McBRIDE (The Entrance) [12.03 p.m.]: I listened to the speech given by the honourable member for Hornsby in the Chamber last week and I have just listened to the contributions of the Parliamentary Secretary assisting the Minister for Roads and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. We could have a million of this type of motion in the Chamber every Thursday or Friday. This matter involves a mixture of local and regional roads, and policies and funding are in place for these types of works.
As a former Parliamentary Secretary for Roads I travelled around the State looking at road issues and I would always be told about what is known as the missing link. The honourable member for North Shore acknowledges, as I am sure every other member would acknowledge, the missing link notion. Councils will say, "If you undertake this component of work the world will be a better place overnight." The development of road networks is a continuous, moving project. It is not locked in time or state. What is a priority one day is not a priority the next. As a former chief of staff to a Minister for Transport, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows that better than anyone. If we went through the Coalition's track record we would find similar situations. Priorities change from day to day because of developments and other changes within communities and throughout the whole of the State.
Funding mechanisms such as the repair program and the 3 x 3 allocation are in place for these works. When I was the Parliamentary Secretary I informed councils of the opportunities to access State and Federal funding. There are myriad opportunities. As State members know, council priorities shift and works can be passed back to the State member. However councils determine their budgets—whether it is a two-year, three-year or annual rolling program—members would know, particularly one member present in the Chamber who is a former mayor, that priorities change because of changes that occur within the community. As priorities change, the council has to change its program. It cannot go ahead blindly.
The Carr Labor Government has made an enormous commitment to roads throughout the whole of the State since it has been in power. If you need money for one area, it has to come from somewhere else. Under previous governments, obviously not Labor governments, the money has been taken from other areas. We all know what the allocations are. During the time we have been in government, since 1995, there has been an increase in road funding every year.
The funding balance between country New South Wales and the greater Sydney metropolitan area has been maintained. It was argued that the funding balance would change and tilt towards metropolitan Sydney. Ask any mayor in any country local government area and they will tell you that one of the greatest fears, which was pushed by the Liberal-National Coalition, was that the funding balance would change. It did not change. In fact, the funding balance was maintained and improved. For example, under the previous coalition government Cobbs Highway—
Mr O'Farrell: Point of order: It pains me to do so, but the honourable member for The Entrance has been a member long enough to know that a member's words should have some relevance to the motion. Cobbs highway is a long way from Duffy Avenue.
Mr McBRIDE: You would not even know where it is.
Mr O'Farrell: I do know where it is. Cobbs Highway has nothing to do with this motion and we ought to get back to the lies told by Scott Cardamatis at the last campaign.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! This is a wide-ranging debate. There is no point of order. The honourable member for The Entrance has the call.
Mr McBRIDE: One can see what the Coalition's priorities are on country issues. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is a senior member and aspires to be leader of the Coalition, although the member for North Shore is a rival. Yet when you mention funding for country New South Wales you get nothing but contempt from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Mr O'DOHERTY (Hornsby) [12.08 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for The Entrance for his contribution, which had substance. He addressed some of the issues and spoke about overall road funding, which, although it was interesting, we would dispute. His contribution was far better than that of the Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Minister for Roads, who read a prepared statement—every word was written for her by someone else, contrary to the standing orders. The member is well-known for doing that and for engaging in personal abuse and attack rather than addressing the substance of the motion. That is exactly what she did on this occasion. I expect she will apologise later to me in the corridor for reading out the shabby, grubby attack that was written for her, no doubt, by the Minister for Roads.
I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Epping for their contributions to the debate. These members, who represent northern Sydney electorates, have an interest in this intersection and this part of the regional roads network in northern Sydney. The electorate of the honourable member for Epping adjoins my electorate near this intersection. Prior to the redistribution the Deputy Leader of the Opposition represented this area.
The motion asks the House to acknowledge the promise made by the Australian Labor Party in the March 1999 election campaign; it asks the Government to pay up the money. The motion reminds the House that in March 1999 at a very public meeting that I attended along with members of the community and the local press the Labor candidate said, "I have spoken to Carl Scully's office. There is $600,000 ready to go for this project."
That clear and unequivocal promise was made on behalf of not only the candidate—and everyone knows that candidates can sometimes run off at the mouth—but the office of the Minister for Roads. The Labor candidate told the meeting that the Minister had authorised him to make that statement. Everyone present was entitled to rely on that statement as a direct promise from the Government. Since that time neither the Australian Labor Party nor the government of the day has acknowledged that promise. The promised $600,000 has never appeared in any of the budgets produced since that time, nor does it appear in the program of forward works planned by the Roads and Traffic Authority.
The Government's response, which was read by the Parliamentary Secretary for Roads, clearly indicates that the Government has no intention whatsoever of making that money available. The best the Government can do is to say that the council should apply for the funding under the roads repairs program. The council has been in discussions with the Minister's office and his departmental officers for years. The Government has had ample opportunity to make good its promise of $600,000. But it has not done so. The Government continues to blame everybody except itself for failing to provide the money.
This is not only about the honesty of the candidate and the Minister for Roads in failing to acknowledge the promise and come good with the money; it is also about the bullying tactics of the Government. The Government has tried to blame everyone except itself for its failure to honour its very simple and clean-cut commitment to the people of Hornsby. The work at this intersection is significant and important.
A consequence of the State Government increasing density in the Westleigh area is the necessity to amplify the capacity of the bridge. The council has already planned the works and will let a contract next year worth $1.2 million-plus. Unless the State Government provides the money that the council is entitled to expect, $600,000, it will have to come out of money that the council has allocated to other priorities in our shire. The Carr Government's failure to meet its promise has created a direct cost on other local works in Hornsby. I was accused by the Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Minister for Roads of playing politics, but is it politics to stand up for your electorate? That is exactly what I am doing, and I will continue to do so until the Government honours its promise.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.
The House divided.
Mr D. L. Page
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr R. H. L. Smith
Mrs Lo Po'
|Mr E. T. Page|
Mr W. D. Smith
Question resolved in the negative.