November 27, 2013  |  Grievances

Ballarat East Electorate Roads

Mr HOWARD (Ballarat East)— I grieve for the people of the Ballarat East electorate over a number of issues in relation to government inaction and lost opportunities across my electorate that have occurred under this government. In particular today I grieve for the state of the roads across my electorate. The electorate of Ballarat East is a large rural and regional electorate. It starts at one end at Malmsbury and Kyneton in the Macedon Ranges; it goes through Daylesford, Trentham and Creswick in the Hepburn shire and then down through the Moorabool shire and the city of Ballarat to Meredith, Napoleons and Enfield in the Golden Plains shire. As I have travelled around my electorate over recent years I have been very concerned about the deterioration of many of the roads across the electorate.

I hold regular community consultations around the electorate.

At the consultations in Kyneton, Daylesford, Ballan, Meredith and so on, one of the issues that people have spoken to me about is the state of the roads around the electorate. As examples of those roads, I note that the Tylden-Woodend Road in the Macedon Ranges is regularly quoted as being of concern. For some time now there have been 60 kilometre temporary speed limit signs on the Tylden-Woodend Road, but the road continues to deteriorate and no action has been taken to upgrade that section of the road.

On other parts of the Midland Highway, around Daylesford, there is significant potholing and significant deterioration of those roads. Further on, if you go from Daylesford to Ballan through Korweinguboora, you see that several sections of that road are in very poor condition, as they are along the Geelong-Ballan Road. Also in the Moorabool shire but on the boundary between it and the city of Ballarat is Yankee Flat Road. While there has been some work done on it over a period of time, the road is getting more and more use and needs more and more attention.

Within the city of Ballarat some work has been undertaken on the Ballarat-Buninyong Road over a long period of time, but when this government came to office it made promises about further upgrading that road, which becomes very congested at peak traffic times. The government also promised to go ahead with the upgrade of the Whitehorse Road roundabout. Funding for that was already in the budget it inherited from Labor, but three years on, despite many promises and time lines about when the upgrade will take place, there has been no work on that roundabout.

Looking further south, heading towards the electorate of the Minister for Roads, Polwarth, through Golden Plains shire on the Colac-Ballarat Road, we have seen more and more potholes appearing. Rather than maintenance work being done to redevelop the surface of the road, more and more signs have gone up.

As you drive from Ballarat to Colac you see a huge proliferation of signs saying ‘Rough surface’ and telling drivers to slow down to 80 kilometres an hour or whatever the speed limit is. There are many signs to recognise the rough surface, but there has been no actual maintenance. This situation continues. There is great concern across my electorate in this regard.

I have also been contacted by motorcyclists saying that these potholes are not only of concern but downright dangerous. Another grave concern that was raised with me by one motorbike rider, who I think lives in the Polwarth electorate just over the boundary from my electorate, is the Rokewood-Shelford Road. As motorcyclists try to ride around the electorate, this deterioration of the road surface — the potholes — is of significant safety concern. There is also the general concern about being able to travel along smoothly and know that your car will still be in the state it was when you started — that is, that you will not have damaged your car by driving through a pothole.

As an earlier speaker said on this topic, when you look at the figures for VicRoads spending across its regions, you see that every region across the state has had a significant cut to its maintenance funding in the last year. We have been able to calculate the total cuts as $160 million across the whole state. If you look at the figures for the western region, you see that the 2011-12 maintenance budget was $67 000, but last year that was reduced to $52 000, which is $15 000 down — or a 22 per cent reduction in maintenance funding for maintenance. No wonder these complaints continue to come in.

This has happened because the government is clearly not putting the necessary funding into maintaining country roads. It is reducing that funding because it has identified other priorities in the Melbourne metropolitan area that it wants to commit to. The major project that has been identified and crowed about by this government is the $8 billion project called the

east-west link, which in fact will run only from the Eastern Freeway to the Tullamarine Freeway — it is east to central Melbourne. A tunnel under Clifton Hill is clearly not going to benefit the people of my electorate, who, like me, rarely travel to that area. The funding seems to be going into these major projects proposed for Melbourne, but country roads continue to be neglected.

By contrast, when in office Labor committed not just to roads but also to rail to benefit the people of regional Victoria. After so many lines had been closed under the previous Liberal government, Labor reopened the lines to Ararat, Maryborough and Gippsland. Not only that, it committed significant funding to upgrading the rail lines from major regional centres — in my case from Ballarat — such as Bendigo, Geelong and Gippsland. It put on new improved rolling stock to greatly improve the system. It also initiated, through the metropolitan rail corridor, the regional rail project, and I am pleased to see that the government is continuing that.

More recently, Labor released its own transport strategy, Project 10 000. One of the key things that people in my electorate should note is that Labor has committed to $1 billion worth of roads funding, to be attached specifically to country Victoria, if it is elected in November next year, as it should be. That means that Labor will be able to demonstrate its commitment to the people of the region.

There are other features of this project that relate to western areas of Melbourne that will be of benefit to people from my electorate who travel to Melbourne. The truck transfer off the West Gate Bridge, the deviation there, and other works will improve travel on the metropolitan rail system and will see further improvements to the rail system between Ballarat and Melbourne and Bendigo and Melbourne, which the previous government significantly upgraded, as I said. It is now a viable service attracting many people, and we want to see that continue. Labor is providing a significant point of difference through its Project 10 000.

The other feature of Project 10 000, which gives it its name, is that it sees 10 000 more people being employed in the construction industry across the state through the road and rail projects that are proposed. Under this government we have seen across my electorate of Ballarat East significant cutbacks in construction projects driven by the government.

When we reflect on the Brumby and Bracks Labor governments, we see that of the 34 state schools across my electorate 30 were funded for major upgrade works, which not only benefited the schools but also created employment in the region. Under this government, not one of those 34 schools has received any further major upgrade. That is zero support for those schools. We built new schools at Napoleons and Trentham, but there has been nothing under this government.

There has been the completion of some significant Labor projects, such as the fantastic cancer centre run by Ballarat Health Services. As people would know, that great facility was initiated by Labor, with funds coming mainly from the federal Labor government but also with funds committed by state Labor. That was a Labor initiative started while we were in government, as was the soccer centre at Morshead Park — another great Labor project. This government provided some funding for that, as did the federal government, but there have been very few projects initiated by this government.

It was interesting when the Premier came to Ballarat recently. He was asked about jobs in Ballarat, and he said he was fully supportive of jobs in Ballarat. When he was asked how, he struggled a little to talk about how he was supporting manufacturing jobs, but he then talked about the Ballarat West employment zone and the rail precinct redevelopment, saying, ‘These are employing people in Ballarat’. It would be nice if they were, but they have not progressed to being real projects. They are plans for projects.

I spoke last night about the Ballarat West employment zone, which is a great project that we want to see pushed along. It will provide more jobs in the region and great opportunities in the area around the Ballarat airport, but there are no jobs at the moment, except in the planning area. The Premier needs to realise that those projects need a push along from the government. They cannot be talked about and praised by the government as job-creating projects until they actually create jobs.

The Premier also talked about the University of Ballarat Technology Park as employing people, but again that has nothing to do with this government. It was supported by the Labor government when we moved the State Revenue Office to the technology park and through significant investment by the Bracks and Brumby Labor governments. Over 1000 people are employed there, but this government cannot take any credit for that. The credit for the job-creating projects that have occurred in Ballarat goes to Labor. This government has been inert when it comes to supporting our region.

I am disappointed, as are many people across my electorate, with the state of roads in the electorate. I am glad the Minister for Roads has been in the chamber while I have been making my contribution. I keep hearing that beyond the south border of my electorate the Ballarat-Colac Road deteriorates even further once you get out of the Enfield area. It is pretty bad on my side, but it deteriorates even further.

The minister must know about this problem and be looking at ways to fund the roads in his electorate, but it seems he simply cannot find the funding because he is tied down with the east-west proposal and the need to fund Melbourne projects. By contrast, Labor is committed to $1 billion for roads in regional Victoria. It is also committed to putting money into rail and other forms of public transport. There will be more announcements about opportunities for improving public transport specifically within my electorate, and I look forward to those.

I continue to grieve and be unbelievably disappointed, as are many people, that this government, which came to office in 2010, has delivered so little for my electorate. Construction has gone backwards, roads have gone backwards and jobs have therefore been lost from our area, both in the public sector, with something like 400 jobs lost as a direct result of government decisions, and in government construction projects, where there is not much happening.

We need a Labor government and to go back to the sorts of things that were delivered by the Bracks and Brumby governments. I look forward to that so that we can see funding for schools, universities and many other areas.