Private Members Statement given in the NSW Parliament, 21 November 2018

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

My passion for the people of the Far South Coast is as high now as it was the first day I was proudly elected to this place. There is nothing more important for a politician than to keep their political representation as local as possible. That is why I am proud to be delivering for small communities such as Tathra and Nelligen, and every community in between. For 16 years I have worked hard locally and put local people first.

I am proud of the fact that in excess of $750 million has been delivered in the Bega electorate since 2011, because of my advocacy and the love I have for the people in communities from South Durras to the Victorian border. There have been hundreds of great projects, putting people first. Whether it is delivery of a water filtration system in the Bega Valley or a new regional hospital in the Eurobodalla, this is my focus. Tonight I wish to reaffirm that I am standing for Bega, and to reaffirm my commitment, as the State's Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, to delivering major investments, from a $20 billion metro train in Sydney through to small but vital projects such as a road upgrade in the Towamba Valley.

However, there is a personal reason—and a very serious agenda—that is driving my decision to stand again, and it relates to the Princes Highway and road funding. People may not know this, but my family and I nearly lost our lives in a high-speed head-on motor vehicle accident on a South Coast road in 2011. The fallout from this accident has scarred me for life and has had so many personal consequences. I will touch on what is my principal reason to stand for Bega again shortly, because I want people to understand. For weeks I have heard rumours, innuendo and speculation and much of that has gone unquestioned. Even today, there were two statements from the Opposition debating about my representation of a place that I call home. I have had fake polling tactics and the Labor candidate out there saying that I am not a small business candidate, yet I worked as a political staffer. But that does not matter. I simply say that we should have the same degree of scrutiny on both sides, which is what I want to deal with tonight and why I am running in the next State election.

One of the most important moments in my 16 years of representing the Bega electorate is the role I played alongside the judiciary in the NSW Police Highway Patrol with Sergeant Ron Young in the coronial inquest into the Princes Highway in 2005. There have been too many tragedies, and as for upgrades—negative. The Labor Government used to rectify the dangerous sections of the highway. Many roads Ministers ignored my community's plight. It took the Coalition coming to government in 2011 to start fixing the highway. Around $2 billion in highway upgrades either have been built or are being built since this Government came to office. Very soon we will have a duplicated highway from Sydney to the Jervis Bay turnoff. The New South Wales Government has done that when both Labor and Liberal Federal governments, year in and year out, ignored the plight of my communities when it came to highway upgrades. I think that is shameful.

The Princes Highway should be duplicated so that people do not face the same pain that my family suffered. The main reason I am running for re‑election is because I want to fight alongside my community to secure a funding deal between the Federal Government and the New South Wales Government to duplicate the Princes Highway south of the Jervis Bay turnoff and through the Bega Valley shire, from 2020 to 2030. The agreement will be similar to the Pacific Highway agreement that will result in the Pacific Highway being fully duplicated between Brisbane and Sydney by 2020. If we do not secure such an arrangement for the Princes Highway, we run the risk of hundreds of people either losing their lives or being injured for life south of the Jervis Bay turnoff to the Victorian border. The crash rates are unacceptable. My biggest worry is when the duplication to the Jervis Bay turnoff is complete, there will be a massive increase in traffic volume south of that point on one of the most dangerous highways in the nation. The consequences of that are not worthy of consideration.

The highway and the crash rates between Nowra and Milton‑Ulladulla and Batemans Bay will become horrific. We have a small window of time now for our national and State leaders to head off these deaths and tragedies. I am pleading with the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister to prioritise this necessary Princes Highway duplication program. It benefits communities in the State electorates of Bega, the South Coast and Kiama, as well as the Federal electorates of Gilmore and Eden-Monaro that the Federal Coalition parties want to win. But forget that; lives are on the line. Do we need to repeat the experience of the Pacific Highway to achieve a successful outcome on the Princes Highway? I do not believe so. I will never give up fighting for this. It is a major factor in my decision to remain in the State Parliament. I will use every ounce of my being, my energy, dedication and influence to get this job done. That is my promise and the main reason for my candidacy for Bega in March 2019.