Pacific Highway upgrade a lasting Labor legacy: Saffin

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin is proud of Labor’s legacy of initiating and turbo charging the upgrade of the Pacific Highway to dual-carriageway, and tomorrow (Thursday, 17 December) will celebrate its completion as a win for safer, more efficient motoring.

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin is proud of Labor’s legacy of initiating and turbo charging the upgrade of the Pacific Highway to dual-carriageway, and tomorrow (Thursday, 17 December) will celebrate its completion as a win for safer, more efficient motoring.

Ms Saffin, who as Federal Member for Page helped secure $7.9 billion for highway construction works between 2007 and 2013, and locked in some of this funding in forward estimates, will join State and Federal Coalition MPs at New Italy to mark the finish of the 144-kilometre Woolgoolga to Ballina section of the upgrade.

“The biggest win for residents of our Electorate of Lismore and the Northern Rivers region is that the number of fatal crashes on the highway has more than halved since the upgrade started,” Ms Saffin said.

“Local communities have also benefitted from having workers living among us and spending during construction, and even towns that have been bypassed, are pivoting to promote what they have to offer and we need to support their local businesses.”

Ms Saffin said she worked closely with then Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport (now Federal Opposition Leader) Anthony Albanese and Federal Member for Richmond Justine Elliot to deliver unprecedented levels of funding — $7.9 billion in total — for the dual-carriageway works during six years in government.

“This was an extra $6.6 billion more than the previous Federal Coalition Government, which allocated $1.3 billion over 12 years in office. I acknowledge that Coalition governments in Canberra and Sydney in recent years kept up Labor’s pace in order to meet the 2020 deadline for completion albeit with the Coffs Harbour Bypass still to be done),” Ms Saffin said.

“Of course, I beat a path to Albo’s and former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s doors very early on to quickly deliver my key election commitments of the Ballina Bypass and Alstonville Bypass, reducing traffic congestion in Ballina and linking the coast to Lismore and hinterland.

“The Pacific Highway upgrade – from the Ballina Bypass to early works for Woolgoolga to Ballina, Devils Pulpit, Glenugie and the Kempsey Bypass and bridge

— represented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do some serious nation building, and I milked as much Federal and State funding for it as I possibly could.” 

Ms Saffin said she felt privileged to have been there from the start at Twin Towns Services Club in Tweed Heads when Australia’s then Prime Minister Paul Keating announced the joint Commonwealth-State commitment on December 20, 1995, to have played a role in fast tracking its construction, and now seeing it to fruition.

“I want to publicly thank former Pacific Highway Office General Manager Bob Higgins and everyone – design teams, engineers, site managers and road workers — who section by section have built an infrastructure marvel to rival the Snowy Mountains Scheme,” Ms Saffin said.

“It is no coincidence that all of the original architects of what became a major civil works projects to develop a world-class highway up the Pacific edge of Australia came from the Labor side of politics – Paul Keating and then Transport Ministers, Laurie Brereton (NSW) and David Hamill (Queensland).

“Paul Keating spoke of the highway as being the transport spine of the continent’s East Coast, and that it needed a complete rebuild rather than simply dealing with some of the more difficult sections, to make it safer (after 1989’s Cowper and Kempsey bus crashes) and reduce travelling times.”

Wednesday, 16 December 2020.

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