31 May 2023, 11:12
Economic & Infrastructure Committee
Legislative Council, Melbourne

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan):

I thank Mrs McArthur for bringing this matter before the house. Are roads a big issue for regional and rural Victorians? Absolutely. Of course they are, as they are for a lot of my constituents living in and around the Melbourne growth corridors where thousands and thousands of vehicles are travelling on, at best, domestic-grade roads to get in and out of town. Unfortunately we were only approached yesterday about this referral and had no opportunity to seek to discuss or amend the terms. I do not want to appear to be ungrateful, Mrs McArthur, but I think this is a missed opportunity. Had there been the opportunity for discussion, our position might be different, but as presented this referral appears not so much to be a genuine inquiry as a four-by-two to belt the government. Look, that might be fun, but it is perhaps not the best use of taxpayer money.

Looking at the terms of reference, it strikes me as a lost opportunity. In fact I suspect much of the terms of reference could easily be answered by ChatGPT. Patterns of investment in roads, the standards required for road construction and tendering, and contract requirements are all largely within the public domain. These questions have also been extensively canvassed in multiple parliamentary inquiries in other states and the federal parliament, as well as in this Parliament.

Could the roads be better if we spend more money on them? Of course they could be. But where will that money come from, and what would be cut to pay for it? These are not issues that are considered within the terms of reference. Are there other parties that can and should contribute more, like the road heavy transport industry? This is not considered. Are there ways to reduce road usage, such as by improving rail freight services or public transport? This is not considered. What do more frequent extreme weather and climate change mean for the roads and future road construction and maintenance? That is not considered. Because of these deficiencies, we will not be supporting the referral, but we would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue in the future with Mrs McArthur should she wish.


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