Mr RAMSEY (Grey–Government Whip) (11:41): What a great budget and what a great spend on infrastructure. How pleased I am that the government has decided on investing $160 million to co-partner with the new Marshall state government in an 80-20 deal to build a second crossing at Port Augusta, a duplication of the Joy Baluch Bridge. Post Augusta is the crossroads of the nation. If you’re travelling from Sydney or Melbourne to Perth, you’re travelling through Port Augusta. If you’re travelling from Melbourne to Darwin, you’re travelling through Port Augusta. If you’re travelling from Adelaide to Darwin, you’re travelling through Port Augusta. If you travel through Port Augusta, you have to cross the top of Spencer’s Gulf.
There is one crossing at Port Augusta. It is called the Joy Baluch Bridge, and it was built in 1972. If the Joy Baluch Bridge is interrupted-if its flow is interrupted or if we have an accident on board-then the traffic is diverted 30 kilometres to the north to go around the top of Spencer’s Gulf. That’s a dirt road. If it rains more than 10 millimetres, that road is out of order. All the emergency services in Port Augusta sit on the east side. There is a significant population on the west side. In the event the bridge is interrupted and the crossing is out, the nearest fire truck is in Whyalla, which is almost 100 kilometres away.
This has been a problem that has existed for some years and, as the traffic load is building on the bridge, things are getting worse. The bridge, as I said, was built in 1972. Around 18,000 to 20,000 vehicles a day are carted across the bridge. In 1972, when it was built to the design standards of the day, a walkway was put on the bridge. Unfortunately, it’s only about 1.76 metres wide. There are some posts on the edge of the walkway, and there is no divider between it and the heavy traffic that travels across the bridge. By and large, it has been shunned by pedestrian traffic, bike riders and whatever. Over the years they have crossed the gulf on what is the old Great Western Bridge, which was built back in 1928. It’s a wooden bridge. It looks more like a jetty than a bridge, quite frankly. It has served very well. It’s a good way to get across the gulf. But little over 12 months ago it fell into disrepair and was then condemned and closed. That foot traffic was then put back on the Joy Baluch Bridge. It has been a very dangerous situation.
Originally, the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure reduced the speed limit on the bridge to 25 kilometres per hour and now 40 kilometres per hour. Schools are bussing children across the bridge because they are not happy for them to cross it on foot. We need an answer. We requested support from the previous state administration. For over 12 months, they would not supply an engineering report for that particular bridge. I’ve been lobbying hard with the Prime Minister, the urban infrastructure minister and the transport minister. Indeed, I had Minister Chester on the bridge back late last year. We need a solution, so I’m so pleased that we’ve announced $160 million to partner with the state’s $40 million to address this very real issue. This bridge is going to get busier. We’ve got a mine starting just to the north at Carrapateena. There are 1,000 jobs going on there. Roxby Downs is now ramping up production. Traffic loads are going to continue to increase. It’s the right answer, and I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to afford that partnership.
It’s going to take some time, and I’m asking the Port Augusta citizens to be patient. There’s been no work at all done on the engineering requirements of this bridge. We don’t know exactly where it’ll go yet. We’ve got a fair idea, where you’d think it would go, but that hasn’t been decided. Consequently, we don’t know what the bridge has to look like in an engineering sense. And then we will have to work out exactly what capability we want on the bridge. Once we get to that stage we’ll have in-depth design analysis-proper engineering designs for the bridge-and then we’ll have to start negotiating with the people who are likely to lose their houses, likely to lose their businesses. As I said, they don’t know exactly where the bridge is going. It will be a mammoth project and it will be very disruptive, but it is the solution for Port Augusta and for the nation. It will also involve dealing with the EPA and the Coastal Protection Board, and native title clearances. Don’t expect this bridge to be finished by the end of next week. I guess I’m trying to put a sense of reality about what needs to be dealt with here.
The budget shows $60 million through the forward estimates, because Treasury’s best guess is that the project will take longer than that. There’s a bit of a scare campaign going on on the ground back home, I must say, but they can rest assured that the rest of the coverage