Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (10:51): Today the South Australian government has called for expressions of interest to tender for the building of the dual lanes through Port Wakefield and the overpass to the north and the second bridge in Port Augusta. I wish to speak about that today. In March of 2017 the Great Western Bridge, which was built in the twenties across the top of the gulf, was decommissioned for foot traffic. We’d had a new bridge built in the eighties in Port Augusta, but the Port Augusta foot traffic was on the old bridge. It pushed the foot traffic onto the existing Joy Baluch Bridge, on an unprotected walkway a little over a metre wide—two gophers cannot pass on this walkway.
I began lobbying at first for a protected walkway on the bridge, but, after looking at the traffic loads and the predicted traffic increases to the north and west in South Australia, then lobbied for a second bridge. In the 2018 budget, after taking Ministers Chester, Fletcher and McCormack to Port Augusta to stand on the bridge, we announced $160 million to duplicate the Joy Baluch Bridge at Port Augusta, which was to be, and is being, matched by $40 million from the state government.
You’ve got to understand Port Augusta. The bulk of the city is on the east, and that’s where the emergency services are. Around a third of the city is on the west, and there are no emergency services—no police, no firemen and no ambulance services. From time to time the bridge is cut. The alternative route is around 40 minutes around the top of the gulf, and in wet weather that’s closed. So this is a serious issue for the town, with the increasing traffic loads and the danger to pedestrians, bike riders and kids on their way to school. The schools have taken to running special school buses to bring the kids to school in the morning, so they are not walking over the bridge. So this is a great move forward.
There is a fair sense of excitement in the town, even though I must accept that, after the announcement, the public is very impatient for work to start: ‘You promised us a bridge. Where’s the bridge?’ Well, it’s all happening; it’s locked into the budget and the forward estimates. I will be very excited to see some movement on this. I expect the tenders to be closed out and then certainly to see some activity in the new year. It is planned that the bridge will be completed during 2022, as will the Port Wakefield overpass and dual lanes. Both of these areas are bottlenecks; both of them are dangerous. Both of these projects will actually lead into this push to invigorate the regions in Australia and make sure we make the best of the opportunity that God has presented us and bring the best of that to Australia.