I want to speak this morning about an important piece of economic infrastructure in my electorate and the neighbouring electorate of Cunningham in the Illawarra. It is the Maldon-Dombarton rail link.
In September 1983 the Wran state Labor government announced that the Maldon to Dombarton line would be constructed and completed by 1986. Unfortunately, in June 1988 the incoming Greiner state government cancelled the project, contrary to their election promise.
The Maldon-Dombarton line is to provide an alternative to the existing Illawarra and Moss Vale-Unanderra lines for the transport of freight to and from Port Kembla. It involves laying only around 35 kilometres of track, with multiple passing loops and new bridges over the Nepean and Cordeaux rivers.
After more than two decades of inaction, the incoming federal Labor government showed a genuine determination to complete this iconic infrastructure project. This rail link is back on the agenda today, thanks to the nearly $30 million of funding provided since Labor come to office in late 2007. The federally funded engineering, planning and environmental works are now under way.
Yesterday, I was astounded to hear that the New South Wales government had claimed credit for $21.4 million of federal government funding in the New South Wales budget. Indeed, they put a media release out to that effect. Not surprisingly, the people of the Illawarra feel—quite frankly—ripped off by the O'Farrell government. The recent sale of Port Kembla brought the government $760 million, yet they have promised to return only $100 million to the region. That is why my local newspaper is describing the New South Wales government's budget as a kick in the guts for the region.
Even worse, they have now had the audacity to claim credit for the federal funding of the Maldon-Dombarton project. The fact is, the New South Wales Liberals have not put one cent towards rail funding. During the lightning visit of the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, to the region—and for a few moments he thought that he was in Newcastle and said as much—he described the Maldon-Dombarton rail link as an urban rail project which therefore should be funded by the state government, showing how he little he knew about the local region. The people of the Illawarra know that the best chance of this project being completed is to get matched funding from the state and federal governments. The federal government is playing its part. That is why the member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, and I are calling on the minister for infrastructure, arguably Australia's best ever Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, to come to the Illawarra and inspect the progress of the works and talk about what we can do to ensure that this project can be completed. We need the New South Wales Liberals to do their part. The Maldon-Dombarton rail link is unfinished business for the Illawarra. It is critical infrastructure. Let us get it done.