Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (20:11): I rise to speak to the budget bill, the Appropriation Bill, and note that with the addition of the Supply Bill the total state budget for the coming 12 months is $23½ billion. It is interesting to note that with a change of government there are a lot of projects that come over that we started, and thankfully most of them are ongoing.
I want to start by talking about some of the things that came particularly to the Murray and Mallee. These were all projects around the River Murray. There is $19.7 million over three years for the River Murray in South Australia. The constraints measures project is commonwealth funded, and I have often said in this place and elsewhere that the proposed interconnector between Lake Albert and the Coorong should be dug out and built.
There are a lot of conversations around whether that should happen and I have always said that, if it stacks up environmentally, it would be a lot better than using hundreds of gigalitres of water every time you try to flush out Lake Albert because it has to come out of the narrows at Narrung, where there has been a big causeway built apart from where the ferry crosses at the narrow neck of water. I understand there is going to be flushing soon, but that is probably because the river is as high as I have ever seen it. It is good to have those rains in Queensland and New South Wales flowing down. It reminds me of 2010, when that fantastic brown water from the Darling side of the river came down to save our bacon, basically.
The constraints measures project is welcome. It would be nice to see where that lands so that we get the right outcome for the Coorong. It is interesting to note that one of my staff has a shack on the Coorong and he said to me, 'I grabbed a handful of water out of the Coorong the other day and took a drink. It is not too bad in the northern lagoon.' That is saying something. That is showing how much salt is not there.
There is also $11.6 million over two years for the Healthy Coorong, Healthy Basin program to improve water bird habitat throughout the Coorong and the Lower Lakes, which is another very worthwhile project for the area, and $2.1 million over four years to employ an eminent jurist as the commissioner for the River Murray. We have always had to fight for the River Murray on the bottom end of the system. Members of my party and I had to put up a grand fight way back in 2007-08 when the Labor government of the day proposed to put a weir in at Wellington. It would have killed the bottom of the river, and I am glad that we were successful in blocking that proposal.
In regard to other matters in the state budget, I look at the budget overview and there are some lofty ambitions that the government have in place. They are talking about 350 more paramedics and ambulance officers, 101 more doctors, 300 more nurses and 326 extra hospital and mental health beds. This is budgeted inside the extra $2.4 billion in additional health infrastructure over five years. Let's see the day when all these staff turn up because, apart from trying to find these people in the system—and I welcome it if we can, absolutely—I know that a lot of people are attracted interstate. Good programs will have to be put in place to support our valuable health services right across the state.
When we look at some of the programs around hospitals and infrastructure, I note the work that we did putting in emergency beds right across the city and the $7 million we put into the Murray Bridge emergency department. We have the new emergency department. I do not know how that is synergising at Mount Barker with the proposed new hospital, which is welcome. There is $220 million that will service my constituents from towards Mount Barker in the Strathalbyn area. It will be very handy for those constituents.
The Hydrogen Jobs Plan is very ambitious. The government have got it out at $593 million. We think there is a $500 million black hole there. It will be interesting to see how that goes. I think it is great to have this ambition and we support hydrogen plans, but the private sector would play a big role in getting there anyway.
In regard to housing, I note the public housing improvement program in the budget of $177.5 million over four years. Any investment in public housing is welcome. Any housing is very hard to get hold of at the moment, especially in regional areas. It is very hard to get rentals and very hard even for investors to buy a property. Gone are the days when you would see a property for $280,000 in Murray Bridge and you would try to talk it down $20,000. You probably have to add $30,000 or $40,000 to be the successful purchaser.
That will only be exacerbated with the new Thomas Foods abattoir, which we supported with a community infrastructure spend of $14 million alongside $10 million from the federal government for roads, gas, water and power access. There will not be many houses across regional communities. I note that, not that many years ago, Labor unloaded about 7,000 public houses across the state. We do need to right that wrong.
I noted the member just then talking about the emergency services and 12 trucks for the MFS. This is a project we were involved in early on. I salute those trucks coming on board. You have to have good emergency services vehicles, whether it is for the SES, the CFS or the MFS and for surf lifesaving as well. They need good equipment and are always in need of an upgrade. They are expensive machines. These trucks will be about $1 million each, and then there will be other moneys around that for the upgrade and maintenance programs around the trucks.
In regard to road infrastructure, it is interesting that there is $7.83 billion allocated for roads across the state, but there should have been at least $1 billion more than that. The north-south connector has most of the northern and southern ends completed or close to completion. I note a lot of the overpasses, especially on the Darlington section, were built by Bowhill Engineering in my electorate of Hammond. They built half of those major overpasses there at Darlington. I think the other contractor came from Tasmania of all places. It is a big project and it is so good to see a little company like that, with about 40 employees, get that local work here in South Australia.
As the shadow minister for regional roads, I noted with interest the government trumpeting the $467.4 million for regional roads in their state budget speech that the Treasurer gave the other day. That is welcome, but what he did not say was that just over $2 billion of regional road programs are in the pipeline already, and it appears—and we have to go through budget estimates and put questions on notice if we do not have time—that most of those projects are ongoing.
I look at the Strzelecki Track. As I have indicated here only in recent days, I worked in the Cooper Basin 40 years ago, and to have the Strzelecki Track bituminised all the way through is going to be a major boon, not just for the oil and gas industry but for pastoralists to get their cattle and sheep south to abattoirs or for anyone just getting supplies up north. I was talking to some people who travel those roads, especially the road train operators, and they almost mourn the day when the bitumen comes through because it means you can essentially ride a bike or drive a Mini up there. That is half the challenge with going bush: you take all the spare tyres and the plugs so you can make it.
It will be a real boon in productivity so that this state can service our own basin, noting that the Cooper Basin flows over into Queensland. I was up there a couple of years ago when Adventure Way was rebuilt between Innamincka and the Queensland border. It is a 29-kilometre section, and they were carting about 5,000 tonnes of ballast from Whyalla to put in the base of that section, because once you get to the border at Queensland it is bitumen all the way through to Brisbane. So, once we get that link up, it will be another vital link.
It was interesting during COVID. If you could not go through New South Wales and Victoria, which obviously we could not for a long time, a lot of people were taking that track through, and some people were doing it in vehicles that really were not suited. It will be a great boon for the state and the country.
Also on the list that will be ongoing is the greater state bypass at Truro, a $202 million project working alongside the federal government. We instigated this project and it will be a great boon for the Sturt Highway. The traffic is already getting funnelled around that highway, that northern route, taking a lot of freight off the freeway. Anything bigger than a B-double—and there is a lot of freight bigger than B-doubles now; you have the B-triples, B-quad road trains, AB-doubles, all sorts of combinations—heads around the top, but you can get interesting feedback.
Yes, we do have a heavy freight route through Murray Bridge, and people suddenly see these bigger combinations coming past, but it literally does get thousands of tonnes of freight off the freeway. Down the track, I would like to see both that highway, the Sturt Highway through to the border (about 190 kilometres), and the Dukes Highway, which I live on at Coomandook, duplicated. The trouble with both those projects is that the longer we leave them—and they are $3 billion each now—they are just going to get more expensive over time.
Another major work announced by our government, at $250 million, is Hahndorf traffic improvements. It would be great to get freight off the main road at Hahndorf, as it would make it a lot easier to get around. It is a fantastic little town with a lot of visitation, a great tourist town. The Horrocks Highway is a $96 million project. It is one of those northern roads that heads up around Clare and it certainly needs work.
The Murray Bridge to South East Links business case is still ongoing, with $5 million allocated to it. This involves investigation of the duplication of the Swanport Bridge. As I have indicated, I have been around a couple of days—and it is a bit sad in itself—but when I saw the Swanport Bridge opened in 1979 and drove over it as a 17 year old, I thought, 'Wow, all this hype about a new bridge and it's a single lane each way.'
Finally, there is some talk around the duplication of that bridge, and part of the South East Links business case is looking at the duplication past Tailem Bend. You get nailed down to a single lane bridge and then dual lane to Tailem Bend. What it will do is open up that first five kilometres out towards the Mallee Highway turn-off. There is a railway bridge there, which is going to cost some money because it will need duplicating and lifting, but then that opens up that next 190 kilometres to duplicate, heading to the border. I believe the Dukes Highway is the fourth busiest highway in the country.
The old Murray Bridge refurbishment is a project we started. We put $36 million in the pot, and that is something I will be exploring during estimates. It is pleasing to see that another $10 million has been added. It is a big project, updating the piles, painting the bridge for the first time in about 30 or 32 years and doing some drainage work on it. There was a bit of consternation in the community when they said, 'Oh, it's going to be reduced to one lane,' and all that sort of thing. I just said to the media, 'You either have one lane or you have no lanes, it's as simple as that.'
It is working very well. The company has three shifts of people at each end monitoring the lights and the traffic. It is interesting that about 8,000 or 9,000 vehicles a day go over that bridge, and that is actually about 500 more than they have measured go over the Swanport Bridge, that internal traffic through Murray Bridge.
The Port Wakefield overpass and the highway duplication is another big project, at close to $125 million. It is a great project hooking into the seat of Narungga and other areas heading up through the Mid North. Then we have the South Eastern Freeway's Managed Motorway project of $75 million, more vital work that needs to be done. These are just some of the projects. There is the Joy Baluch Bridge, $200 million to duplicate that bridge in Port Augusta.
However, there is much more work to do in terms of regional roadworks. There are thousands and thousands of kilometres to work on. We lifted a lot of roads; we had eight in particular that we lifted from 100 km/h to 110 km/h, and we are very proud of the Ngarkat Highway and Browns Well Highway linking Loxton through to Pinnaroo and then down to Bordertown—200 kilometres of road upgraded there.
I am keen to see more money spent in the regions, and I will be investigating some of that during the budget process. I am very proud of what we did in government, delivering $1.5 billion right across the state, bringing year 7 into high school and, just in my local electorate, the multiple projects that we did there in the four years. It was at least $215 million, with health projects, education projects, roadworks and assisting businesses like Parilla Potatoes to expand.
At the end of day, as I spoke about earlier, health matters in the regions are vitally important. It is hard to get staff in the regions; it is hard to get staff just about anywhere these days with the way things are. It is good to see that the memory unit and the aged-care beds at Strathalbyn have opened, and that was about a $16 million project in Strathalbyn. It is a fantastic set-up there.
Kalimna is a project dear to my community of Strathalbyn's heart because it was community-fundraised land, and the community then raised funds for the building. The former Labor government, before we were in government, essentially kicked people out of there and said it was not safe for people to use. The building is still there. As far as I can see in the budget papers, what form of aged-care support that building will take is still being investigated, because that will be vital for the people of Strathalbyn.
Certainly, in regard to health care (just quickly as the time counts down), in getting the Strathalbyn hospital and the other country hospitals that are co-located with aged care open after COVID, and managing during COVID, we obviously have to be very careful with our elderly. But we also have to manage those emergency departments to make sure that that our community gets access, and I look forward to those days. It will be interesting in estimates. I commend the bill to the house.