Ms VAGHELA: My question is to the Minister for Roads and Minister for Road Safety and the TAC. Minister, can you outline how the Andrews government is improving strategic freight corridors in Melbourne’s west?
Ms PULFORD (Minister for Roads, Minister for Road Safety and the TAC, Minister for Fishing and Boating): Thank you very much for your question. I am very pleased to provide the house with an update on what the government is doing to work with our freight industry, particularly as it relates to the western suburbs, in particular an area where the intersection of the freight industry and community has a long history and a sometimes challenging history. I take the opportunity to congratulate Dr Cumming on her speech yesterday, where she touched on some of these issues and some of her personal involvement with these as well. What I am very pleased to indicate to the house today is that we are making great progress on a promise to deliver and improve our strategic freight corridors. We have now completed two important bridge upgrades in Melbourne’s west. This is a $3.2 million project, the Princes Freeway bridge strengthening project, and is very much about making conditions better for high-productivity freight vehicles, particularly those travelling between Geelong and the port, a very busy area indeed for freight activity. These projects have involved strengthening bridges at two locations on the freeway: over the Werribee River at Werribee South and at Railway Avenue in Laverton. We are very committed to continuing to work with our freight industry. The way the freight industry operates is of course something that has changed quite a bit with the advent of ecommerce—so much movement and activity on our roads, not the big long-haul vehicles of overnight journeys so much as a proportion of freight effort by often lots of smaller vans buzzing around the streets getting products to everybody and delivering everything that everyone needs all the time. It is an incredibly important part of our economy. My predecessor, Luke Donnellan, and the former Minister for Public Transport, Jacinta Allan, worked together on a Victorian government freight strategy, which was released last year, developed in very close partnership with industry. That will continue to guide our work and our investment. I think it is also important to note the appointment of Minister Horne as the Minister for Ports and Freight, escalating the freight industry and its issues to a higher level. I am very much looking forward to working with Minister Horne at the intersection between our roles, with my responsibilities managing the road network and her responsibilities in further developing and supporting the freight industry. I have had the opportunity to meet a couple of times with Peter Anderson of the Victorian Transport Association. This is an industry that through previous roles, both before being in the Parliament and particularly in the last four years in my previous ministerial responsibilities, I have had some interaction with, but absolutely I am the first to admit that there is lots for me to learn about the needs and issues of paramount importance to our freight industry. Thank you for the opportunity to provide the house with an update on those particular bridges, those strengthening projects, and making sure that our freight industry is well-supported, that communities can be confident the government is very conscious of its responsibility to make sure that our freight networks are as efficient as possible and that our non-freight networks are only minimally impacted by freight activity, or only as much as is required.