Aug 12, 2014

Abbott’s cuts reduce road safety

Local councils are confirming that Tony Abbott’s freeze on indexation of Financial Assistance Grants is forcing them to cut council services, including road maintenance.

Today on the ABC’s AM program, representatives of the Cootamundra, Port Pirie and Central Goldfields councils said the cuts, which will cost the nation’s councils about $1 billion over the next three years, would compromise council services.

Port Pirie Council chief executive officer Andrew Johnson told AM that the freeze would cause a deterioration of road quality which he said could “cause some issues with getting people and products around the region’’.

As Labor has been warning since this short-sighted Budget decision, these cuts will particularly hurt small rural and regional councils which rely on Financial Assistance Grants to maintain roads in a safe condition.

They will reduce road safety and economic productivity. I can’t believe that the Nationals allowed Tony Abbott to treat their own communities with such contempt.

It’s a stunning betrayal of rural and regional communities that the Nationals claim they want to serve.

The cuts to Financial Assistance Grants come as bungling Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss has failed to guarantee the continuation of the $2.1 billion Roads to Recovery program, which also provides road funding to councils and expired on June 30.

Mr Truss forgot to seek Senate approval to guarantee its continuation after that expiry date.

I have produced a Private Members’ Bill that would provide immediate certainty by extending the program and I expect Coalition support for its passage when Parliament resumes later this month.