The 2012-13 Budget provides a record funding package of $4.1 billion1 over the next four years to assist the nation’s councils and shires maintain and upgrade their local roads, the centrepiece of which is the retention of the Roads to Recovery Program until 2019.
Due to expire at the end of next financial year, the Federal Labor Government has agreed to extend the Program for a further five years and maintain its annual funding at the current rate of $350.0 million, supplementing the support councils and shires receive under our Financial Assistance Grants Scheme.
An important aspect to the Program is that local councils, rather than Canberra or state government bureaucrats, determine how the money is spent. After all, they are the level of government best placed to know the immediate needs and priorities of their local communities.
Since we last extended the Program in 2008, it has funded 13,589 local road projects in just about every community in the country. The distribution of funding between councils will continue to be determined by state and territory grants commissions.
This renewal of the Roads to Recovery Program is the latest example of Labor’s longstanding and enduring support for local government.
It was Labor after all which first instituted direct Federal assistance for local councils and it was Labor which on two separate occasions attempted to have local government recognised in the Australian Constitution only to be opposed by the conservatives.
As well as making a record investment in our interstate highways and major urban arterials, the backbone of the nation’s road network and the Commonwealth’s primary responsibility, Federal Labor’s Nation Building agenda is also doing more to improve our local suburban streets and country roads.
Collectively, the nation’s councils and shires are responsible for more than 657,000 kilometres of road.
1 Includes funding from the Roads to Recovery Program and the untied local roads component of the Financial Assistance Grants Scheme for the period 2012–13 to 2015–16.