The Turnbull Government has cut investment on the Pacific Highway duplication by $600 million this year, raising doubts about whether the project will be completed by 2020 as promised.
While Budget documents show that the Commonwealth invested $1.37 billion on the Pacific Highway in the year to June 30, investment will fall to $710 million this financial year.
The Government’s decision to hit the brakes on the project underlines the gap between its rhetoric on infrastructure and the reality of cuts, re-announcements and inaction.
Despite Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull’s big talk about nation building, analysis by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office has found that over the next decade, investment in transport infrastructure expressed as a proportion of GDP will halve to 0.2 per cent.
That’s a stark contrast with the performance of the former Labor Federal Government, which delivered record investment in railways, roads, ports and other public assets.
That included $7.9 billion on the Pacific Highway over six years – six times the amount provided by the former Howard Government in half the time.
Today I inspected the completed and ongoing Pacific Highway work on the Mid-North Coast that was funded in the budgets of the former Federal Labor Government.
While it was pleasing to see the outcome of these investments, I’m worried Mr Turnbull’s go-slow approach will see him struggle to meet his commitment to duplicate the Pacific Highway all the way to the Queensland border by 2020.
Finishing the Pacific Highway duplication will not only achieve improvements in road safety, but will also deliver productivity gains that will drive economic and jobs growth across New South Wales.
Mr Turnbull should get on with it.