Barnaby Joyce has let New England down on road investment, having failed to advance important New England Highway upgrades for four years and only finally acting when he realised he was about to face a by-election.
In August the Government called tenders for the Bolivia Hill Upgrade and the Scone Bypass. They also reaffirmed their commitment to the Tenterfield Heavy Vehicle Bypass after years of saying nothing about it.
Labor welcomes this important work. It will provide jobs and economic activity in New England in the short term while improving productivity and road safety in the longer term.
However, this work should have been underway long before now. After all, these projects were initially funded by the former Federal Labor Government in either 2013 or earlier.
They were part of a pipeline of infrastructure projects developed by Labor in Government which saw the New England region benefit from the Hunter Expressway which has dramatically cut travel times for passengers and freight headed south.
The money has been in the Budget, but Mr Joyce did nothing until he realised he was a citizen of New Zealand and would have to face a by-election.
Mr Joyce has taken New England for granted.
The Turnbull Government has invested in roads in Sydney, but has cut road investment in regional New South Wales, particularly on road safety programs that are critical in regional electorates such as New England.
For example, in its first three Budgets, the Government announced $69.5 million in funding in NSW for its Black Spot program, which delivers safety upgrades to traffic hot spots with records of serious accidents.
In fact it invested $30.7 million – less than half what it promised.
Its record is even worse on the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, which targets truck safety by delivering rest areas and roadside truck parking bays on highways.
In its first three Budgets, the Government promised $59.4 million for the HVSPP, which is particular important in seats like New England.
It spent $14.8 million – a cut of $44 million.
Only a Labor Government will deliver the infrastructure investment needed to drive economic and jobs growth across regional Australia.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.