The Federal Coalition’s “promise” to fix the Pacific Highway has gone from the absurd to the ridiculous, with Nationals Leader Warren Truss admitting he has no idea when they would finish its full duplication.
This week when asked on local radio about timing, Mr Truss could only say:
“I’d hope it’s finished not too many years after that date (2016).”
ABC COFFS COAST – 25 SEPTEMBER 2012
But that’s not the worst of it. Not only can’t Mr Truss say when the Federal Coalition would complete the job, but their entire Pacific Highway promise is built on a shameless deception and a brazen disregard for the truth.
Firstly, Mr Truss claims the Federal Coalition’s promise is “fully-funded”. Not true.
Even after redirecting the money earmarked for the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link, they are still $500 million short of the $7.7 billion that’s required – and that’s before you take into account the additional costs that will be incurred as a result of their stated position to delay completing the project beyond 2016.
NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay has already conceded as much.
Secondly, Mr Truss says the Federal Coalition’s promise “restores” the “standard” 80:20 funding ratio. That claim is based on a complete falsehood. No such Federal-State arrangement has ever existed.
Indeed, when Mr Truss was the Transport Minister in the former Howard Government, he demanded a 50:50 funding arrangement from the then NSW Labor Government. But now that the Coalition is back in office in NSW, he has suddenly changed his tune, labelling such a shared approach “unfair”.
It was the former Howard Government that originally established both the 2016 target and the principle of matching funding.
For our part, Federal Labor has committed our share of the required funding and released a construction schedule setting out how the full duplication can be completed by 2016. All we’ve ever asked of the NSW Coalition Government is that they honour their promises.
Labor’s commitment to fixing the Pacific Highway has been unwavering for almost two decades. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the Liberal and National Parties who have consistently shown that they are more interested in spin than getting the job done.
PAST FUNDING: 1996/97 – 2007/08
Howard Coalition Government: $1.3 billion
NSW Labor Government: $2.5 billion
CURRENT FUNDING: 2008/09 – 2016/17
(Excluding extra money $3.56 billion in 2012-13 Budget)
Federal Labor Government: $4.1 billion
NSW Coalition Government: $1 billion
WENDY MACHIN, NRMA PRESIDENT – 27 FEBUARY 2012
“It was the Howard Government that set the 50/50 funding split for the Pacific Highway from 2006 and the NRMA has supported this approach since day one.
“While in Opposition, the current NSW Government frequently called on the NSW Labor Government to match federal funding for the Pacific Highway dollar-for-dollar and we supported this call too.
“To now suggest that funding should suddenly be reverted to an 80/20 model would ensure further long delays in finally upgrading this dangerous highway.”
JOHN HOWARD – 16 OCTOBER 2007
“My Government preference remains for the duplication to be completed by 2016, in line with our 2004 commitment [and] … is willing to provide our share of the additional funded needed … if the NSW Government will match our funding commitment…”
BARRY O’FARRELL – 8 MARCH 2011
“Only the NSW Liberals and Nationals are committed to completing the upgrade of the Pacific Highway by 2016.”
ANDREW STONER – 28 OCTOBER 2009
“[Premier] Nathan Rees can’t pass the buck on this issue. The upgrade of the Pacific Highway is a State Government responsibility, so it’s up to them to get the job done.”
DUNCAN GAY – 10 OCTOBER 2007
“I would hope this time he (the then Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal) would have been a statesman and say, ‘Yes I will match that money and save the lives of people in NSW that have to use this highway’.”
ANDREW FRASER – 21 OCTOBER 2009
“I pay credit to the Rudd Government … for increasing the funding… The Pacific Highway is a State road that effectively causes the loss of one life a week.
“The State Government must increase its commitment… As … Mr Albanese pointed out … the Federal Government is actually carrying the State…”