Sep 22, 2012

Duplication deal cast to the wind by Federal and State Coalition – Opinion – Daily Examiner and Northern Star

This Federal Labor Government has contributed $4.1 billion towards duplicating the Pacific Highway.  Compare this with just $1.3 billion committed by John Howard during his entire 12 years as Prime Minister. In addition, the recent Federal Budget added to the table a further $3.56 billion, as long as it is matched by the NSW Government.

This funding would fully duplicate the highway by 2016 using a funding formula and a deadline set by John Howard.  It is all on the record.

Over the weekend, the Federal Coalition gave their mates in Macquarie Street, the green-light to abandon the 2016 deadline.  They have deferred the full duplication beyond this current decade.

When the Federal Coalition was in Government they called the Pacific Highway a “State road” and demanded NSW Labor fund it 50/50.  In 2006, the Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker had this to say:

“The Pacific Highway is a State road, designed, built, owned and maintained by the NSW Government.”

In October 2007 on ABC News, Duncan Gay urged the then NSW Labor Treasurer to say:

“Yes, I will match that [Federal] money and save the lives of the people of NSW that have to use that highway.”

On the weekend, the Federal Leader of the Nationals, Warren Truss, announced that should his team be elected next year they would take money allocated to fund the Parramatta to Epping rail link and use it instead for the Pacific Highway.  They said that this cash switch would enable them to fully duplicate the highway by 2016.

Yet this is simply mission impossible.  There is only $68 million set aside for the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link between now and 2016 because of the failure of the O’Farrell Government to support the rail project.

Under this hastily thrown together Coalition plan, it pushes out the duplication deadline well beyond 2020.  And they are still at least half a billion dollars short, money that is not accounted for in their costings.  That’s before you take into account the massive cost increases associated with the delay.

Right now, there are 1,800 people working up and down the Pacific Highway. Much of this work such as the Kempsey Bypass was 100 percent Federally-funded during the Economic Stimulus Plan to keep people in jobs during the downturn.  It is extraordinary that the NSW Government is using the additional investment in the Pacific Highway by Federal Labor to abandon its responsibility.

All we’ve asked is that the NSW Coalition Government honours the promises it made in Opposition.  It is extraordinary that the Federal Coalition would give the green-light to the O’Farrell Government to abandon the joint commitment to fully duplicate the Pacific Highway by 2016.