Coalition MPs watched on awkwardly yesterday as Junior Minister Jamie Briggs failed to answer a question on the Pacific Highway yesterday, before sitting down after less than 30 seconds without even mentioning the project.
MR ALBANESE (14:32): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. Will the minister explain why there is not a single extra dollar for a single new Pacific Highway project in the 2014 budget, in spite of the fact that this budget slugs motorists with a new petrol tax?
Or will the minister stick to his practice of keeping his comments off the record?
Mr BRIGGS (14:33): Proudly, the Deputy Prime Minister and I are implementing the biggest infrastructure program in Australia’s history: $50 billion. We are implementing the program, which is $16 billion more than what the member for Grayndler would have implemented had he been re-elected last September. And thank goodness he was not, because what we on this side are trying to fix is not only an infrastructure deficit but a budget that was broken and was unsustainable. And we are fixing it.
Coalition MPS are right to be embarrassed. Like Mr Briggs, they know that that every one of the Pacific Highway projects listed in Budget documents was funded by the former Labor Government.
Unlike Labor, which provided additional funding in each of our six Budgets from 2008, the Coalition Government has not even added one dollar.
Upgrading this highway will dramatically improve road safety and boost national economy productivity.
The Government has been desperately re-announcing the former Labor Government’s investment to direct public attention away from the Budget’s broken promises and savage cuts to health and education.
Given the opportunity to back their rhetoric with facts, Government ministers are routinely struck mute.
This explains why glossy Budget documents include a Pacific Highway work schedule that appeared to have been cut and pasted from last year’s Budget documents.
The truth about the Abbott Government’s infrastructure Budget is that it is made up of old projects funded by Labor as well as billions of dollars in cuts to funding for public transport and existing road projects which are being used to fund a handful of new projects.