Jul 23, 2014

Labor to guarantee Roads to Recovery

Labor will move in Parliament to give the nation’s councils absolute certainty about the future of the $1.75 billion Roads to Recovery scheme amid continuing Abbott Government bungling over its status in legislation.

While Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss has complained for months that laws enshrining the popular road-funding grants scheme were to expire on June 30 this year, he has failed to secure its future by asking the Senate to back legislation allowing it to continue.

Instead, Mr Truss sought to politicise the scheme by rolling it into his Land Transport Infrastructure Bill, which the Coalition did not even list for debate in the Senate before his self-pronounced June 30 deadline.

In spite of two full weeks of Senate sitting this month the Government again failed to bring on this Bill.

Mr Truss’s incompetence has caused needless concern and confusion for councils across the nation.

The Private Member’s Bill that I lodged last week, which is on the Parliamentary notice paper, will remove any doubt about continuing the Roads to Recovery program.

Councils deserve certainty about the future of the scheme. They are already reeling from Tony Abbott’s Budget decision to freeze indexation of their financial assistance grants, which will cost them $925 million over the next three years.

Labor has always supported Roads to Recovery and provided increased funding for the program across the forward estimates in its 2013-14 Budget.

If Mr Truss is unable to provide legislative certainty for the scheme, Labor is happy to do it for him.

When Parliament resumes next month Labor will seek to bring on debate of my Private Member’s Bill.

Given Mr Truss’s claimed concern for the future of the scheme, the Opposition would expect immediate Government support for this legislation.

Since taking office, Mr Truss has treated Roads to Recovery as a political plaything in his child-like enthusiasm to score cheap political points against Labor.

If Mr Truss required a legislative basis to continue the scheme, as he claims, Labor would have backed a stand-alone Bill months ago.

Mr Truss should stop acting like he is still in opposition. He put up his hand to be Minister for Infrastructure and should start doing the job.