Jul 6, 2014

Nationals misled own communities

Nationals NSW Senator John Williams has been caught out deliberately misleading the people of northern NSW with invented claims about imaginary threats to the $1.75 billion Roads to Recovery program.

On March 26 Senator Williams claimed that if Labor did not back the Abbott Government’s new Land Transport Infrastructure Bill, the Roads to Recovery program and its grants to councils for road projects would end on June 30.

The Senator’s attempt to mislead his own community came in a political attack on Labor’s Member for Richmond, Justine Elliot, in which he claimed Labor was purposely trying to deny road funding to councils.

As Labor said at the time, Senator Williams’ claim was untrue.  June 30 came and went last week with no end to the Roads to Recovery program, which the previous Labor Government funded fully in our 2013 Budget.

The Land Transport Infrastructure Bill, which did little beyond striking from the statue books the term nation building, which the Coalition associates with Labor, has no financial effect on funding Roads to Recovery.

And despite Senator William’s claim that the Bill had to pass before June 30 to rescue Roads to Recovery, the Government did not even bother to list it for debate in the Senate before that date.

If the Government believed its own rhetoric, then surely it would have listed the Bill for debate in the Senate anytime between March when the legislation passed the House of Representatives and June 30.

They did not allocate even one minute for debate, meaning they either knew there claims were false, or didn’t care if Roads to Recovery was discontinued.

Senator Williams was being deliberately deceitful. He should apologise to the people of NSW.

While this deceit might have served Senator Williams’ crude political motives, the real effect was to have caused unnecessary fear about the future of Roads to Recovery, which is critical for the maintenance of roads across the nation.

The only real threat to road funding in rural and regional Australia comes from the Abbott Government’s 2014 Budget, which slashed $1 billion cut in Financial Assistance Grants to councils over the next three years.

In the absence of those grants, which councils also use on roads, the nation’s councils will have to either reduce road maintenance or lift council rates.