May 15, 2016

Pacific Highway upgrade cut by $351 million

The Liberal-National Coalition quietly cut funding for the Pacific Highway duplication by $351 million in this month’s 2016 Budget, adding to last year’s $130 million cut.

In the 2016 Budget, delivered a fortnight ago, the Government forecast spending of $1.369 billion on the Pacific Highway, $351 million less than the $1.72 billion it promised in its 2015 National Partnership Agreement with the NSW Government.

Just a year earlier, the Government cut funding by $130 million on what it had promised in its 2014 Budget.

The Pacific Highway is critical for the movement of freight and people up and down the New South Wales coast.

The completion of its duplication is a national priority, both in terms of economic productivity and improved road safety.

The former Labor Government invested a record $7.9 billion in the Pacific Highway including the funding or delivery of the Kempsey, Ballina and Bulahdelah bypasses and the Sapphire to Arrawarra and Frederickton to Eungai upgrades.

That followed 12 years of neglect where the Howard Government contributed $1.3 billion.

The former Labor Government contributed six times the funding to the Pacific Highway as the Howard Government.

While the Abbott-Turnbull Government has talked big on infrastructure, its Pacific Highway cuts reflect its national performance, with Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showing total public sector infrastructure investment fell 20 per cent between the September quarters of 2013 and 2015.

For the past three years the Government has sought to conceal its failures by staging its Magical Infrastructure Re-announcement tour, in which senior ministers have incessantly re-announced projects that were funded in the Budgets of the former Labor Government to pretend they are new.

Only a Shorten Labor Government can get the Pacific Highway duplication back on track and deliver the infrastructure investment our nation needs to underpin economic growth.

Labor would also progress planning for a High Speed Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra – a project the Coalition has ignored.

High Speed Rail would revolutionise interstate travel and boost economic development in regional centres along its path, including the NSW communities of Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle and the Central Coast.