Feb 7, 2012

Personal Explanation – Pacific Highway Duplication

ANTHONY ALBANESE On 19 January, Channel Nine claimed, in the words of the newsreader:

“Nine News has obtained damning evidence that the death of an 11 year old boy in a crash at Urunga could have been prevented.  Documents show that the Federal Government rejected advice to upgrade the dangerous section of the Pacific Highway in favour of roadworks in the electorate of key Independent Rob Oakeshott.”

To suggest the tragic accident on 8 January 2012 that claimed the life of an 11-year-old boy could have been avoided was a low point in television journalism and not supported by the facts.  I table the joint press release issued by myself and [NSW Roads] Minister Duncan Gay on 20 January.  The press release states:

“The upgrade of the Nambucca Heads to Urunga section had been agreed between Ministers Albanese and Gay before they became aware of a news story on the issue which aired last night.”

Advice from the NSW Department of Roads and Maritime Services to my department was that the earliest the Nambucca to Urunga project could proceed to construction was 2013, and would not be completed until 2016 at the earliest.

The [Channel Nine] reporter went on to further claim:

“That upgrade project is the Oxley Highway.  It has far less traffic yet work is already underway.”

It then went on to quote the State Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser who said:

“Funding the Oxley Highway, over and above the Pacific Highway which Mr Oakeshott has been mouthing about for years, is the greatest act of political bastardry that I’ve seen in my time as local member.”

The claim that the Australian Government diverted funding from projects on the Pacific Highway to fund the Oxley Highway in the electorate of Lyne is simply wrong.

The Federal [Labor] Government has not put one cent into the Oxley Highway.  A check of the Roads and Maritime Services website clearly states that the NSW Government is solely funding a $158 million upgrade of the Oxley Highway, and the project was due to open to traffic on 24 January 2012, weather permitting.  I understand the official road opening is taking place today, with the relevant NSW Government state ministers in attendance.