Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has today given NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell the ‘green light’ to break his solemn promise to fix the Pacific Highway by 2016 and to defer completing its full duplication for a decade.
Indeed, Mr Abbott and Premier O’Farrell have colluded in an extraordinary act of betrayal against the NSW community and the national interest – just like they did last week on the issue of education funding.
As the Federal Budget Papers confirm, Mr Abbott’s proposal to cancel the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link project would only free up $67.9 million between now and 2016. The bulk of the remaining funding he wants to redirect from this project to the Highway wouldn’t begin flowing until 2017/18 ($750 million) and 2018/19 ($562.1 million).
Since we first announced our commitment to the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link in 2010, we’ve had to re-profile the funding associated with it as a result of the NSW Coalition Government’s refusal to begin building it.
What’s more, Mr Abbott’s proposal is built on a myth. There has never been an 80:20 funding arrangement when it comes to the upgrade of the Pacific Highway, a fact confirmed earlier this year by the State’s peak motoring body, the NRMA:
“It was the Howard Government that set the 50:50 funding split for the Pacific Highway from 2006 and the NRMA has supported this approach since day one.
“While in opposition, the current NSW Government frequently called on the NSW Labor Government to match Federal funding for the Pacific Highway dollar-for-dollar and we supported this call too.
“To now suggest that funding should suddenly be reverted to an 80:20 model would ensure further long delays in finally upgrading this dangerous highway.”
MEDIA STATEMENT – 27 FEBRUARY 2012
From the outset, we have asked no more of the NSW Coalition Government than what they themselves promised to do. But unfortunately when it comes to the Pacific Highway, the Coalition is all spin and deceit.
This Federal Labor Government has already committed $4.1 billion towards completing the full duplication of the Highway, with a further $3.56 billion available to the NSW Government on a dollar-for-dollar basis. This compares to the Howard Government’s record of just $1.3 billion over twelve years, which was about half of what the former NSW Labor Government spent over the same period of time.
PACIFIC HIGHWAY: THE COALITION’S PREVIOUS COMMENTS
JOHN HOWARD – 16 OCTOBER 2007
“My Government preference remains for the duplication to be completed by 2016, in line with our 2004 commitment [and] … is willing to provide our share of the additional funded needed … if the NSW Government will match our funding commitment…”
BARRY O’FARRELL – 8 MARCH 2011
“Only the NSW Liberals and Nationals are committed to completing the upgrade of the Pacific Highway by 2016.”
ANDREW STONER – 28 OCTOBER 2009
“[Premier] Nathan Rees can’t pass the buck on this issue. The upgrade of the Pacific Highway is a State Government responsibility, so it’s up to them to get the job done.”
DUNCAN GAY – 10 OCTOBER 2007
“I would hope this time he (the then Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal) would have been a statesman and say, ‘Yes I will match that money and save the lives of people in NSW that have to use this highway’.”
ANDREW FRASER – 21 OCTOBER 2009
“I pay credit to the Rudd Government … for increasing the funding… The Pacific Highway is a State road that effectively causes the loss of one life a week.
“The State Government must increase its commitment… As … Mr Albanese pointed out … the Federal Government is actually carrying the State…”