Issues: Dukes Highway; Coalition’s “aspirations”
STAN THOMSON: Millions upon millions of dollars have been poured into the Dukes Highway over the years to try and make it safer for motorists. And all that time, the question has been, why don’t we just duplicate the highway.
Nationals Leader Warren Truss recently visited the region where he reaffirmed his party’s commitment to build a dual carriageway if elected, although admitting it would be a costly and a long-term project.
The Federal Government has taken that as an opportunity to blast the Coalition over empty promises. It says its current multimillion dollar upgrade of the Dukes will make it a safer road.
Anthony Albanese is Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
STAN THOMSON: What is it that you are doing that makes you feel the Dukes Highway will be a safer road?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: What we’re doing is progressing a $100 million safety upgrade. It’s progressing on time and under budget and we’re using the savings that we’ve made, in partnership with the South Australian Government, to deliver almost double the number of improvements that we planned for at the beginning of the process.
STAN THOMSON: So, any savings, you’ll put back into the Dukes?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s right. So, originally, we had scope for 64 kilometres of safety barriers to be installed at 150 locations. What we have now is 86 kilometres of safety barriers at some 220 sites right along the highway.
We’re also widening 90 kilometres of the highway up from the original 50 kilometres, which is obviously the best thing that can be done in terms of making sure there’s that proper separation between vehicles.
STAN THOMSON: Do you have a plan for a duplication?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: What we do is put forward realistic plans with proper funding. I note that my counterpart, Warren Truss, was in the region and said that he had no timeframe and that the duplication was really an aspiration. Well, you can’t drive on an aspiration.
What I’ve been busy doing is making sure that there are real solutions and real improvements with real funding.
STAN THOMSON: So, a dual carriageway is not a real improvement?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Of course it is. But, it’s only real if it actually happens.
It’s not real if it’s an aspiration.
The aspiration of every roads minister would be to have dual carriageway on every road in the country, but you’ve got to say where the money’s coming from.
Unless you do that, then it is just an aspiration.
We all have aspirations. The difference between us and the Coalition is we have real commitments with real funding and real improvements going on.
STAN THOMSON: Well, at least he is – I know this has come because of Mr Truss’s visit across the Dukes itself, and you could well say, well, it’s easy in Opposition to make these statements and those promises. But at least…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: He didn’t even make a promise. That’s the extraordinary thing. All he did was say that there was this, sort of, vague idea. What’s extraordinary is that I fully expected a promise and a commitment. I did wonder where the money would be coming from, given the $70 billion black hole that’s there.
But he didn’t even do that.
STAN THOMSON: All right. So, we’re not going to see a duplication of the Dukes Highway any time soon?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I certainly don’t think you’ll get anything from the Coalition.
What you will get from this Government is real commitments with real funding attached. We continue to make that commitment in the lead up to the next election. What you have had as a result of our $100 million upgrade is real improvements on the highway.
STAN THOMSON: Thank you very much for your time this morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.