Jun 27, 2014

Truss caught out misleading mayors

Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss has been caught out misleading the mayors of Australia with wild claims of imaginary threats to the popular Roads to Recovery program.

In March Mr Truss, seeking Labor support for his Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill, claimed that if it was not passed by June 30, the Roads to Recovery Program, which funds local roads through grants to councils, would come to an end.

Mr Truss’s cheap scare campaign was an attempt to press Labor to support the Bill, which did little more than seek to remove the term nation building from the statute books because the Coalition associates it with the former Labor Government.

However, when Parliament rose yesterday for the last time before June 30, the Senate had not passed the Land Transport Infrastructure Act because the Government failed to list it for debate.

If passage of the Bill was necessary to continue Roads to Recovery beyond June 30, Mr Truss could have ensured the Bill was dealt with any time over the past three months.

He did not because, as Labor has made clear for months, the Bill has no impact on Roads to Recovery, which was fully funded by the former Labor Government in our 2013 Budget.

The facts are wildly at odds with a media release Mr Truss issued on March 27, in which he claimed: “If Labor and the Greens vote against the legislation in the Senate, the program will terminate.’’

Mr Truss should stop acting as though he is still in Opposition and focus on policy outcomes rather than political games.

The only threat to local road funding in Australia today comes from the Abbott Government’s Budget ill-advised decision to cut Financial Assistance Grants to councils, which will rob them of $1 billion over the next three years and force them to lift rates or reduce services.

Indeed, after six years these cuts will exceed the entire value of the Roads to Recovery Program.