Jul 7, 2014

Truss misled Press Club

Nationals Leader Warren Truss has been caught out deliberately misleading the National Press Club with invented claims about imaginary threats to the $1.75 billion Roads to Recovery program.

In a speech to gathered journalists in Canberra on April 30, Mr Truss claimed that if Labor did not back the Abbott Government’s new Land Transport Infrastructure Bill, the Roads to Recovery program and its grants to councils for road works, would end on June 30.

Mr Truss said that without support for the Bill: “ …that $1.75 billion, which Australia’s 565 local councils depend on for their roads and streets, will be road kill’’.

Mr Truss repeated this fiction in a June 18 speech to the Local Government Association in Canberra,  misleading the nation’s mayors by saying: “I hope we will have the numbers to get the legislation through the Parliament, because the funding for Roads to Recovery legislatively expired on 30 June this year’’.

As Labor said at the time, Mr Truss’s claims were false. June 30 came and went last week with no end to the Roads to Recovery program, which the previous Labor Government funded fully in our 2013 Budget.

The Land Transport Infrastructure Bill, designed to strike from the statue books the term nation building, which the Coalition associates with Labor, has no financial effect on funding Roads to Recovery.

And despite Mr Truss’s claim that the Bill had to pass before June 30, the Government did not even list it for debate in the Senate before that date.

If the Government believed its own rhetoric, then surely it would have listed the Bill for debate in the Senate anytime between March, when the legislation passed the House of Representatives, and June 30.

They did not allocate even one minute for debate, meaning they either knew there claims were false, or didn’t care if Roads to Recovery was discontinued.

Mr Truss was trying to deceive the media and should apologise.

While this deceit might have served Mr Truss’s crude political motives, the real effect was to have caused unnecessary fear about the future of Roads to Recovery.

The only real threat to road funding in rural and regional Australia comes from the Abbott Government’s 2014 Budget, which slashed $1 billion cut in Financial Assistance Grants to councils over the next three years.

In the absence of those grants, which councils also use on roads, the nation’s councils will have to either reduce road maintenance or lift council rates.