Albanese: Get serious on Hwy funds
FEDERAL Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese has hit back at claims from State Ministers that the Gillard Government has renegged on a deal that it would fund 80% of the Pacific Hwy duplication.
After $3.56billion in funding for the upgrade was announced in Tuesday night's budget on the proviso that it was matched dollar-for-dollar by the NSW Government, NSW Treasurer Michael Baird and Roads Minister Duncan Gay issued a joint press release saying Federal Labor turns its back on Pacific Highway.
Mr Albanese said that nothing could be further from the truth.
"This is extraordinary given that the Federal Government has already allocated $4.1 billion for the full duplication of the Pacific Highway," Mr Albanese said.
"And in last night's budget we allocated an additional $3.56 billion to the Nation Building Program and indicated that if NSW matched it then that money will be available for the Pacific Highway.
"What that would do is ensure that the Highway could be fully duplicated by 2016, in line with the commitments of both governments."
The Coalition press release pointed to a letter from Mr Albanese to former NSW Roads Minister Michael Daley in March 2009.
Mr Albanese said releasing a comment from this letter was disingenuous on the state coalition's behalf as it was discussing funding for the Nation Building Program, not the Pacific Hwy.
The Infrastructure and Transport Minister sais other actions such as providing funding amounts of greater than 50% on various Pacific Hwy projects should not be taken as an ongoing agreement that Federal Labor will fund the lion's share of the project.
"The NSW Government is seeking, because we put in extra money through the Economic Stimulus, to pretend that somehow that is business as usual," he said.
"For example, the Kempsey Bypass Upgrade, $613 million including the longest bridge ever built in Australia, is 100% Commonwealth Government funding, not a single cent of State Government money."
Mr Albanese then pointed out that the State Government's pursuit of a 80:20 funding split is a backflip on statements it made only eight months ago when it issued its budget.
"At the time - and this is very interesting - Mike Baird said on 6 September in his Budget:
"In its last Budget, the Commonwealth allocated $750 million for the Pacific Highway … only on the condition that the NSW Government match this amount. Notwithstanding our differences with the Commonwealth on other matters, this offer provides an opportunity for an historic contribution for the upgrade. We are determined to provide the funds needed to match the Commonwealth offer."
Mr Gay said last year on their Budget day: "we've taken this opportunity to not only match but go beyond the Commonwealth's offer."
With these on record statements in mind, the Federal Minister went on the front foot about the funding agreement that is being pursued by Ministers at Macquarie St.
"I am frankly disappointed that a National Party Minister such as Duncan Gay would play politics and attack the Federal Government rather than seek to gain funds from within his own Government," he said.
"Very disappointing indeed, particularly give the comments that he made prior to the last election. And all of them are on the record."