The wrangling over the Pacific Highway continues with federal transport minister Anthony Albanese for the first time openly threatening to move any unmatched funds to other interstate projects and the state roads minister Duncan Gay virtually imploring him to consider New South Wales’ parlous financial state.
Meanwhile, federal opposition transport spokesman Warren Truss has accused Mr Albanese of pulling a ‘cruel stunt’ in offering the money at all.
‘It’s money they put up and knew they would never be required to spend,’ he told media today.
He said that the opposition in government would ‘negotiate [with the state] to find the maximum amount of funding as quickly as we can’.
But Mr Albanese said in a media conference yesterday, ‘the fact is there are pressures on the national budget, and demands for infrastructure spending right around the country’.
‘To suggest that the Commonwealth should fund the Pacific Highway by ourselves is to effectively suggest that the punters in Victoria, Queensland, West Australia, Tasmania, South Australia and the territories shouldn’t get their bit.
‘There are lots of roads and there are lots of premiers who want a cooperative relationship and want to engage in nation building – and those premiers are not confined to Labor premiers either. There are big challenges right around the country.’
Pacific Highway Taskforce chairman, Clarence Valley mayor Richie Williamson, described a proposal from Infrastructure Australia for a short-term truck toll to pay for loans to finish the highway as an ‘unlikely scenario’.
‘Polls are genuinely unpopular and at times public-private partnerships muddy the waters,’ he told ABC radio this morning. So while we haven’t had the debate, the issue about a tollway is one that I think would lack community support,’ he told ABC radio this morning.