Updated December 05, 2012 16:31:13
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is getting a trucker’s view of the Pacific Highway upgrading project as he spends two days driving from Brisbane to Terrigal, on the New South Wales central coast.
Mr Abbott drove the truck out of the Rocklea markets in Brisbane earlier today and will head down the coast on the highway he says is still a “goat track” from the 1970s.
He has told the ABC he has had a truck licence for more than a decade as part of his work with the local rural fire brigade.
“Last year I upgraded to a heavy combination, partly because that would help me to drive the bulk water carrier at the local fire brigade but also partly because I thought that it would be useful to be able to highlight the parlous state of our roads,” he said.
“If this Government gets re-elected, the carbon tax will go on heavy transport. So, I guess it’s politically helpful and also socially useful.”
Mr Abbott says he wants to highlight the state of the road and the economic cost of neglecting such a critical piece of national infrastructure ahead of the Christmas tourist season, when traffic loads double on the highway.
He is promising a Coalition government would provide more than $5.5 billion to complete the dual carriageway on the Pacific Highway.
“We want to add $2 billion to what the Government’s put forward and if we spend the extra $2 billion, we’re very confident that we can get the Pacific Highway duplicated from Newcastle to the Queensland border well within the current decade,” he told ABC 702′s Adam Spencer.
“At the moment there’s deadlock because the Commonwealth is trying to insist the states put in half the money. The states are saying ‘no’, we want to keep to the 80-20 funding formula that the Federal Government gave to the previous state Labor governments.
“We’re saying, look, let’s end the argy bargy, let’s end the blame game, let’s spend this extra $2 billion and get the job done because it will save lives and boost our economy.”
He says the New South Wales Government is “enthusiastically in favour” of the plan.
“They want this work to be done urgently for obvious reasons. Everyone wants it to be done. It’s just that the Federal Government, I regret to say, is playing politics over this road,” he said.
Mr Abbott says the money will be diverted from funding for the Parramatta-to-Epping railway line.
But Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has dismissed the drive as an “empty publicity stunt”.
“Having abandoned the 2016 commitment first made by the Howard government, the Federal Coalition now don’t have a date for completion,” he said in a statement.
“They also have no idea where the extra funds for duplication will come from that will be a result of delay into the next decade.”
Mr Albanese says the Federal Government’s commitment to fix the highway is “unwavering”.
“Right now, more than 1,700 workers are onsite upgrading 73 kilometres of this road,” he said.
“Compared to the former Howard government’s record of just $1.3 billion over 12 years, Federal Labor has already invested $4.1 billion in the highway and set aside our share of the funding required to complete its full duplication.”
Mr Abbott is due in Coffs Harbour this afternoon.Topics:
abbott-tony, road-transport, industry, business-economics-and-finance, government-and-politics, federal-government, brisbane-4000, terrigal-2260, nsw, qld, australia First posted December 05, 2012 13:23:17