Drive to conditions, George has had enough
By MEL MARTIN
TELEVISION personality George Negus is fed up with seeing the Federal and State roads ministers continue to squabble over Pacific Highway funding while accidents keep occurring. Lately, both ministers have been issuing media releases left, right and centre, accusing each other of being misleading. "These adolescent political games are playing with people's lives. It's pathetic, childish and time-wasting," Mr Negus, who lives near Bellingen, said. The Federal Roads Minister Jim Lloyd has offered to release $30 million for the Pacific Highway if the NSW Government signs the proposed new federal-state roads funding agreement ? the AusLink bilateral agreement ? which requires both levels of government to spend $480 million each on the Pacific Highway over three years. Mr Lloyd also wants the NSW Government to call for tenders for the Bonville deviation immediately. But NSW Roads Minister Joe Tripodi said the Bonville deviation tender process was already under way and proceeding as quickly as possible, with the Roads and Traffic Authority having called for expressions of interest. "Money is not the issue with Bonville," a spokeswoman for Mr Tripodi said. "This $30 million is not extra money, it was already set aside, and we don't want it taken away from other projects." The AusLink agreement is also a sore point and, according to Mr Tripodi's office, has many shortfalls for NSW. These include reduced road works funding, the Princes Highway south of Wollongong not being taken into account and the Pacific Highway, which the Federal Government regards as part of its new National Network under AusLink, not receiving 80 per cent of the funding like other such highways. Mr Negus called for both ministers to hold a joint media conference and face the public together to once and for all resolve the issue. "How long are we expected to sit around waiting? No one will trust them until they come clean," he said. "They're both hiding behind the AusLink agreement. "The NSW Government is to be commended for putting in place immediate safety precautions, and the Federal Government is to be commended for being willing to bring forward that $30 million. "But neither can be commended for continuing this political game. This is not a battle of press releases. "If the Federal Government is using the AusLink agreement with strings attached, that's abhorrent, and if the NSW Government is using it as an excuse, that's just as abhorrent. "If both are committed as they say they are, they should meet on the same spot, at the same time, with the same solution." The spokesperson for Mr Tripodi said the ministers had already met to try to resolve the issues and would continue to try to resolve them. Mr Lloyd was unavailable for comment.