WHEN the Treasurer announces the Federal budget on May 9, Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker doesn't expect there to be an announcement of funds to begin construction of a Coffs Harbour bypass. But that doesn't mean the money for the job isn't there.
Mr Hartsuyker said he can't say with any certainty what is in or out of the budget but he's confident that when Scott Morrison reveals this country's economic and fiscal outlook, including expenditure and revenue estimates for the current financial year, the budget year and three forward financial years, any funds set aside for the project Coffs Harbour has waited more than a generation for will be hidden.
The Cowper MP said the Coffs Harbour bypass is such a big ticket item that announcing funding for it on budget night wouldn't be smart politics.
"From a practical sense, a project the scale of the bypass would not be announced in a typical budget," Mr Hartsuyker said.
"It is such a premier announcement, strategically you wouldn't get that lost in the budget noise, you would make a separate announcement."
Mr Hartsuyker, the Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, said after the budget announcement there would be Black Caviar type odds on what the reaction from the Opposition will be.
"Labor will no doubt say 'not a dollar in the budget for the Coffs Harbour bypass' because I would be virtually certain there won't be a line item in it," he said.
"I am lobbying to get the bypass done as quickly as possible. There are a million other ways that you can have funding for a bypass that doesn't look obvious in the budget papers."
While the next budget will include forward estimates up to and including the 2020/21 financial year, a time when the Woolgoolga to Ballina section of the Pacific Hwy is expected to be completed by, Mr Hartsuyker said having hard and fast amounts set aside for the Pacific Hwy upgrade for each year is a futile exercise.
"The other thing with the budget is it's very much held hostage to the rate of progress on the road," the Cowper MP said.
"So what you may see is in this next financial year the dollar number against it may go down and that might be because the State says 'we've got lots of stamp duty, we'd like to put more in this year, can you guys put in more next year?' or something like that.
"It can be the rate of progress on the roads because a lot of the contractors are paid on schedule of rates, so much a kilometre for pavement and all that sort of stuff, and if they're not doing the kilometres, the money doesn't roll.
"But if they go faster the money can go faster."