Deputy PM briefed on bypass, no start date still

NEWLY sworn-in Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure Michael McCormack was set to be briefed on the billion-dollar Coffs Harbour Pacific Highway Bypass on the first day of starting his new appointments.

Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker said he raised the bypass with the new Nationals leader on Monday.

Mr Hartsuyker said the change of ministers following Barnaby Joyce's resignation should not delay the bypass, although he could not give a start date for construction.

Matthew Deans

Since 2015, when Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, there have been four infrastructure ministers: Warren Truss, Darren Chester, Barnaby Joyce and now Michael McCormack.

Mr Hartsuyker said this was part and parcel of the Westminster system.

"The bottom line is ministers change," he said.

Mr McCormack, the Member for Riverina in the state's south-west since 2010, was described as being passionate about regional Australia by Mr Hartsuyker.

Mr Hartsuyker said he would be lobbying with Mr McCormack to get work started "just as quickly".

But Mr Hartsuyker could not provide any detail on the latest planning process.

"I don't have anything to update you on about the physical planning process," Mr Hartsuyker said.

A Department for Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities spokesperson said the Coffs Harbour Bypass project was in planning.

"All projects seeking more than $100million of Australian Government funding must be assessed by Infrastructure Australia," the spokesperson said.

"The NSW Government is currently preparing a final Business Case to submit to IA. The advice provided by IA will be considered by the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport."

The Coffs bypass was again discussed during Monday's Senate Estimates, but nothing new was presented other than IA was yet to receive the business case for the bypass.

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure Anthony Albanese said Mr McCormack inherits a "very long to-do list" in his new position.

"Six years since Tony Abbott promised a Coffs Harbour Bypass, the Coalition Government still hasn't allocated a dollar to construction, let alone dug a hole," Mr Albanese said.

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