Luke Hartsuyker wants Transport Minister Anthony Albanese to come and see how delays in major highway works has impacted on the region.
Luke Hartsuyker wants Transport Minister Anthony Albanese to come and see how delays in major highway works has impacted on the region.

Minister asked to see Pacific Hwy

LUKE Hartsuyker, MP, has invited Transport Minister Anthony Albanese to visit the North Coast and see first-hand how “the Rudd government has short-changed local communities by delaying the commencement of vital upgrades” to the Pacific Highway.

Mr Hartsuyker’s invitation follows Mr Albanese’s “misleading and deceptive” comments relating to the Pacific Highway this week.

“Because of the Rudd government’s poor mismanagement of the Pacific Highway upgrade, $2.6 billion in highway upgrades have been delayed,” Mr Hartsuyker said.

“Of the $3.6 billion currently being invested in the highway through to 2014, $3.1 billion is being provided by the Commonwealth. Only $500 million is coming from the NSW State Labor Government.

“The reality is the majority of this current Commonwealth funding was committed to by the Howard government’s Auslink program. It was money which was budgeted prior to the 2007 federal election and it is money that has flowed through in the following years.

“That includes the $610 million in Commonwealth funds for the Sapphire to Woolgoolga upgrade, scheduled for completion in 2014.

“Where minister Albanese has failed North Coast residents is by letting the State Government off the hook. Instead of insisting on dollar for dollar funding by both the state and federal governments, Mr Albanese did a deal with his Sydney Labor mates and Labor only cares about Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.”

Mr Hartsuyker said if the highway was ever going to be completely duplicated by 2016, it was essential that both levels of government made the upgrade a funding priority.

“That was the deal under the previous Pacific Highway agreement and that’s the arrangement which should be in place under the existing schedule,” he said.

“If there was an equal contribution from both levels of government, we would have seen more than $6 billion invested through to 2013/14.

“I invite minister Albanese to visit our region so I can show him first-hand how the $2.6 billion shortfall in funds has meant the bypasses of Coffs Harbour, Macksville and Urunga have been delayed because of his poor management.

“I believe the priority for the schedule of works should take into account two key considerations: Firstly, getting heavy vehicles out of the main streets of local communities and, secondly, targeting highway black spots. That is the message I have taken to Canberra. I repeated it in the Federal Parliament on Monday and it’s an issue I will continue to fight for.”

Mr Hartsuyker’s comments come after Mr Albanese issued a media release this week attacking the Member for Cowper over his and the Coalition’s commitment to the upgrade.

“Regarding the media release this week, it is interesting to note that less than one week after he claimed he had never lied in politics, Mr Albanese is again out there misrepresenting the facts and treating North Coast residents with contempt,” Mr Hartsuyker said.

“We all know how the Rudd government stretched the truth when denying financial support for Coffs Coast flood victims. This is no different.

“I stand by my earlier comments that I believe the Pacific Highway upgrade and the bypassing of towns is the most urgent infrastructure priority.

“The facts are, last week the Federal Coalition released details of the savings we would make and the expenditure we had committed to, as of May 19, 2010. The Coalition will be releasing further policies in the run-up to the next election.

“The Coalition is committed to delivering additional funding to the Pacific Highway upgrade. For Mr Albanese to claim that any additional funding on the Pacific Highway has “been discontinued” by the Coalition shows how desperate the Rudd government has become, as it drowns in a sea of debt.”

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