Oakeshott expects hwy funds in budget

Trevor Veale

THE pressure is building on the New South Wales Government to commit $3.5 billion to the Pacific Highway upgrade as NSW north coast MPs join Independent Rob Oakeshott in a bid to get the project complete by 2016.

Mr Oakeshott said on Tuesday that he had invested all his political capital to get the project complete by the proposed deadline.

Six days out from Federal Budget sittings, Mr Oakeshott said on Tuesday he expected the Federal Government would include $3.5 billion of the $7 billion package in the budget.

But Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese was staying mum, instead reiterating past comments that both governments had agreed years ago that each would pay half.

While Mr Albanese would not comment on the budget, Mr Oakeshott said he had seen the official schedule of works for the project last month, revealing plans to complete the upgrade by 2016.

"All my political capital has gone into record Pacific Highway funding of $3.5 billion in the 2012 budget, which is the agreed 50 per cent funding to get the job done by 2016," he said.

"They (the NSW Government) must come up with the money to meet the commitment they made to voters so we can finish the highway by 2016. I can do no more.

"The $3.5 billion of the $7 billion cost looks to be committed.

"It's now over to NSW to match this amount, as agreed."

Labor MPs Janelle Saffin and Justine Elliot also reiterated their support for the project, saying that they were waiting for commitments from the NSW Government to help fund the project.

Ms Saffin said it was "my local road, and there's been far too many fatalities (on the road)".

"I've got a fact file six pages long that shows this goes back years to when the current state government promised, in opposition, it would back 50 per cent of the costs.

"Now we're all waiting for them to make good on that promise."

NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said that apart from the Pacific Highway, key upgrade projects on the National Land Transport Network in NSW had "generally been funded at least 80 per cent by the Australian Government".

He said that a 50/50 funding split would see the Commonwealth's contribution reduced by $2.3 billion.

"All we're asking for is the same treatment the Federal Government gave the former State Labor Government, to continue the same 80:20 funding split agreement," he said.

"This is not only $2.3 billion that Gillard would be removing from the Pacific Highway, it's $2.3 billion that her Government would be removing from the people of NSW.

"Not only will the people of NSW lose out in an economic sense, firstly and more importantly they will lose out in a road safety sense."

Topics:  federal budget 2012, pacific highway, rob oakeshott



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