Opinion

Duncan Gay on Pacific Hwy funding

ANTHONY Albanese is right - funding for the upgrade of the Pacific Highway should be above politics.

The NSW Government supports the Prime Minister's goal of completing the duplication of the Pacific Highway by 2016.

Under this Federal Government, the funding between the Federal and NSW Governments has been an 80-20 split.

Mr Albanese now is seeking to reduce his Government's funding and force the NSW Government into a 50-50 share of the cost of upgrading the highway.

This is a complete shift from the current funding agreement and also is manifestly unfair.

Considering the Commonwealth's large revenue base and its expenditure on projects such as the National Broadband Network (forecasted to be $36 billion) and the Building Education Revolution ($16 billion), and the roof insulation program ($2.5 billion), this attitude towards funding the upgrade to arguably the nation's most important transport and freight link is disappointing.

A quick look at recent history shows why this proposed change in funding arrangements is unfair.

In February and March 2009, Minister Albanese signed a National Partnership Agreement with then NSW Roads Ministers Campbell and Daley to upgrade the Pacific Highway. This was greeted by State and Federal Labor with much fanfare.

That agreement was signed with a funding split of 83% from the Federal Government and 17% from the NSW Government.

By September 2010, the funding split had widened even further to 86% from the Federal Government and 14% from the NSW Government.

Upon winning government in March 2011, the NSW Liberals and Nationals Government in its first budget committed an extra $468 million which brought the federal/state split to 80%-20%.

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.

Mr Albanese, by trying to impose a 50-50 split on the NSW Government, is in effect reducing the federal government's contribution by a massive $2.3 billion.

The people of NSW do not deserve to be punished by a Federal Labor Government that is playing politics - with one rule for Governments of one colour and another rule for Governments of another colour.

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

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

The NSW Government is of the view that an Australian Government contribution of 80 per cent is appropriate and necessary, given the national importance of completing a quality four-lane divided highway linking the four east coast capital cities, and the comparative scale of the Federal and NSW budgets.

In 2005, the Pacific Highway north of Hexham was incorporated as an integral part of the National Land Transport Network and consequently it is the NSW Government's view that it is only reasonable for the Australian Government to continue to contribute 80 per cent of funding for the Pacific Highway upgrade, in line with the national status of the route.

Aside from the Pacific Highway, key upgrade projects on the National Land Transport Network in New South Wales have generally been funded at least 80 per cent by the Australian Government, for example:

The Hume Highway duplication has for the most part been 100 per cent funded by the Australian Government, aside from a projected four per cent NSW contribution to the Holbrook Bypass;

The $1.7 billion Hunter Expressway will be minimum 88 per cent funded by the Australian Government;
Recent widening of the F5 and F3 Freeways on the outskirts of Sydney has been at least 80 per cent Australian Government funded; Improvements to the Barton Highway, which links Canberra to the Hume Highway, have been 100 per cent funded by the Australian Government; and Funding for the Great Western Highway between Mount Victoria and Lithgow has been provisioned on an 80-20 basis.

Furthermore the Federal Government's proposed funding split for the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link, which is not a priority of the NSW Government, was premised upon an 80:20 split.

Again this 80:20 split was established under the previous Government, but it seems as though Federal Labor wants to change the goal posts when there is a Coalition Government in power.

In other states, projects on the Western and Goulburn highways in Victoria have been funded on an 80-20 basis, and a large number of projects on the Bruce Highway in Queensland have been fully funded by the Australian Government.
If we are to meet the 2016 set by the Prime Minister then Mr Albanese needs to commit to retaining the funding levels at 80-20. The community can't afford for the Federal Government to rip $2.3 billion funding out of the highway.

Topics:  duncan, pacific highway, pacific highway upgrade




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