Federal Shadow Minister for Regional Development and Infrastructure and Nationals Leader in the Senate Barnaby Joyce (centre) addresses the large gathering of Federal and state National Party MPs at the Lismore Workers Club yesterday.
Federal Shadow Minister for Regional Development and Infrastructure and Nationals Leader in the Senate Barnaby Joyce (centre) addresses the large gathering of Federal and state National Party MPs at the Lismore Workers Club yesterday. DAVID NIELSEN

Nats talk tough on rail, highway

A FEDERAL Coalition government would reopen the Casino-Murwillumbah rail line for light rail and complete the dual-carriage upgrade of the Pacific Highway, according to National Party leaders.

It would also return control of hospitals and health services to community boards and radically reduce regulation and spending.

That was the message from Lismore’s largest gathering of Federal and state National MPs in memory yesterday.

Federal Nationals Leader Warren Truss and State Leader Andrew Stoner joined 15 parliamentary colleagues at the Lismore Workers Club yesterday to discuss policy and meet with local businesses and organisations.

While no actual policies were forthcoming, the Nats pulled no punches in their combined assault on the Rudd Government and State Labor policies.

The Nationals’ key message was summed up by Mr Truss, who accused the Prime Minister of wasting the surplus and creating 9952 new regulations, while only eliminating 56.

“A Coalition government will get the government off your back and out of your pocket and let you get on with it,” Mr Truss said.

Or as Senator Barnaby Joyce eloquently put it, “You have not been economically stimulated, you’ve been touched.”

When asked how the Coalition planned to simultaneously reduce spending and improve infrastructure, Sen Joyce, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, said prudent cost-cutting would enable a Coalition government to achieve better outcomes.

“What we will do far better than (Labor) is we will actually balance the books to be able to deliver those outcomes,” he said.

Sen Joyce also refuted a recent suggestion by Federal Minister for Infrastructure Anthony Albanese that a Coalition government would wind back spending on the Pacific Highway upgrade.

“We’re committed to the Pacific Highway,” Sen Joyce said, confirming the Coalition would honour Labor’s commitment of $3.1 billion to the project if they won government.

Nationals Deputy Leader in the Senate Fiona Nash confirmed they were also committed to community health boards to replace the area health services, but believed the states should retain responsibility for health.

“If the State Labor Government hadn’t stuffed up health so badly we wouldn’t even be having (this) discussion,” she said.

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