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Albanese's new 50:50 ultimatum to shakedown states



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22 October 2012

Albanese’s new 50:50 ultimatum to shakedown states

“TAKING partisan politics to new lows, the Gillard government will hold all national road projects across Australia hostage by insisting the states match funding dollar-for-dollar or see construction projects killed off,” Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Warren Truss revealed today.

“Previous agreements had been based on an 80:20 split for most national highway construction projects.

“The so-far unannounced bombshell threatens thousands of jobs across the country and jeopardises the new five-year Commonwealth-State AusLink/Nation-Building agreement due to begin in July 2014.

“Labor’s ultimatum looks like a desperate attempt to blame the states as the Commonwealth moves to slash infrastructure spending to help drag its budget out of deficit. Labor seems to have forgotten that poor infrastructure reduces national productivity and is a long-term drag on budget performance.”

Labor’s alarming new gambit emerged under questioning by Senator John Williams during Senate Estimates last week, when Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and Transport Mike Mrdak confirmed the new ultimatum is being put to all state governments.

Mr Mrdak: “The government position though is that the government will start seeking 50-50 funding on nation-building projects. So we would be seeking a state contribution, most likely, to any project.”

Senator Williams: “Fifty-fifty?”

Mr Mrdak: “Yes”.

“Given debt-ridden states cannot pay the ransom, this extortion bid will plunge construction in Australia into chaos and leave critical infrastructure incomplete,” Mr Truss explained.

“Right now new projects on the Pacific Highway are in limbo because Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese is playing a cynical and destructive game, insisting on 50:50 funding for money provided in the last federal budget - money a cash-strapped NSW simply does not have.

“This demand is in spite of the fact that the Rudd/Gillard governments were happy to pay at least 80% of the cost of projects on the Pacific Highway when there was a Labor government in NSW.

“It leaves 20% of the Pacific Highway unfunded and, with only half (52%) of the highway duplication so far completed, the promised 2016 deadline for full duplication is unachievable. As Labor’s stand-off continues, no completion date is in sight.

“Now all nation-building projects in Australia face the same fate.

“In the case of the Bruce Highway, the Newman Government has committed an extra $1 billion on the understanding that the Commonwealth will provide an additional $4 billion to fix the Bruce under the normal 80:20 funding spread.

“Labor is throwing long-standing funding principles out the window, along with the hopes and expectations of communities desperately waiting for their national highways and roads to be made safer and more efficient.

“If Julia Gillard and Anthony Albanese ever had the national interest at heart they cannot follow through on this bid to blackmail the states - especially when they know the states cannot pay an extra $10 billion to maintain the national road building program.

“In applying this new 50:50 take it or leave it approach across the board, the Gillard government is demonstrating its disregard for the people, businesses and entire communities who stand to be the innocent victims of Labor’s waste and mismanagement.”

[ENDS]

Media Contact: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6277 4482 or 0467 650 020 or brett.heffernan@aph.gov.au