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Federal Labor's astonishing own goal on Victorian road funding.

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Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

Federal Labor’s Astonishing Own Goal on Victorian Road Funding

A54/2003 3rd June 2003

In what can only be considered as the political own goal of the year, the Federal Labor Party has raised a “matter of public importance” in Parliament today highlighting the Victorian Labor Premier’s betrayal of Victorian motorists.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson, said he was stunned to hear Federal Labor intended to speak about the Federal Government’s Road of National Importance (RONI) program after question time today.

“I am actually prepared to thank Simon Crean and the Member for McMillan, Christian Zahra, for drawing public attention to this matter,” Mr Anderson said. “It is either incredibly brave and honest on their part, or spectacularly foolhardy.”

Mr Zahra’s matter of public importance was: “The breaking of election commitments by the Commonwealth Government relating to funding for the Pakenham Bypass, the Calder Highway and other Roads of National Importance projects.”

“What Federal Labor has done is underline the disgraceful desertion of Victorian motorists by Steve Bracks and his Labor cronies. They promised a toll-free Scoresby Freeway before state and federal elections, and then decided just weeks ago to slap a toll on this critical piece of infrastructure. It was a shocking decision and one we don’t intend to cop.

“Of course, the sight of Federal Labor criticising the RONI program is bizarre for other reasons. Such a program did not exist until 1996 when the Coalition Government introduced it, and since then more than $750 million has been spent or committed in Victoria.

“It has meant roads that were state responsibilities, like the Geelong Road, Pakenham Bypass and the Calder Highway, have received Federal funds for their upgrading. Let us be absolutely clear on this - it is only the provision of Federal money that has enabled these projects to proceed.

“Early today in Parliament, I spoke about Victorian Labor’s rather strange commentary on the Pakenham Bypass.

“The Federal Government has set aside a capped $100 million in the Budget for the Pakenham Bypass. It is not the fault of the Federal Government that the Victorian Government cannot count and the cost has since blown out to $242 million.

“The Geelong Road upgrade was originally forecast to cost $240 million, and the Federal Government contributed $120 million. When that blew out to about $270 million, the Federal contribution remained at $120 million. That is how the system works.

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“RONI’s are not necessarily funded on a 50-50 basis. Geelong Road is a prime example, as is the Pacific Highway in NSW and Queensland.

“The Pakenham Bypass has taken too long to build, because Victorian Labor dithered for years about committing to the project. We now fully expect it to start as soon as the Hallam Bypass is completed later this year.

“In the meantime, I sincerely hope that Federal Labor continues to draw such timely attention to the broken road promises of its Victorian colleagues.”

Media contact: Paul Chamberlin 02 62777680 / 0419 233989