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Roads to recovery needs renewal.

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Peter Andren MP - Independent Member for Calare

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22nd December 2003

Roads to recovery needs renewal

Independent Member for Calare Peter Andren has joined the Australian Local Government Association and National Farmers Federation in calling on the federal government to maintain the Roads to Recovery program.

“This $1.2 billion program has provided councils with much-needed extra road funding for the past four years, but is due to expire in 18 months” Mr Andren said.

“The program has enabled the replacement of old and dangerous bridges, upgraded intersections and widened narrow country roads.

“One important aspect of the program has been the upgrading of rural bus routes to enable safer transport of kids to and from school.

“In our own area councils have for years been paying the bill for damage caused by industry that in no way pays back the cost of the damage.

“This can be seen on roads carrying grain, coal or timber. These products generate billions in export earnings and taxes for government, but so little is returned by way of assistance to councils who do the roadwork.

“Fuel and registration taxes should have a portion allocated, or hypothecated to use the jargon, to rural councils, because the cost of repairing much of our road damage is a direct cost-shift from federal and state to local government.

“The Roads to Recovery program has at least begun to reverse the steep decline in funding from federal and state to local government over the past twenty years.

“It has also provided much-needed employment in many country areas.

“Eighty five per cent of Australia’s roads are maintained by local government, and the traditional federal assistance grants to councils until Roads to Recovery were only capable of forming and sealing about 5 kilometres of roads per council per year.

“With its huge budget surplus this year, the federal government should look no further than renewing its Roads to recovery program for a further four years if it is serious about rural and regional growth “ Mr Andren said.

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