AS THE Federal Opposition attempts to bask in its latest commitment to provide $2 billion in future funding for the duplication of the Pacific Hwy, Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has ridiculed the plan as a "never never" promise that will fall well short of its aim.
Mr Albanese said it was effectively a green light for the State Government to abandon its pre-election promise of completion by 2016.
The pledge, announced on Saturday by Nationals leader Warren Truss, will see the Opposition match the $3.56 billion committed by Labor with an additional $2.08 billion re-allocated from the abandoned Epping-Parramatta rail line project, if voted into power next year.
But Mr Albanese said a closer look at the figures showed only $67 million would be forthcoming in the next term of government.
"The bulk of the remaining funding he wants to redirect from this project to the highway wouldn't begin flowing until 2017/18 ($750 million) and 2018/19 ($562.1 million)," he said.
Mr Albanese, who spoke to The Daily Examiner yesterday, refused to be drawn on whether the government would match the Opposition's pledge.
Mr Truss hit back yesterday, saying Mr Albanese was playing games while the Coalition was getting on with the job of fixing the highway.
"What Mr Albanese failed to explain is that this $67 million is based on Labor's priority list. Our priorities are not Labor's priorities," he said. "The Coalition in government will ensure that the next round of AusLink, due to begin in 2014-15, releases the funds as required to get the job done.
"Under Labor, there is no end in sight for completing the duplication of the Pacific Highway.
"It is in limbo now only because of Mr Albanese's insistence that a debt-ridden NSW government cough up $3.5 billion that it simply does not have.
"By committing to 80% of the funding, the Coalition is serious about finishing the job Labor cannot get done."
Nationals candidate for Page Kevin Hogan said the pledge would restore the disputed 80:20 funding regime for the highway upgrade.
Mr Hogan rejected claims by Mr Albanese that the Labor Government had only provided funding beyond the 50:50 split during the 2009/10 stimulus package, saying the Ballina bypass which was funded in 2006/07 was 70% funded by the previous Howard Government.
"There are a few other examples of this," Mr Hogan said.
Member for Page Janelle Saffin, who asked Mr Albanese a question on the issue in Parliament yesterday, said Mr Hogan's energy would be better spent in getting his NSW National Party colleagues to honour their pre-election promise to fund the Pacific Highway 50:50 and complete by 2016.
"They should just stump up and do it and stop talking about it," she said.
"After ignoring the Pacific Highway the last time they were in government, the National Party now expects us to believe them when they say they will do the right thing if given yet another chance."
Mr Albanese backed Ms Saffin's sentiments, saying the NSW Coalition could not even meet it's much publicised $750 million budget commitment to the highway in the 2011.
He said by the time this shortfall was taken into account ,along with the "billions" added to the project by the delay, Mr Truss's promise was truly inadequate.
- Meanwhile, figures from Transport NSW confirm the Pacific Hwy at the top of NSW's list of deadliest roads.