Labor candidate Trent Gilbert announces funding for the Grafton Bridge.
Labor candidate Trent Gilbert announces funding for the Grafton Bridge. Contributed

Bridge project stirs up the pot

LABOR has echoed the NSW Coalition's commitment to build a new Grafton bridge crossing, but the local candidates for the major parties may not be mending their own bridges anytime soon.

The $177 million funding announcement made by Country Labor candidate Trent Gilbert during a Meet the Candidates night at the Lawrence Golf Club on Wednesday, was met with a swift challenge by Clarence electorate's incumbent Chris Gulaptis.

"The Coalition's funding came from Restart NSW, which has come from the lease of the Port Botany, Port Newcastle, Port Kembla," Mr Gulaptis said.

"Labor opposed that from day one, so they're against the lease of the ports but happy to spend the money. This is what really gets my goat because I've had a look at their infrastructure plan, and I'd like to know where the money is coming from.

"Half of Labor's money is coming from deferring tax cuts, the other half is coming from privatisation."

Mr Gilbert confirmed the funds would be sourced from Restart NSW, because the money was already there and there would be no need to privatise any more assets in order to fund the proposal.

"The sale of the Port of Botany, as I said last week, that money belongs to the people of New South Wales, and I'm not happy and our party didn't vote for the method that those funds were done. That money belongs to the people and if that means that I've got to get in there and flex a bit of muscle for a town that needs a piece of infrastructure, I'm prepared to do it.

A scuffle of words which ensued between the two prompted independent candidate Debrah Novak to stand up and remind them it wasn't a brawl.

"Excuse me, this is not a brawl, cut it out," she said.

Yesterday, Mr Gilbert said Labor made the commitment because the party knew how important the proposed infrastructure was to people in the Clarence.

"There's been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing in the party but I've pushed very hard to ensure that we can get this commitment and right now I want to align with the views of the community to get this bridge under way and started and then get it completed," he said. "The longer that bridge sits there the longer it becomes an issue."



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