Pacific Hwy debate: False ads or bitter words?
THE Pacific Hwy duplication, as Australia's largest infrastructure project, has for decades been a road paved on divided political lines.
With a further 155km left to upgrade, the highway is back on the political agenda ... so perhaps a Federal Election is on the way.
Opposition Transport spokesman and former ALP Roads and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese was on the offensive in Coffs Harbour yesterday.
He attacked the Turnbull Government over an upcoming advertising campaign, revealed in Senate Estimates, which he claims will come at the expense of highway works.
Tomorrow, Member for Gippsland Darren Chester will be sworn in as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport assuming the portfolio from former Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss.
Mr Chester dubbed Mr Albanese's claims a 'negative' blight on the government's works to "save lives and reduce serious injuries".
Labelling the government as "pretenders", Mr Albanese said the media ads would no doubt claim credit for Labor's past $7.6 billion Pacific Hwy program, which included the Kempsey, Ballina and Bulahdelah bypasses and the Sapphire to Arrawarra upgrade.
An $18 million Federal Government advertising campaign on infrastructure will hit the presses and our TV screens from now until August.
Funded by the Turnbull Government, the campaign will highlight, as of January, 408km or 62% of the Pacific Hwy from Hexham to the Tweed has been upgraded to four-lane divided roadway.
Up to 2020, the Australian Government will have committed $5.64 billion towards the Pacific Hwy.
But Labor says Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will claim credit for works funded by the Rudd and Gillard governments.
"Despite ABS figures showing public infrastructure investment has plunged 20% since the Coalition took office, the Prime Minister plans to cut actual investment even further to pay for an advertising campaign to pretend otherwise," Mr Albanese said.
Incoming Minister Darren Chester fired back saying government advertising had been reduced under the Coalition.
"It's disappointing Mr Albanese is playing politics and is so negative about a project that is important for the local community and our nation," Mr Chester said.
"In contrast, local MPs Luke Hartsuyker and Kevin Hogan ... are working hard to make sure the region benefits from investment."