Proposed $60m Princes Hwy upgrade uncertain, says King

Discussing the federal government’s infrastructure review and its potential impact on projects such as the Princes Highway upgrade, Infrastructure Minister Catherine King reiterated that many projects under the Liberals and Nationals were not feasible in terms of funding or resources.

State and territory governments recently agreed to support a 90-day independent review of the projects at National Cabinet.

The process will allow all levels of government time to consider the projects that are actual priorities and assess their cost and deliverability in the current climate, King noted earlier.

Talking to ABC Hobart host Mim Hook, King said that while the federal government is committed to investing in large highway projects to ensure better safety and accessibility for freight operators and other motorists, there has to be a proper assessment of all the projects in the pipeline before committing funds towards any specific project.

The minister noted that the current Labor government has $120 billion in the 10-year pipeline for infrastructure projects, some of which date back to 2016.

King added: “The previous government has left no money, no room in the infrastructure pipeline to fund any of those new projects. And that’s what the review is looking at, is trying to make sure we get projects that are simply not able to be delivered out of the pipeline, so, we can do those big significant projects, like projects on the Princes Highway, like projects on the Hume, like projects on other highways and other freight networks across the country.

“But having been left with a pipeline that has been frankly, if you look at it, when we last left office, there was 150 projects, big projects of national significance. We’ve now got a pipeline that is absolutely full of over 800 projects, some that were announced way back in 2016 that have simply not got a funding partner, not got any additional money to be able to actually build them. And that’s what we’ve been left with.

“So, the review is to get independent advice right the way across the pipeline of projects to have a look at what can be delivered, what do we need to cancel. Because it simply cannot be delivered, or it’s not got enough money to be able to be delivered so that there’s headroom to fund those big scale projects that the Commonwealth should be funding rather than projects that local councils or state governments should be responsible for,” King said.

When questioned about the $60m for the Princes Highway upgrade in Gippsland, King declined to comment. “I’m not actually going to speak about any specific project because that’s the very nature of the review, is it’s to look at every project that is not currently under construction, and that wasn’t an election commitment in the last election campaign to actually look to see whether it’s delivered, whether there’s enough money available to work closely with state and territory governments to make sure we can actually get on with them.”

King added that the current Labor government is doing a proper review of all the “nation building projects that the Commonwealth needs to be responsible for; keeping our freight moving across the country, making sure our freight rail network is upgraded properly, making sure we can get goods and services to the regions and from the regions into our ports and out into the international market. I’ve got to make sure that the roads between our great capital cities and our great regions are safe and our rail networks are available.”

Meanwhile, King confirmed to ABC Upper Hunter host Amelia Bernasconi that projects including the Muswellbrook and Singleton Bypass and the Merriwa to Willow Tree Road will remain on track to be completed under the budget allocation.

“It’s a commitment that we made during the election campaign was to increase funding for regional and rural councils, in particular for local roads,” King said.

“We were very conscious about the terrible weather events we’ve all experienced. I live in Ballarat. The roads around our roadway are pretty shocking and councils have really struggled to keep up with the maintenance of those. Water is not our roads friends, unfortunately.

“So, this additional money we’re announcing today, the allocations of that $250 million they come on top of the announcement of the $500 million in February that already local councils will be aware of. So, it sees, for example, Muswellbrook Shire Council gets an additional $333,000, bringing their total up to just over $900,000, from the federal government, in this particular program for local roads. And Cessnock Council, their total is around $1.6 million. And Lake Macquarie Council $2.7 million and Singleton, as you said, $1.2 million in total.

“So, bringing that up really helping those councils, particularly as they’re leading, they’re all leading into their budgets at the moment, would be, I’m sure, very pleasing for them to know the amounts that are being allocated, and that is specifically, that additional amount is all to go specifically to local roads.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend