Barton Highway fixes dragged into by-election stoush
THE proposed Barton Highway upgrades are back in the news this week, but not because there is any new progress on the safety fixes that truckies have been after for so long.
With the hotly contested Eden-Monaro by-election campaign now in full swing, both Labor and the Coalition are using the notorious stretch of highway - one of the most dangerous in NSW - to score points.
In a Facebook post today while on the campaign trail with candidate Kristy McBain, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the Liberals and Nationals have forgotten about the people of Eden-Monaro.
"Scott Morrison cut annual investment in the Barton Highway by almost 70%. He's missing in action," said Mr Albanese.
"When it mattered, Kristy McBain was with her community. Now she's fighting for their fair share of infrastructure funding."
In March, the NSW government confirmed upgrades to the Barton Highway will be completed by at least 2023, three years after they were originally scheduled to be completed.
Safety upgrades to the major road linking the ACT and the Hume Highway were expected to be finished by June 2020, according to the original government plans.
In a media release today, the Federal Liberal and Nationals Government countered by saying it had committed $150 million towards the duplication of the Barton Highway from the ACT towards Murrumbateman to improve safety and reduce travel times for all motorists.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the "lies" delivered by Federal Labor today are yet another example of the party ignoring the facts to hide its lack of commitment to the regions.
"The Federal Government has not cut infrastructure spending, especially not in regional Australia," Mr McCormack said.
"We have increased our commitment to building infrastructure with a record $100 billion pipeline of projects over 10 years, with regional Australia benefiting from more than $30 billion since 2013-14.
"The business case for duplicating the Barton Highway has already been completed and was published in February 2020, with construction expected to begin later this year."
In the build-up to the last General Election, however, the Labor Government pledged to improve road safety and reduce traffic congestion by investing almost $250 million to progress the full duplication of the Barton Highway between Murrumbateman and the NSW/ACT border.
The Barton links the southern and western areas of NSW to the ACT, running 52km between Canberra and the Hume Highway, near Yass. It is used by 12,500 vehicles a day, including about 1,000 trucks.
Catherine King, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development told Big Rigs that it is delivery that matters to regional Australians.
"Labor is proud of our record as the party that has invested in regional roads, while this Liberal and National Government has delivered seven years of underinvestment," she said.
"When Labor was last in office we doubled the roads budget and directed almost two thirds of infrastructure funding to projects outside our major cities, ensuring regional and rural Australia got its fair share.
"As part of this, Labor built and upgraded 7,500km of road and established the first federal program to build extra rest stops across the country, ensuring more of our nation's truck drivers could reach their destinations safely.
"In contrast, the Coalition cannot hide their underinvestment in our nation's road infrastructure. There is no better example of the cuts inflicted by the Liberal and National Parties than the Barton Highway. The Abbott Turnbull Morrison Government has slashed average annual investment in the Barton Highway by more than 65 per cent in the last seven years, from $5.4 million under the former Federal Labor Government to $1.7 million under the current Government."