Travellers on Wimmera roads have a right to be concerned that their safety and that of those they love will increasingly be put at risk, thanks to the comments made by the Minister for Infrastructure Catherine King and her intent to slash Commonwealth funding for roads, Member for Mallee Anne Webster says.
The Albanese Labor Government is seeking to cut Federal contributions for road projects by up to 30 per cent by requiring State Governments invest at least 50 per cent of funding.
“Unless you have been living under a rock, everyone is aware of the fiscal disaster the Andrews/Allan Government has left Victoria in, and history shows their lack of interest in projects beyond Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong. Minister King’s decision means truly regional and rural road projects will be kicked even further down the road.
“This would mean major projects like the completion of the duplication of the Western Highway between Ararat and Stawell, which the Coalition budgeted $360 million for in 2019, would likely not be go ahead,” Dr Webster said.
“Currently these projects have been 80 per cent funded by the Commonwealth, but Infrastructure Minister Catherine King is looking for spending cuts now – even before she releases the findings of her almost 200 days old 90-day infrastructure review and has not committed a cent to maintaining existing commitments.
“The Western Highway project is subject to that review, the road is dangerous and must be funded but the Minister has sat on her hands and is now foreshadowing ripping money away which will see crucial safety upgrades put on the backburner. Labor must not abandon regional communities and risk further increasing our state’s road toll.”
Dr Webster said the region’s productivity relied on the increasing number of road trains transporting product to ports and markets along key freight routes often funded largely by Federal Governments.
“As trucks grow in size, length and weight, roads are increasingly deteriorating, exacerbating safety issues that Labor Governments at Federal and State level continue to ignore,” Dr Webster said.
Other Wimmera infrastructure projects subject to Labor’s 90-day review include the Horsham Roundabout and traffic lights at the Seaby Street and Western Highway intersection in Stawell, which had Commonwealth funding of $4 million and $3.1 million previously committed, face the axe.
“These may be consigned to the scrapheap because Minister King is more interested in playing politics with Coalition funding while protecting Labor’s pet projects in their electorates,” Dr Webster said.