November 17, 2023
Road trauma will increase and local councils will pick up the bill because of the Federal Government’s failure to prioritise regional projects in the Infrastructure Policy Statement, Shadow Minister for Local Government Darren Chester said on Thursday.
Mr Chester said the decision to abandon 80-20 funding splits for regional infrastructure projects, a lack of new funding for regional roads, and ignoring a recommendation to increase Roads to Recovery funding, were all evidence of a government that did not value regional communities.
He said the government had also indicated they were only interested in funding “nationally significant” infrastructure with a price tag of at least $250 million which would eliminate many regional projects from the pipeline.
“It’s remarkable for a regional MP that Minister Catherine King has locked onto a city-centric plan to focus her infrastructure budget on the cities, and starve regional communities from the much-needed investment in life-changing and life-saving projects,” Mr Chester said.
“The majority of cuts to the Infrastructure Investment Program have targeted well-supported regional projects, and there’s no commitment to reducing road trauma which has increased in regional areas over the past 18 months.
“In fact, the decision to abandon 80-20 funding splits will mean less road safety projects on regional highways because the State Labor Governments have never been interested in funding these works on a 50-50 basis.
“The previous Federal Coalition Government created the option of 80-20 funding splits for regional projects to incentivise States to bring forward major highway upgrades in regional areas.
“The Roads of Strategic Importance program has been abandoned and the Minister has ignored the recommendation to increase funding for local councils under Roads to Recovery, saying she will have more to say about that later.
“Given it took her 200 days to finalise a so-called 90 day review, I don’t think local councillors should hold their breath for more money to spend on local roads from this Minister.
“Localised road treatments like installing traffic lights or roundabouts at intersections with a high crash history are proven to reduce the severity and frequency of crashes, and I would argue they are nationally significant.
“Today’s plan will shift more costs on to local councils and ratepayers will be forced to pay more in the middle of a cost of living crisis.”