May 26, 2010
The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has welcomed the Federal Transport Minister’s new found interest in the Princes Highway throughout Gippsland and called on Anthony Albanese to visit the region before funding future road upgrades.
Mr Chester responded to a media statement by the Minister this week that claimed the Federal Opposition had “abandoned its promise to upgrade the Princes Highway east of Sale”.
“I know it’s a long way from Mr Albanese’s Sydney electorate to Gippsland but he doesn’t seem to know which section of the highway he is talking about,” Mr Chester said.
“I’m happy to personally show him around Gippsland if he would like to visit and meet with local road users before making further funding commitments.
“As far as I’m aware, there have never been any promises of Commonwealth funding for major upgrades of the highway east of Sale by the government or the opposition. That’s my whole point – I’m trying to get the highway east of Sale recognised under the National Road Network to make it eligible to receive significant amounts of Commonwealth funding in the future.
“I’m supporting a community petition led by Tim Bull which is highlighting the community’s concerns in relation to the double standard that current applies in Gippsland.
“Federal funding is made available for the upgrades between Traralgon and Sale but the section heading east to the New South Wales border is currently missing out on a major upgrade.”
Mr Chester said he had spoken about the issue in Federal Parliament and written to the Minister three times to seek support for the initiative.
“The Minister responded by saying, ‘there are at this point in time, no plans to extend the network to include the Princes Highway east beyond Sale’,” Mr Chester said.
“When I asked for further information on eligibility criteria, Mr Albanese just fobbed off the issue with a three paragraph letter. I have written to him again this week and formally invited him to join me on an inspection of the road so that he can become familiar with the geography of Gippsland.
“Instead of grandstanding for political points, the Minister should be offering to work with the community and the State Government to improve safety on the highway east of Sale.
“As I have indicated in Federal Parliament, the highway has an appalling safety record and as traffic flows increase, it is likely to worsen in the future.”
Mr Chester said the current $175 million upgrade of the highway between Traralgon and Sale (which includes $35 million of State Government funding) would not complete the duplication project.
“There have been no funding commitments beyond the first stage of the duplication works which are currently underway,” Mr Chester said.
“It’s my job to continue to pursue upgrades of the highway throughout the entire region, not just Traralgon to Sale, and I will continue to fight for Gippsland’s fair share of road funding.”