Roads funding in the firing line

The Albanese Government is now threatening thousands more infrastructure projects by taking aim at a raft of longstanding local road programs.

In disturbing revelations in Senate Estimates, the Roads to Recovery program and Black Spot Program, among other essential infrastructure programs, are now at risk of being axed under Labor's 90-day infrastructure pipeline review.

These programs are designed to help reduce vehicle accidents, eliminate dangerous sections of roads and supplement councils’ road funding.

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Senator Bridget McKenzie said councils across regional Australia were now being thrown into uncertainty with flow-on effects to contractors, businesses and communities.

“This has all the hallmarks of a scorched earth policy against all councils’ highly regarded road programs,” Senator McKenzie said.

“By including these programs in the infrastructure review, the Labor Government is signalling a complete rethink on Commonwealth road funding to local councils.”

Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson MP said the programs had a strong legacy and had made roads safer for decades.

“The Black Spot Program and Roads to Recovery provide critical funding that has given road users in O’Connor and their families greater peace of mind for decades,” Mr Wilson said.

“My electorate has more local governments than any other, 57 in all, and in 2022-23 they were collectively allocated $26.54 million under Roads to Recovery.

“To pull this amount of funding from these 57 Western Australian communities would be tantamount to treachery.

“Labor says it cares about regional development, but its savage cuts – both current and planned – are inordinately affecting people in the regions.”

Mr Wilson said O’Connor’s 57 local government authorities depended on the Roads to Recovery program, which has run since 2001, to upgrade and maintain local roads and intersections.

“If Labor’s review scraps Roads to Recovery, each shire and regional city in my electorate will be forced to consider jacking up rates on families to maintain their commitment to fixing local roads,” he said.

“The recent Federal Budget has been a litany of disasters for regional Western Australia, and confirmed that regional communities like ours are in the middle of a two-year funding drought thanks to the Albanese Government.”

Mr Wilson, a former Chair of the WA Black Spot Consultative Panel, said the Black Spot Program had been fixing dangerous sections of road continuously since 1996-97 under the Howard Government.

“In recent years, projects included $1.11 million for roadworks at Bandy Creek in Esperance, a combined $328,000 to improve the safety of York and Aberdeen Streets in Albany, $60,250 to improve Kuringup Road in Nyabing, and $37,375 to improve safety on Lights Road in Denmark,” he said.

“Some of the projects were big, some were small, but they all had road safety at their core.

“To shut down the pipeline of such projects is short-sighted and could endanger the lives of regional Western Australians.”

 

Media contact: Chris Thomson (08) 9842 2777; [email protected]

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