NEW ROAD: A new section of the Pacific Hwy, the northern section of the Ballina Bypass, that diverts traffic from the troublesome Tintenbar Hill.
NEW ROAD: A new section of the Pacific Hwy, the northern section of the Ballina Bypass, that diverts traffic from the troublesome Tintenbar Hill. Cathy Adams

No new funds for Pacific Highway project

AUSTRALIAN voters are necessarily wary of big promises from politicians.

They've been misled so many times over the decades that they take most promises with a grain of salt.

It's hard to know what voters thought last June when then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott climbed into the cab of a large truck and spent a couple of days driving from Brisbane to Terrigal along the Pacific Hwy. On frequent stopovers Mr Abbott told the media his road jaunt was designed to highlight the need to fast-track the duplication of this important highway.

He vowed that under a Coalition Government, the project would be finished by the end of the decade - well before, he claimed, it would have been under a Labor Government.

Wind forward a year.

The 2014-15 Budget does nothing more than adopt the forward spending program put in place by the previous Labor Government - the very program Mr Abbott had attacked as inadequate during his tour of the road last June.

This fact is clear in the glossy infrastructure brochure that was released on Budget night.

There are no new projects.

There is no new schedule.

Nothing is being fast-tracked.

Despite these facts, Coalition MPs who hold seats along the route have continued to spread the claim that the budget contains new spending.

Mr Abbott and Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss are continuing to stick to their story, apparently hoping that if they repeat their false claims often enough people will come to believe they are true.

Department of Infrastructure and Transport secretary Mike Mrdak set the record straight in a Senate Budget Estimates Committee hearing late last month.

Under questioning from Labor NSW Senator Doug Cameron, Mr Mrdak conceded: "Essentially the Pacific Highway program is continuing as per long-standing agreements".

Asked by Senator Cameron whether the first Abbott Budget included any new initiatives on the Pacific Hwy, Mr Mrdak said: "The program is continuing as it has been".

Mr Abbott misled people during his big road trip.

The distortions went well beyond political spin.

The Pacific Highway duplication will continue.

The only difference is that because the Commonwealth has given the NSW Coalition Government a green light to reduce its contribution, overall spending will be less and therefore the completion date will be put back.

During its six years in office Labor invested $7.9 billion in the Pacific Highway duplication - dwarfing the $1.3 billion expenditure of the previous Howard Government over nearly 12 years.

Regular Pacific Hwy users should simply ask themselves what they can see when they use the road.

They can see completed projects like the Kempsey Bypass and the Ballina Bypass.

They can also see thousands of people working on the projects up and down the length of the highway every day.

This is work funded in the budgets of the Labor Government.

Last June, when Tony Abbott complained that it was time to "get it built" the road was being built.

He needed only to look out the window.

Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport