Committee for Gippsland grills MHR

GIPPSLAND MHR Darren Chester addressed the Committee For Gippsland in Sale on Thursday, discussing concerns over road funding.

On Friday, he announced a $25 million commitment to fix roads east of Sale to the New South Wales border, if the Coalition was re-elected.

Mr Chester spoke about his election campaign and took some questions from the audience, before leaving for a graduation ceremony at RAAF Base, East Sale.

In his speech, he said the main driver for why he is in politics, as well as his main frustration, was legislating for projects and initiatives that “our children and grandchildren would thank us for”.

“The electoral cycle is too short for long term commitments; we need to lock in projects for a longer term,” he said, citing the highway duplication between Traralgon and Sale as an example.

“We should demand more from leaders.”

With Latrobe City, Wellington and East Gippsland municipalities represented, most of the questions from the audience came from councillors.

The main focus was on upgrading highways and allocating money to plan bypasses and alternate routes around Traralgon, Sale and Bairnsdale.

Mr Chester said there were no immediate plans for any bypasses, but acknowledged that while the highway was being duplicated, back roads had been overworked and now needed more repairs.

He described the Princes Highway east of Orbost as a “goat track” that should be prioritised.

The $25 million in funding would need to be equally matched by the state government, and would focus on safety upgrades, and building shoulders and overtaking lanes.

Mr Chester also noted that in terms of education, the key thing missing in Gippsland was aspiration, and encouraging young people to fulfil their potential.

The problem was also economics, as it cost country students drastically more to study in Melbourne than city-based students.

This was a continuing frustration for Mr Chester, and he said he had lobbied for years for more support.

“The government has let us down,” he said.

The Committee For Gippsland was formed as an advocacy group for Gippsland businesses to lobby governments.