Minister admits false duplication claim

STATE Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan has been forced to make a correction in state parliament, after falsely claiming the final two stages of the Princes Highway duplication were “underway”.

Ms Allan said the state government was discussing with its federal counterpart the duplication of the highway between Sale and Traralgon, saying “nine have been done, and two are underway”.

After Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien claimed Ms Allan had misled parliament, the minister corrected the record, admitting “planning” for the final two stages was underway.

“The Andrews Labor government has messed up by not completing the highway duplication and it’s Gippsland motorists that are suffering,” Mr O’Brien said.

“To have the minister then claim in parliament that the project’s final two stages are ‘underway’ is a slap in the face and indicates she is not across her own portfolio.”

The federal government has allocated $132 million to complete the project in its past two budgets, but there has been no funding coming from Victoria, which needs to put up $33 million.

“This is a project that will improve road safety in our region, boost our local economy and the efficiency of freight movement, and make the Wellington and East Gippsland shires more attractive places to invest, relocate to and visit,” Mr O’Brien said.

After her clarification, Ms Allan claimed the federal government’s contribution “wasn’t enough” to finish the project.

“If the delay in finishing the project has led to yet another Labor government blowout, then the state should be paying for it,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Gippslanders are sick of the delay on this project – numerous people are raising it with me through my current ‘Your Future, Your Say’ survey and engagement program – they just want to see it finished.”

Mr O’Brien said it was extraordinary that this came on the same day the Premier called on the Prime Minister to fund more small infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy.

“Here we have a perfect example of the federal government doing just that, but the money’s not getting spent because Daniel Andrews won’t come to the party and get on with it,” he said.

“Unfortunately it’s Gippslanders who wear the consequences of Labor’s inaction.”

In the same speech to parliament, Minister Allan said works would be beginning “very soon” on the new rail bridge over the Avon River at Stratford.