O’Farrell says Hwy should trump rail

A matter of priorties.

O’Farrell says Hwy should trump rail

Updated: 21:40, Wednesday June 13, 2012

O'Farrell says Hwy should trump rail

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell wants the federal government to fund the Pacific Highway upgrade from funds earmarked for the Parramatta to Epping rail link.

A 2016 deadline to turn Australia’s deadliest stretch of road into a dual carriageway appeared to be in jeopardy a day after the NSW budget was unveiled, as NSW and the commonwealth argued over funding and federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese threatened to divert commonwealth money towards road projects in other states.

On Wednesday Mr O’Farrell for the first time called on the Gillard government to dump its $2.1 billion election proposal for an Epping to Parramatta rail link, and instead put those funds into finishing the upgrade of the Pacific Highway.

Mr O’Farrell has previously called for that money to be spent on the North West Rail Link.

‘This issue could be resolved overnight if the federal government transferred its funding that was set aside allegedly for the Epping to Parramatta rail line and enabled that to be put into the Pacific Highway,’ he told reporters in northwest Sydney.

The NSW government’s war with the commonwealth escalated on Tuesday when state Treasurer Mike Baird pledged $1.5 billion over four years to convert the deadly stretch of road in northern NSW to a dual carriageway.

That was well below the $3.6 billion pledged by the federal government in the May budget on the condition NSW matched its funding commitment dollar for dollar.

‘But NSW argues the original agreement with the commonwealth provided for a 20/80 funding split, which would have meant $2.13 billion more.

Canberra is instead insisting on a 50/50 funding deal, dating back to 1996.

Roads Minister Duncan Gay said Canberra’s decision would jeopardise the 2016 deadline.

‘If the 2016 date is in doubt it’s because the federal minister has reneged … to remove $2.13 billion from NSW roads,’ he told reporters.

Mr Albanese said funds earmarked for the Pacific Highway could now be spent outside NSW because of the state government’s failure to match the commonwealth’s funding commitment.

‘If NSW doesn’t support what it said it would do obviously there will be other governments and projects putting themselves forward for that funding,’ he told reporters in Brisbane.

Meanwhile, with the NSW budget proposing 10,000 government job cuts over four years to save $2.2 billion, Mr O’Farrell said public servants would need to prove their worth.

‘What directors-general of departments have been asked to do over the next 12 months is identify and eradicate waste and mismanagement within departments and if that means that some public servants are going to have to do more, well that’s real life,’ he said.

Mr O’Farrell declined to say where an $1.24 billion in unspecified cutbacks to government programs and services flagged in the budget would be made.

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