Trucker Tony’s $5.6bil promise

DRIVING a truck on parts of the Pacific Highway can be pretty hair-raising, the federal opposition leader says.

Tony Abbott pulled into Port Macquarie yesterday on an 875km Pacific Highway journey from Brisbane to the Central Coast to push home the Coalition’s highway funding promise.

Mr Abbott said driving a truck was not an unpleasant experience on the upgraded sections, but said it could be pretty hair-raising on the parts of the highway which were still a “1970s goat track”.

“I absolutely accept that doing this once is not the same as doing it day in day out,” he said. “Doing this once has given me tremendous admiration for the people that do this every other day.”

Mr Abbott addressed a 110-strong crowd at a breakfast at Rydges Port Macquarie yesterday before resuming the highway drive behind the wheel of a Nolan’s Interstate Transport truck.

Co-driver Glen Petersen gave Mr Abbott’s driving the thumbs up.

The federal Coalition’s extra $2 billion commitment would get the highway duplicated well within the decade, Mr Abbott said. The $5.6 billion promise takes in the $3.56 billion Gillard government allocation and an extra $2 billion.

The federal opposition leader stopped short of naming an upgrade completion date, but said it would be achieved well within this decade.

He conceded the 2016 completion deadline was “highly unlikely”.

The state and federal governments continue to bicker over the highway funding ratio. The Nationals’ candidate for Lyne, Dr David Gillespie, said everyone knew about the importance of the highway.

“We have a commitment, not just in words, but we have committed the funds to upgrade the highway,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott said all we wanted for Christmas was an honest completion date on the Pacific Highway upgrade.

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese was in town earlier in the week talking about the Pacific Highway, with Mr Abbott here yesterday. Mr Oakeshott welcomed both visits.

“But these visits have to be more than ‘whistlestop, rhetoric and campaign’ tours for the  major parties,” he said.

Mr Albanese labelled the truck journey as Mr Abbott’s latest publicity stunt and challenged him to be upfront and honest with the communities along the Pacific Highway.

“Federal Labor’s commitment to fixing the Pacific Highway is unwavering,” Mr Albanese said.

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