Free trade deal may raise road funding
AUSTRALIA’S pending free trade agreement with China could give councils leverage to secure more roads funding from the Federal Government.
North Burnett Regional councillor Paul Francis attended an Australian Local Government Association conference a fortnight ago, where lobbying the Federal Government for more money for council-controlled transport networks was high on the agenda.
“We don’t have the revenue-raising capacity to do some of these road improvements that are critical to our nation’s productivity,” he said.
“This free trade agreement now adds to our bargaining power.”
At the moment, people wanting to drive B-double trucks on local government roads have to write an application, which council often has to refuse because it would be too dangerous.
This is not only due to a lack of maintenance, but because curves are too sharp, or crests are too steep, which are problems that need capital improvements to fix.
“Getting this work done is critical; otherwise as a country we won’t realise the full potential of a free trade agreement if we can’t get to ports at a viable cost,” Cr Francis said.
“People can transport so much more cheaply on a B-double.”
The ALGA is now working with Federal Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd’s office with the hopes of meeting key federal politicians in Canberra to make their case.
“It (the meeting) is in the pipeline. We would like to meet with Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Treasurer Joe Hockey, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Independent Nick Xenophon,” Cr Francis said. “They have done hard work at one end securing the free trade agreement. Now they need to complete the jigsaw puzzle at the other end.”
Roads investment has suffered since the Federal Government severely cut the amount of money available to councils in this year’s budget.