Free trade deal may raise road fund­ing

Central and North Burnett Times - - NEWS -

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.

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