Statistics expose Howards shameful transport record: Albanese

By: Jason Whittaker

Federal Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese has leapt on statistics that show the Howard Government slashed funding for national roads

Federal Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese has leapt on statistics that show the Howard Government slashed funding for national roads and highways, accusing it of acting shamefully in its approach toward the transport industry.

According to data compiled by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE), road funding averaged $2.3 billion a year under the Hawke and Keating Labor governments, but fell to $2.05 billion a year under Howard’s reign.

The funding cuts over the Howard Government’s first eight years in office amount to almost $2 billion – enough money to duplicate the Hume Highway, Albanese says.

The Australian Transport Statistics Yearbook to be released today shows the funding cuts came amid a 40 percent increase in the volume of freight being trucked around the country coupled with a significant increased in private car ownership.

Albanese has attacked the funding cuts, saying it will take some time for Rudd Labor to fix Australia’s ailing infrastructure due to the actions of the previous government.

"The facts about the Howard Government’s shameful record on road funding are contained in the inaugural edition of BITRE’s new flagship publication – Australian Transport Statistics Yearbook," Albanese says.

The minister also paid particular attention to the actions of the National Party as it carried the transport portfolio throughout the life of the Howard Government.

"The figures I’ve outlined here should be uncomfortable reading for the National Party in particular," Albanese says.

The statistics also show the combined annual road spending of state, territory and local governments rose by 16 percent under Howard’s tenure.

While busy ridiculing Howard’s record, Albanese took the chance to champion his government’s initiatives to addressing transport bottlenecks.

"During last year’s election campaign, Labor pledged to invest almost $15.5 billion over five years into the nation’s road network," he says.

But South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) Chief Executive Steve Shearer has questioned whether the Rudd Government will invest more in road infrastructure after its actions cocnerning South Australia's north-south corridor.

Shearer says the Rudd Government back-flipped on the project, slashing funding by $1.5 billion.

He says he had an unofficial commitment the Labor party was to announce it would commit $2 billion to the construction of the north-south corridor.
"Kevin Rudd pulled the pin on that so we ended up with $500 million for the north-south corridor and it is a $2 billion project," he says.

"The rest was supposed to be announced a week later in the election but Rudd pulled the pin on that and said ‘No, we are going to prove to everybody that we are [fiscally] responsible."

The $70 million over four years safety package announced by Albanese has also been criticised as severely lacking.

"Absolute bloody chickenfeed," Victorian Transport Association Chief Executive Philip Lovel says.

"If it was $70 million a year it still wouldn’t be enough."

The Australian Transport Statistics Yearbook — to be released annually — was prepared in conjunction with the Australian Transport Bureau, the Australian Bureau of Statistics as well as state and territory authorities. It contains statistics from as far back as 30 years in some cases.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to receive the ABC e-newsletter, digital magazine and other offers we choose to share with you straight to your inbox

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook