CORANGAMITE MP Sarah Henderson has slammed a “city-centric” study which failed to consider the Princes Highway’s vital role in Australia’s agriculture and tourism industries.
The “Roads to Riches: Better Transport Investment” report by Melbourne-based Grattan Institute, which receives state and federal government funding, claimed the highway duplication between Colac and Geelong was a waste of money, based on the cost and volume of traffic.
But Ms Henderson, along with other political representatives including Polwarth MP Richard Riordan and Corangamite’s Labor candidate Libby Coker, have expressed anger at what Ms Henderson described as a “narrow-minded, biased report”.
Ms Henderson said the report “demonstrated no understanding about the vital role the duplication is playing in transporting our agricultural products and timber to the national and internal markets, connecting regional communities and dramatically improving road safety”.
“This was a notoriously dangerous road and this report took no consideration of the economic prosperity the road will bring,” she said.
“If you look at the industries like Bulla, ALC and AKD, they’re not just providing food and timber for our region, some of it’s for the Australian market and international market; and much of what’s produced here is being freighted via the Princes Highway.
“South-west Victoria is one of the top five agricultural producers of our nation.
“VicRoads is forecasting a very significant increase in freight which is a fundamental reason why the road is important.
“According to the 2015 report Freight Futures, the Victorian Freight Network, by 2020 nearly 160-million tonnes in freight will be carried on Victoria’s key regional freight corridors, an increase of over 70 per cent.”
Ms Henderson said she was also amazed the Grattan Institute report also failed to mention the importance of the road as access to “one of the nation’s most significant tourist attractions”.
“This road is a major alternate route to the Great Ocean Road which attracts 2.5 million visitors each year, and the centrepiece of our regional $2.1-billion tourism industry which supports 10,000 local jobs,” she said.
“I make no apology for fighting tooth and nail to fund the duplication which is one of the government’s finest achievements and personally one of my proudest achievements,” Ms Henderson said, emphasising the importance of the $554-million state and federal investment to duplicate the highway from Waurn Ponds to Colac.
The federal MP also said she was disappointed with media reports claiming the duplication was a result of political “pork-barrelling” rather than need.
“This didn’t happen because we were a marginal seat; I worked with the community to fight for this funding and it was delivered because of this extraordinary effort.”
Ms Henderson said The Age’s Grattan Institute story heading Road to Nowhere was an “absolute insult” and demonstrated the newspaper’s lack of understanding of the Colac region.
- See the letters section in today’s Colac Herald print edition for Mr Riordan’s views on the report.