THE treasurer Scott Morrison came to town on Wednesday to sell the budget and in all honesty really said nothing new about the Shoalhaven.
Or at least nothing we haven’t all heard before.
If the treasurer wanted to do the big local sell on his budget, why didn’t he allocate the media more than just 10 minutes so they could ask numerous Gilmore-centric questions?
He re-announced the $13.9 million in the budget for the proposed Northern Collector Road, designed to “alleviate” traffic congestion as part of “essential pre-works” prior to the replacement of the Shoalhaven River crossing at Nowra.
“It is the essential works to connect two fast growing areas of the Shoalhaven community,” he said.
He said a thousand homes were being built in that area and the road would connect residents to services, to other transport connections, schools, hospitals; all the “important services and town services in Nowra”.
He didn’t address the question if residents would, in fact, travel 10 minutes north to then travel 15 minutes south, which appears to be the case when you look at the Far North Collector Road on the map which appears to join Illaroo Road and Moss Vale Road.
How is that going to alleviate traffic congestion in North Nowra?
Interesting question that.
“This is how we do infrastructure,” he said.
“We think about it, we plan it, we connect communities, we ensure it builds in future projects to get the real economic growth that is the central story of this budget,” he said.
Interestingly the announcement in the budget was the first many of us had ever heard of the Northern Collector Road.
Shoalhaven City Council has previously floated three other options for a North Nowra Bomaderry Link Road.
Even the most recent option along West Cambewarra Road by the previous council and former Mayor Joanna Gash never mentioned a Northern Collector Road.
In fact, on the map the Collector Road looks very similar to the long talked about and dreamed of western bypass of Nowra. Is this a precursor to that or would there be two roads in that area when a bypass may ever be built?
“The budget is about growing our economy to support more and better paid jobs,” he said.
He spoke of the $75 billion in programs and projects the Coalition government has planned for the next 10 years.
A further round of Better Region Funds, an overall regions fund approaching $500 million to support regional projects.
“There are some really strong challenges in the Shoalhaven, I understand them well, I’m no stranger to the Shoalhaven,” he said.
But he didn’t mention the assertion by the NSW Education Department under Gonski 2.0 local disadvantaged schools like Nowra East Public and Vincentia High would both lose $1.3 million in funding.
However, a press release handed out at the conference actually stated the “funding model will see each and every facility receive a funding increases totaling $256 million”.
“We are targeting youth unemployment with our youth path program,” he said.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics unemployment in Shoalhaven/Southern Highlands up to March was 6.7 per cent cent compared to the national average of 5.1 per cent.
Youth unemployment has long been acknowledged as being higher again with estimates of around 24.1 per cent compare to the NSW average of 12 per cent and the national total 13.3 per cent.
The Labor Party’s narrative is after 21 years of Liberal representation - why hasn’t that percentage dropped?
“We are supporting small business including an extension of the instant asset write off. This now supports a business with a turnover of up to $10 million,” he said.
“We visited a number of businesses this morning who are in the $2 million to $10 million basis – business that will get things like GST on a cash basis, and we are working in cutting red tape to small businesses.”
He said Labor’s income tax policy would resign the economy to ruin.
“Mr Shorten is saying if you start a small business and take a risk he wants you to pay a marginal tax rate of 49.5 cents out of every extra dollar you earn,” he said.
“So when you work well in the country he’s saying you work one day for the government and one day for yourself - that’s not fair.”
He passed questions over funding of a new Shoalhaven bridge to Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis, who again said they were waiting for final cost projections from the state government before she would “knock on the treasurer’s door” looking for funds.
“We are expecting a number sometime before the end of the year, and yes I’m going to be barracking for an 80/20 split. I will knock on Scott’s door for that,” Mrs Sudmalis said.
“Barracking” falls short of 80/20 split Mrs Sudmalis announced shortly after the Labor Party pledged $50 million for the project.
“The first thing you have got to do is the Northern Collector Road, that’s what is important,” Mr Morrison said.
Although saying he was impressed to see the improvements to the Princes Highway, he would not commit funding to the highway upgrade between Berry and Bomaderry or at Albion Park Rail.
“I welcome the fact there has been such strong investment by the state government. These are state roads at the end of the day,” he said.
“We are investing in our roads, our railways, airports, the Snowy Hydro scheme. The Australian Government is investing in national projects that drive national productivity and drive our growth.”
The South East Australian Transport Strategy (SEATS) has championed for many years the upgrading of the Princes Highway, to improve productivity.
“We’re investing in a $20 million regional jobs package here in the Shoalhaven,” Mr Morrison said.
He said under Snowy 2.0 the federal government was interested in increasing its share in the Snowy Hydro.
“We are interested in doing that on several conditions but one important condition, that the state government would use those proceeds to invest in important state infrastructure projects. Now that can include the Princes Highway,” he said.
“There is no reason why it can’t.
“It’s first and foremost a state responsibility. And I think the state government has been living up to that responsibility.”
He was said government would be giving 90,000 former pensioners their pensioner concession card back due to the advocacy of the Gilmore MP.
“They will now get all those state and local government concessions that go to pension card holders,” he said.
“That’s important to put the living pressures down on older Australians.”
Mr Morrison was in town to attend a Shoalhaven Business Chamber luncheon, which the media was not allowed to attend.
He was greeted outside the Bomaderry Bowling Club by a number of protesters led by Greens MP Justin Field and Shoalhaven City Councillor Kaye Gartner who voiced their opposition to the proposed Adani Coal mine in Queensland and the government’s pledge of $1 billion in taxpayer dollars for a railway associated with the mine.