FIX IT NOW: Princes Highway firmly in Labor’s sights - but where’s the money?

FACT FINDING TOUR: Shadow assistant minister for Energy and Climate Change and Infrastructure Pat Conroy chats with Labor’s Gilmore candidate, Fiona Phillips during his visit to the Shoalhaven on Monday.

FACT FINDING TOUR: Shadow assistant minister for Energy and Climate Change and Infrastructure Pat Conroy chats with Labor’s Gilmore candidate, Fiona Phillips during his visit to the Shoalhaven on Monday.

Shadow assistant minister for Energy and Climate Change and Infrastructure Pat Conroy has visited the Shoalhaven, touring the Manildra Group’s Shoalhaven Starches facility at Bomaderry and looking at the Princes Highway, south of Nowra.

Joined by Labor’s Gilmore candidate, Fiona Phillips, Mr Conroy said the party was committed to upgrade the highway but there was no firm funding announcement.

Fairfax Media launched the FIX IT NOW campaign in March pushing for major upgrades of the Princes Highway south of Nowra to the Victorian border.

“I’m not here to make a funding announcement,” Mr Conroy said “but I’m here to inspect the highway and understand the scope of the problems and report back to shadow Infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese.

“Our commitment to the Princes Highway is well established. We led the charge on upgrading the Nowra bridge, allocating $50 million of the $155m for the project. We really dictated through Fiona’s advocacy and the government came on board and matched our commitment.

                     FIX IT NOW: Bridges in need of upgrades

“Fiona’s always in my ear about the Princes Highway, she’s in Albo’s ear and Bill Shorten’s ear about funding for the Princes Highway.

“We are very open to look at specific upgrades to improve the safety of the Princes Highway and that’s why we’ll go to a specific stretch of the road where we have seen a high number of crashes and tragic fatalities.”

They inspected a 59-kilometre section of the highway between Nowra and Milton.

The people of the the South Coast are sick of excuses - they don’t care who is in power, they just want the Nowra bridge upgrade and safety improvements to the Princes Highway.

Shadow assistant minister for Energy and Climate Change and Infrastructure Pat Conroy

Mrs Phillips rebuked claims by Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis that the federal government can’t allocate funds to the Princes Highway because it was not a road of national importance.

“We can give money to the Princes Highway and the government should have been doing that,” she said.

“You’ve got a stretch of road that there has been so many accidents and fatalities, we can do it. We are actively looking for projects along the Princes Highway to fund.

“I’ve been talking with Shoalhaven City Council and Eurobodalla Council further south to try and find projects.

“Everybody’s talking about it, it’s time to stop the talk and fund the projects.”

Mr Conroy said the people of the South Coast wanted action.

“Ann Sudmalis has been the federal MP for five years and all we have heard is excuses about why the government can’t do anything,” he said.

“We got the same excuse as to why they dragged the chain on upgrading the Nowra bridge. It's only because of Fiona they were dragged kicking and screaming to the table.

“The people of the the South Coast are sick of excuses - they don’t care who is in power, they just want the Nowra bridge upgrade and safety improvements to the Princes Highway and Fiona Phillips is already a great advocate for that and will continue to do so as the Member for Gilmore.”

Mr Conroy said the tour of Manildra’s complex allowed him to understand the huge contributions biofuels make to decarbonise the economy.

“Shoalhaven Starches employs more than 350 people in the Nowra area and Labor federally wants to see them grow and employ more people,” he said.

He said it was a chance to understand the challenges the company faces.

“We discussed their potential growth to fulfil Labor’s commitment to 50 per cent renewable energy and to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of our motor vehicles,” he said.

“Being the largest bio-fuel refinery of its type in the world, Shoalhaven Starches plays a vital role in decarbonisation efforts. Bio-fuel and bio-energy have the potential to be a great source of renewable energy.”

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