Page MP Janelle Saffin.
Page MP Janelle Saffin. Jacklyn Wagner

Saffin makes pre-budget plea to O'Farrell over Pacific Hwy

PAGE MP Janelle Saffin says she will "beg if necessary" to get New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell to pay for half of the Pacific Hwy upgrade, but it appears unlikely there will be any additional cash for the project in Tuesday's Federal Budget.

Ms Saffin's pre-budget plea for Mr O'Farrell to change his mind over funding the highway upgrade came almost a year to the day after a row broke out over how much each tier of government would contribute to finishing the project.

Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese secured $3.5 billion in last year's budget to complete the highway upgrade, but on the condition the State Government matched it dollar-for-dollar.

The O'Farrell government fired back claiming the Commonwealth was reneging on an 80:20 funding arrangement.

Neither side has budged in the ensuing 12 months amid a barrage of accusations and insults.

But in a clear change of tactics Ms Saffin has resorted to flattery, praising Mr O'Farrell for his recent decision to sign up to important federal initiatives.

"Barry O'Farrell has shown leadership on the NDIS and Gonski by putting people's long term needs before short term political advantage. He can do the same on the Pacific Hwy," she said.

"I'm prepared to do whatever I have to - beg if necessary - to convince him to commit to getting the job done between Grafton and Ballina.

"I'm simply asking him to honour his pre-election commitment of 50:50; no more, no less. Even the NRMA is on record as recognising that this funding agreement is a long standing one."

Despite appealing to Mr O'Farrell's "goodwill", there was nothing from Ms Saffin to indicate the Federal Government was considering an increase its share of the funding.

She did say the previously promised federal money - which including last yea's commitment comes to $7.9 billion - for the highway would be "confirmed" in the budget, but did not indicate whether any of the quarantined $3.5 billion would be released.

Mr Albanese said the money committed in last year's budget would remain locked away until the State Government matched the contribution.

"I'm anxious to have some of this funding released for our local stretch of the highway from Grafton to Ballina," she said.

"The stalemate has to end. The motoring public of the Northern Rivers, New South Wales, and indeed, Australia expect politicians at federal and state level to honour our promises and deliver," Ms Saffin said.


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