Off and racing

James Harker-Mortlock and Angus Taylor at the recent Fire Ball organised to raise money for BlazeAid. Photo: Karan Gabriel.JuliaGillard’s shock election announcement was still sinking in, when one localcandidate came out swinging.

IndependentHume candidate James Harker-Mortlock accused the Liberals of dropping theBarton Highway off its priority list.

MrHarker-Mortlock said it was in violation of the Coalition’s 2007 electionpromise.

Hesaid the Liberal Party had recently published its intention to support otherbillion-dollar road projects if elected, but had made no mention of the Barton.

TheLiberal publication ‘Our Plan – Real Solutions for All Australians’ lists majorroad projects such as the $1.5 billion WestConnex Sydney, $1.5 billionEast-West Link Melbourne, $1 billion Gateway Motorway Brisbane, $400 millionMidland Highway Tasmania duplication, the Toowoomba Range crossing and the $5.6billion Pacific Highway duplication.

LiberalHume candidate Angus Taylor dismissed the allegation as a political stunt,saying the publication was not intended to be an exhaustive policy document.

“TheBarton Highway always was, is and will be a priority for the Coalition.

“Theplan we have put out is a directions and priorities document. It doesn’tinclude all our policies and initiatives.” The party would be publishing thoseafter May’s budget, he said.

MrTaylor said he had been door-knocking in Yass and Murrumbateman recently andknew how strongly residents felt about the Barton issue.

“I’llbe driving on it myself today, and I’m well aware of the need to fix thisroad,” he told the Tribune on Monday.

“Theproblem with the Barton Highway is very serious but demands from independentswho can’t deliver anything are irrelevant,” he said.

“It’stime for independents and other parties to explain how they will deliver andcommit to these things.”

Katter’sAustralian Party candidate for Hume, Bruce Nicholson, said the Barton was anissue he would support and fight for.

“Itwas originally costed at $270 million and the Liberals are talking about threemajor road projects that are $1.5 billion each – so surely $270 million for theBarton Highway is a small amount [by comparison].”

Hewondered whether residents would consider temporary toll gates erected as eachsection was built. State government funding was another option worthconsidering, he said.

ChristianDemocratic Party candidate Adrian van der Byl said he’d support the Bartonbeing funded but it seemed unlikely while the carbon issue was attracting somuch attention.

“In myconsidered opinion, if the government stopped spending on fraudulent carbondioxide abatement schemes we’d have a lot more money for it,” he told theTribune.

Labor is yet toannounce its candidate. Yass branch president David Grant said someone had beenchosen but the party was awaiting formal process before making theannouncement. He said the party would continue to treat the Barton duplicationas an important priority.

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