CORANGAMITE mayor Matt Makin has hit back at claims he doesn’t support the duplication of the Princes Highway, labelling the federal member for Corangamite an amateur.
Cr Makin, who is yet to confirm if he will stand again in the upcoming council elections, drew the ire of Colac Otway Shire mayor Stephen Hart after his mayoral report questioned the logic of some political decisions.
Cr Makin used the duplication of the Princes Highway between Colac and Winchelsea as an example and said at a cost of some $400 million there would surely be substantial benefits to safety, commuter travel times and economic flow-ons to many towns in the region.
“It is a great project that I am on the record as supporting,” the report said. “The question becomes, however, are there better causes in the transport space for this spend? I seldom hear people complain about the lack of a duplicated highway — but they complain quite rightly about many other parts of the road network.”
Cr Hart said the statement was illogical, provocative and short-sighted and federal member for Corangamite and Labor MP Darren Cheeseman said it was bizarre for Cr Makin to speak out against the funding of the highway duplication.
Yesterday, Mr Cheeseman said he wondered if Cr Makin was acting on behalf of the Corangamite Shire or the Liberal Party.
He said it was very worrying a senior ranking Liberal Party member would question the funding. But Cr Makin returned fire and said all he was trying to do was represent his community.
“Mr Cheeseman has clearly not read my report and then jumped to this conclusion and in doing so misrepresented me,” he said.
“Quite frankly it’s a reflection of him as being an amateur.
“If he is going to commit $300 million of taxpayer money for a road project then he needs to prove to the community evidence of the benefits.
“It has nothing to do with political games. Cost benefit analysis is critical to so many projects. If he read my paper he would simply see it’s an example, not my position.”
Cr Makin said he’d had recent discussions with representatives of the Colac Otway Shire and he completely understood their position.
“If the government pulls out of funding this, there will be hell to pay,” he said.
The Liberal candidate for Corangamite Sarah Henderson said she was disappointed that Cr Makin had criticised the project which was at odds with his earlier supportive comments and which will have significant flow-on benefits for the Corangamite Shire as well.
She said the federal government cut its roads expenditure in its 2012-13 budget by $3.62 billion and in Victoria, federal expenditure had dropped from $800 million in 2011-12 to $137 million in 2012-13.