LABOR Wannon candidate Michael Barling has dodged calls for the Commonwealth to fund a Princes Highway duplication in the south-west.
The ALP contender described the Coalition’s plan to list the Princes Highway from Colac to the South Australian border as a road of national importance as a “bureaucratic process”.
“We need to be getting on with the job of building the road,” he said. Listing the road as nationally important would make Canberra at least partly responsible for any future duplication funding.
Mr Barling said Labor had given a “solid gold commitment” of $257 million for the Winchelsea to Colac duplication project.
“I’m resolved to push for the road from Colac to the South Australian border. The more marginal we can make the seat the better. We’ve got to stop being taken for granted.”
He said he had been talking to Great South Coast chairman Chris O’Connor about the group’s idea for the highway to be extended to three lanes through the south-west and was keen to look at an achievable project.
“We need to look at something that will have benefits in our lifetime.”
Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh said Mr Barling’s dismissal of the recognition as a bureaucratic decision made little sense, given that the federally-recognised stretch of road only went as far as the ultra-marginal seat of Corangamite.
“If it was a bureaucratic decision the whole length of it would have been declared,” Cr Neoh said.
“Why hasn’t it been extended beyond Corangamite?”
Wannon MP Dan Tehan and Corangamite Liberal candidate Sarah Henderson were sent into an angry spin this week after the RACV and Labor questioned their commitment to funding the highway as far as Colac.