LABOR has pledged to pour cash into the upgrade of Warrnambool airport.
Wannon Labor candidate Michael Barling and Regional Australia Minister Catherine King yesterday promised to spend $295,248 from the Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) on the $4.3 million project.
But the pledge, albeit was quickly overshadowed by news from Nationals leader Warren Truss that a Coalition government would scrap RDAF projects supported by Labor and overhaul regional spending by creating a $1 billion fund in 2015.
“We will honour all contracts that have been signed — if they haven’t been signed then they are just a Labor party election promise,” Mr Truss said.
“When we lost office in 2007 the Labor party immediately cancelled all projects that we had committed to under the regional development fund.”
New hangars, an industrial estate and taxiways have been drawn up for the expansion of the airport, which is hoped to bring more business to the south-west.
Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh said the $4.3 million plan was now in a confusing position.
“It’s very complicated. We applied for round five of the RDAF for $300,000 and that’s now an election pledge in caretaker mode,” he said.
“There’s no agreement signed off, it’s just a pledge should Labor be returned to government.”
Another application for $1.3 million is also pending with the RDAF.
Council and the state government will fund the remainder of the works.
Cr Neoh said he was still seeking bipartisan support from the Coalition to improve the aviation park.
Michael Barling was quick to warn that local Labor promises that have been already budgeted such as the Cobden Trade Training School would be axed by the Coalition.
“Any RDA project they decide to cut they kick a local council in the teeth,” Mr Barling said. “The first projects they decide to drop will be the ones in the safe seats.”
Wannon Liberal MP Dan Tehan said the Coalition matched the funding for the trade centres and pointed out that Labor had only funded a fraction of the airport project.
“I have spoken with Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh and I will be working with him should we win government.”
He echoed remarks by Mr Truss that Labor’s RDA promises had been funded on empty coffers from the mining tax.