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Fed: Regional areas will suffer under Labor roads plan: Truss

01 Jun 2009 5:29 PM

CANBERRA, June 1 AAP - The Nationals say they're willing to support Labor's plan to "rebadge" the Auslink road and rail program, but they won't allow funds to be redirected away from regional Australia.

The Rudd government plans to abolish Auslink and replace it with its own nation building program.

Nationals leader Warren Truss says he's happy to let the rebadging slide even though it's designed to "purge from memory" a program associated with the former Howard government.

On Monday he unsuccessfully moved amendments to Labor's legislation in an attempt to ensure funding for projects that were not part of the national transport network and accident blackspots was directed to regional areas only.

"The intent of this legislation is to shift money away from regional areas and into the city," Mr Truss told parliament.

"What the government is doing is stealing money from local streets, from local roads, from local projects to put it on major projects on the national highway."

Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said if the coalition blocked the legislation it would be standing in the way of the effective roll out of the national building program.

It would put at risk 120 road and rail projects, the elimination of thousands of accident blackspots around the country and the construction of additional truck rest stops.

"To do so in the midst of a global economic recession is a deliberate act of economic vandalism," Mr Albanese said.

He said the coalition was being hypocritical because it used regional funds for projects in marginal urban electorates before the last election, including Wentworth and Bennelong in Sydney.

Mr Albanese said Labor was committing $35.8 billion on national road and rail projects until 2013/14, whereas the former coalition government had only put $22.3 billion on the table.

Other opposition speakers ridiculed the name change.

Wilson Tuckey said it was "earth-shattering stuff ... typical of a government that deals in spin".

Barry Haase said it was "preposterous petty politicking".

He said the government liked Auslink, apart from its name which reminded people it was introduced by the Howard government.

The measure passed the lower house and goes to the Senate.