GREATER Taree City Council mayor Paul Hogan this week thrust the $11.4 million Greater Taree Roads and Bridges Package funding fight with Lyne MP David Gillespie into the national spotlight.
Cr Hogan seized the opportunity on Monday night to get answers from the assistant minister for infrastructure and development, Jamie Briggs by submitting a video question to the ABC1 program, Q&A.
The program puts punters, pollies and pundits together in the studio to thrash out the hot issues of the week. This week the panel featured Mr Briggs, as well as Anthony Albanese, Labor MP for Grayndler; Ged Kearney, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions; Clive Palmer, leader of the Palmer United Party; and Rhonda Cornum, Gulf war veteran and leader of US Army wellbeing project.
The hot issues included industrial relations reform, taxation, mental health, asylum seekers and for around three minutes, the issue of funding the $11.4 million roads and bridges package for the Manning Valley.
Cr Hogan asked, “My question is for Jamie Briggs. The Prime Minister Tony Abbott has stated he wants to be remembered as the infrastructure Prime Minister. In December last year, you publicly stated your government would honour all Commonwealth infrastructure grants, yet, you have withdrawn 11.4 million dollars in funding for local roads and bridges from the struggling community of Taree. Perhaps this is political payback in Rob Oakeshott’s old electorate, or is it just a lack of care for a regional community? Do Tony Abbott’s aspirations include regional Australia?”
Debate raged between Mr Briggs and former infrastructure minister, Mr Albanese, with Q&A journalist and moderator, Tony Jones seeking to try to resolve the issue with one question.
Tony Jones: OK, so, we might be able to resolve this ... Jamie Briggs, if that money, if that $11.4 million was in the budget, it’ll stay there will it?
Jamie Briggs: If it was in RDAF round four, we said in December we would fund those projects that were uncontracted. It’s interesting Tony, when we got to government there was a bunch of RDAF round 4 projects which weren’t in Anthony’s portfolio, they were in another portfolio, which weren’t signed, the contracts were sitting on the desk ready to be signed when caretaker started, just by co-incidence 90 per cent of those fell into Coalition seats, now how would that be? I don’t know how that might be? You know, just a co-incidence, probably.
Tony Jones: OK. You are watching Q& A. Let’s move on to something quite different now.
Cr Hogan’s question prompted comments from the public on Facebook.
They included Sarah Parker: “Mayor Paul Hogan - the best Mayor Taree has ever had! Former mayor, the late Mick Tuck would be proud of him.”