SOPHIE Mirabella has stopped short of pledging to fight for funding of Wodonga’s $5.86 million city centre revamp if the Coalition wins government next week.
The Liberal MP yesterday vowed to lobby “for the funding our region deserves or needs” but wouldn’t comment specifically on the grant Wodonga Council received from Labor last week.
The pressure has been put on Mrs Mirabella after Nationals leader Warren Truss said this week that a Coalition government wouldn’t honour Labor projects funded under the Regional Development Australia scheme if contracts had not been signed for works.
The ALP has made a number of RDA announcements including the city centre project, $300,000 toward Rutherglen’s Main Street rejuvenation, more than $400,000 for Wangaratta’s saleyards upgrade, and $250,000 for Mount Beauty streetscape works.
The projects were all announced as budgeted for, regardless of which party won government.
Mrs Mirabella said yesterday that the Coalition would honour federal government contractual obligations.
“If elected, as a senior member of Tony Abbott’s team, I will fight to get the funding our region deserves and needs,” she said.
“All the published polls are saying there is going to be an Abbott government, and I share the cynicism about Labor making funding announcements they know they will probably never deliver.”
She did not answer specific questions on why the projects might not be funded, particularly if they were already budgeted for, answering: “Labor is playing games and can’t be believed when they say ‘the cheque is in the mail’. If they really cared for Indi, the cheque would be in the bank already.”
Asked if she considered the projects worth funding now, she said: “My priorities have been on hospitals and roads — $5 million for a cardiac lab at Albury Wodonga Hospital, almost $2 million in roads funding and additional funding for community safety projects. My focus is on my plans for Indi and my commitments.”
ALP candidate for Indi Robyn Walsh, who made the recent series of announcements on behalf of Labor, said it was an “abomination” if the Coalition didn’t honour them.
“These are projects that have been prioritised by councils — they are the government closest to the people and they have chosen these as important,” she said.
“This is a kick in the guts for people living in rural and regional Australia.”
Ms Walsh said she knew how hard Wodonga Council had lobbied to get the city centre project funded.
“To have it ignored by the Nats (Nationals) of all people ... words fail me to describe the way country people have been let down.”
Wodonga mayor Mark Byatt said the council had written to Mrs Mirabella seeking her assurance the project would proceed.
“She has been briefed on the project many times and has a thorough understanding of why the funding is vital in supporting Wodonga’s city heart,” he said.