Abbott on long haul to deliver 'hope'
THE semi-trailer Tony Abbott will drive from Brisbane to the New South Wales central coast over the next two days is emblazoned with pictures of fruit and vegetables, but what produce will the Opposition Leader carry?
THE semi-trailer Tony Abbott will drive from Brisbane to the New South Wales central coast over the next two days is emblazoned with pictures of fruit and vegetables, but what produce will the Opposition Leader carry?"Hope, reward and opportunity - that's what we're carrying," the part-time cyclist, part-time author, part-time truck driver said.Mr Abbott, faced with calls to promote a more positive message before the 2013 federal election, set off from the Brisbane fresh food markets at Rocklea on Wednesday morning on a two-day journey to Terrigal on the NSW central coast.He is using the trip to spruik his promise to complete the duplication of the Pacific Highway, an issue that has reignited state-federal squabbling over funding.Mr Abbott's $5.6 billion pledge includes $3.56 billion already allocated by the Gillard government plus the redirection of $2.08 billion earmarked for Sydney's Parramatta-Epping rail link.He said Pacific Highway upgrades should be paid for through the "traditional" 80-20 funding split, with the federal government picking up the lion's share and NSW picking up a smaller tab.Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese's office said $7.7 billion extra was required to complete the upgrades by 2016, an objective set by the former Howard government.His spokesman said the federal government had put aside $3.56 billion in this year's budget but wanted NSW to match it dollar for dollar."Federal Labor is asking no more of the NSW Coalition government than what the former Howard government demanded of the former NSW Labor government - and what they themselves promised to do - a 50-50 funding agreement," he said.Speaking alongside his borrowed truck, Mr Abbott said the Coalition would redirect funding away from the Parramatta-Epping rail link because that project was "highly political" and no longer on the NSW government's agenda.He said the Coalition wanted to complete the Pacific Highway duplication work "well within this decade" but did not specify what year."Let's stop the argy-bargy, let's stop the blame game, let's just get it built," he said.Rather than a stunt, Mr Abbott described his truck trip as an "important way" to highlight the Coalition's commitment. He will stop at key electorates along the way, including Lyne held by independent MP Rob Oakeshott.Mr Abbott's staff said he obtained his truck licence just before the end of last year, but were tight-lipped as to whether he would drive the whole way.