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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Labor claims Urban Congestion Fund unfairly benefited Liberal Government ahead of federal election

A multi-billion-dollar Federal Government program to deal with traffic congestion has become the latest scheme at the centre of pork-barrelling accusations.

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Labor claims the Coalition’s Urban Congestion Fund unfairly benefited the government ahead of last year’s federal poll.

Opposition infrastructure spokeswoman Catherine King said Labor’s analysis of the way the money had been spent showed 83 per cent of the funds went to Government and marginal Labor seats.

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“This is rorting on a nuclear scale,” Ms King said.

“This was a $3 billion funding program that has seen billions of dollars poured into Liberal Party seats and Liberal Party target seats just before the election.”

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Ms King said over 28 per cent of the national funding went to four marginal Liberal seats.

They were the Victorian seats of Higgins, Deakin and La Trobe and the South Australian seat of Boothby.

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Labor claims the only regional Victorian seat to get funding was Corangamite, and safe opposition seats were overlooked.

A spokesman for Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge accused Labor of making similar decisions targeted for political purposes.

“Federal Labor made election promises for close to 60 urban projects, all of which to our knowledge were in Labor or target seats,” the spokesman said.

“Road and rail projects have been decisions of government for decades under Coalition and Labor governments.”

In the past, Ms King has faced questions of her own about grant allocations when she was regional services minister.

The Australian National Audit Office found she provided more than $100 million for projects that were not recommended, as part of the Regional Development Australia Fund.

The Government maintains there are many Urban Congestion Fund projects that were funded in Labor seats and only one direct representation for funding came from a Labor MP.

The Urban Congestion Fund is billed as a program to reduce travel time for commuters, delivering a more reliable road network and reducing transport bottlenecks.

The money for the fund is not allocated through a competitive grants process.

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