Labor has been accused of grubby political point scoring after linking the climbing national road toll to more than $200 million in unspent funds allocated for safety initiatives.
Opposition frontbencher Anthony Albanese says the government has spent less than half of the $220 million pledged towards the black spot program, and $107 million less than promised on truck rest stops, in its first three budgets.
He argued the government was either grossly incompetent in administering infrastructure programs, or had been “serially misleading” Australians about its commitment to road safety.
“It’s either incompetence, or it is simply deceptive. I suspect that it’s both,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“I suspect that the government hasn’t really wanted to invest in infrastructure and I also suspect that, given its incompetence in a range of areas, that it is incompetence as well.”
Mr Albanese said infrastructure underspending was having a real impact on road safety when the road toll was increasing for the first time in decades.
He seized on the fact transport minister Darren Chester earlier this month announced an inquiry into road safety, flagging concerns about the rise in road deaths.
“It is clear from the budget documents that Mr Chester has not provided the necessary investment required for the current strategy to be as effective as it could have been,” Mr Albanese said.
The transport minister accused Mr Albanese of trying to snatch a headline while Bill Shorten was out of the country.
“Even by his standards, seeking to politicise road trauma is a desperate act,” Mr Chester said.
The minister said the government had committed record funding to road projects and no money had been cut from the black spot program, with hundreds of projects already completed or underway.
“Reducing road trauma has always received bipartisan support and I am disappointed that Mr Albanese is seeking to score political points on this issue,” Mr Chester said.