Truss lays out Nationals plans

A coalition government will roll out a $1 billion fund to support regional areas and set its own road and rail priorities, but scrap any Rudd government programs that are not under signed contract.


Nationals leader Warren Truss on Thursday revealed the coalition would spend $200 million a year over five years on a new National Stronger Regions Fund.

Mr Truss said the fund to start in 2015 would be used for social and economic infrastructure in regions with high unemployment.

Each project would require a 50 per cent matching contribution from the proponent or local or state government.

“This program is long overdue recognition that when regions are strong so is our country,” Mr Truss told the National Press Club in a pre-election address.

Asked what would happen to the hundreds of projects in train under Labor’s Regional Development Australia Fund, Mr Truss said the coalition would honour all signed contracts.

“If there haven’t been contracts signed then they are just Labor party election promises,” he said.

Mr Truss said Labor immediately cancelled coalition government-funded projects when it came to power in 2007.

The Nationals leader – who has travelled 30,000km during the election campaign on what is affectionately called the “Wombat Trail” – said the coalition would set its own road and rail priorities and bring back two Howard government schemes, Roads to Recovery and the black spots program.

But he would not commit to the $8.4 billion in infrastructure listed in Labor’s most recent budget.

“We have identified the road and other infrastructure projects we will fund,” Mr Truss said.

“We are not committed to Labor party election promises. We have our own promises and we will deliver.”

Liberal party members are arguing the trade portfolio under an Abbott government should not go to the Nationals, who many regard as too protectionist.

Mr Truss said he felt it was important the Nationals leader should have a domestic portfolio.

But he said he would argue for the Nationals to hold a trade-related portfolio at either a parliamentary secretary or ministry level.

Mr Truss said such arguments were premature before the election.

Asked about his future, the 64-year-old Queensland MP said he intended to remain leader for as long as he was able.

There were “plenty of potential leaders” in the Nationals, he said, including Barnaby Joyce who is seeking to move from the Senate to the lower house at the September 7 election.

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