Lovell clashes with roads minister over Shepparton Bypass

By Myles Peterson

State Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell clashed with Victorian Roads Minister Jaala Pulford over the issue of the Shepparton bypass on the floor of Victorian Parliament this week.

At issue was the outstanding $52million in funding reportedly needed to start stage one of the project following the Federal Government’s commitment of $208million announced last month in the context of an election campaign.

‘‘This project is estimated to cost $260million and now needs the Andrews Government to commit the state’s share of funding, which is at least $52million,’’ Ms Lovell said.

‘‘Minister, will you commit to funding the state’s share of funding for stage one of the Shepparton bypass in the 2019-20 state budget?’’

The minister responded by questioning the validity of the Federal Government’s commitment, announced by the Nationals’ Damian Drum last month.

‘‘This is one of many things that the Federal Government has said, five minutes before an election, that they now suddenly have an interest in,’’ Ms Pulford said.

‘‘This is a government that has only discovered Victoria in the lead-up to the election ... and so I think that Victorians are right to be sceptical of all of the things that are now being promised willy-nilly.’’

The minister did not make any commitments regarding the outstanding funding, instead attacking Ms Lovell’s federal colleagues.

‘‘I take that answer as a no, minister,’’ Ms Lovell said while framing a follow-up question.

‘‘And I am disappointed that you prefer to play politics instead of addressing the needs of the Shepparton community.

‘‘Minister, this project has been in the planning stages for over 20 years.’’

‘‘And how long have you been the member representing Shepparton, Ms Lovell?’’ Ms Pulford retorted. ‘‘About 20 years, and how is that going?’’

After the exchange, Ms Lovell said she was disappointed.

‘‘It is disappointing that the minister has chosen to play politics rather than addressing the needs of the Shepparton community,’’ she said.

‘‘With Federal Government funding secured it is Daniel Andrews and Jaala Pulford who are dragging the chain on this much-needed project and I call for the state government to commit the remaining $52million for the project in the upcoming state budget.’’