State Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser and Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker.
State Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser and Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker. Trevor Veale

Local politicians hit back at Albanese claims

IT'S been a day of political back and forth in Coffs Harbour with the Coffs Coast's two political leaders hitting back at claims from Labor's Anthony Albanese, the opposition spokesperson for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development.

What started out as a bit of to and fro on social media between Mr Albanese and State Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser erupted into a war of words.

When Mr Albanese spoke exclusively with the Coffs Coast Advocate this afternoon, he was asked about his thoughts on Mr Fraser's social media posts.

The Labor heavyweight didn't hold back when offering his thoughts on the long standing state member and his ability to deliver outcomes for the local region.

"Andrew Fraser is a bit of an embarrassment. Even his own state Nats seem to be quite dismissive of him and his approach," Mr Albanese said.

"I was coming up to this region regularly putting in not millions, not tens of millions, not hundreds of millions but billions of dollars into these upgrades and what was he doing? Bagging it, not attending sod turns, not attending things in his own electorate where you had upgrades.

"And on community infrastructure turning up with a loud hailer scaring young kiddies who were there at the launch.

"So I think Andrew Fraser's behaviour leaves a lot to be desired. That's a judgement I guess for the electorate that they'll make of him.

"He's been the member here for a very long time. The National Party have held this seat, state and federal, serving for as long as I can remember.

"It's possible that someone else held it earlier on but forever essentially and nothing's happened on his watch.

"They're in government, they're in their second term the state government and there's been no money spent on construction by his state government of which he's a member and the federal government are in their second term and once again no money on construction."

> > > Click here to scroll down to Mr Hartsuyker's response

Mr Fraser's reponse to those remarks were equally fiery.

While Mr Fraser said he thanks the Rudd and Gillard Governments for the investment they made into the Pacific Hwy while in power, he said you don't hear much out of Mr Albanese until "Labor has got a sniff of winning a Federal election".

"Mr Albanese handles the truth somewhat carelessly sometimes I think," Mr Fraser said.

"For example if you look at the education campus, paid for by the Coalition government. The police station and the court house was promised by Labor but never built, it was built in the first term of this government. And there's a revamped hospital."

Mr Fraser said the bypass shouldn't be used as a political play thing.

"I always thanked political parties in the federal government no matter who it was," he said.

"I remember thanking Paul Keating personally for the money he put into the Pacific Hwy but the reality is when the Pacific Hwy was planned in 2001 under a state Labor government, we had a situation where the Coffs Harbour bypass wasn't in there because we had a four lane dual carriageway all the way through it.

"We (the state government) have put $200 million on the table, it's currently being spent and I've absolute confidence the Federal government will be putting it in their budget this year and we will get the bypass.

"My attitude is stop playing politics Mr Albanese. The Coalition has serviced the North Coast incredibly well, both state and federally, ever since I've been there.

"It only happens that in 16 years of a state labor government, all capital works programs were stopped in regional NSW by Bob Carr and Michael Egan."

Mr Fraser also wanted it on the record regarding his absence at sod turnings.

"The openings on the road I was never invited to," he said.

"I went to turn up to the opening at Boambee and they'd already opened it before I got there.

"I turned up because I'd read a report in the Advocate and they pulled it forward. When I got there it was already opened and they didn't even acknowledge that I was there."

Federal member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker said it was all well and good to question the government on the bypass but when it comes time for Mr Albanese to show his hand, Mr Hartsuyker guarantees the Labor man will come up empty handed.

"It's all well and good for Albo take a taxpayer-funded holiday to the Mid North Coast but where's his commitment to the Coffs Harbour Bypass? All we see from Labor is talk, time and time again," Mr Hartsuyker said.

"Albo loves to talk down the Coalition's achievement on the Pacific Highway but we are yet to see him cough up cash for the bypass."

Mr Hartsuyker said the Coalition Government restored the 80:20 funding split with the NSW state government for the Pacific Highway upgrades. An initiative he said Mr Albanese abandoned when he was Infrastructure Minister.

"This would have delayed completion of the project by seven years. The Coalition Government's Pacific Highway upgrade is on schedule and on budget," he said.

"If Albo was still Infrastructure Minister, the Pacific Highway upgrade that's nearly completed would not have been finished until almost 2030.

"In contrast to Labor's continuous negativity, I have been advocating strongly for the bypass for a long period of time.

"I have taken Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight to meet Infrastructure Minister McCormack in Canberra to discuss the project, and have been in contact with the Infrastructure Minister regularly about the pressing need to fund the bypass as soon as possible."