WHILE the next federal election is still 18 months or so away, the Nationals are already making a big promise to the Central West, to fund the Great Western Highway. The main road that connects the Central West to Sydney has received progressive upgrades over the course of more than a decade, with further work on the wish list to reduce travel time and increase safety. The last Coalition government, which lost power in May, 2022, had planned an upgrade to construct east and west sections between Katoomba and Lithgow. There was $2 billion in federal funding allocated to that project, but the money was withdrawn by the Albanese government following an independent strategic review of the Infrastructure Investment Program (IIP). It was one of 50 projects across the nation to lose its funding, with the Albanese government planning to redirect that money into infrastructure projects it believes to be more meritorious. Nationals leader David Littleproud slammed the decision the day it was announced and, during a visit to Bathurst on November 23, 2023, he again lamented the money being "ripped away" from the Great Western Highway. He has committed to putting money back into the Katoomba-Lithgow upgrade. "If we win after the next election, we will bring back that project," Mr Littleproud said. "It's important, not just in the Central West, it's important to this entire nation to have the arterials that are going to take our product to port and to people's plates around this country to drive down cost of living pressure." But, to do that, he stressed the need for the Nationals to take back Calare at the next election. The Nationals won the seat in 2022, but seven months later Andrew Gee abruptly left the party and became an independent. The party has continued to criticise Mr Gee, who has previously labelled their attacks as "nasty", and claims the Nationals can and will do more for Calare. "If the Nationals don't win Calare at the next election, then you get Anthony Albanese for another three years," Mr Littleproud said. "Politics is the brutal game of arithmetic and if we don't have the numbers in the Coalition, then you get Anthony Albanese and the Greens again. "And you only have to look to what's happening here in the Central West to see the impact of another three years of Anthony Albanese and the Greens running this country." There has also been a lot of talk about a tunnel for the Great Western Highway, and Mr Littleproud indicated a Coalition would further investigate the prospect, although he has not committed to funding a tunnel. "I think we need to look at this in stages and I think you need to be sensible about using Australian taxpayers' money," he said.