Scott Morrison’s re-announcement of his plan to invest in Stage III of the Gold Coast Light Rail project is a monument to time-wasting and needless politics.
This stage of the project, which the Prime Minister “announced’’ on the Gold Coast today, was actually funded in the 2018 Budget in May when Malcolm Turnbull was Prime Minister. The news was leaked to the Herald Sun newspaper.
But the Coalition deliberately chose to delay releasing the funding as they waited for a political campaigning opportunity like Mr Morrison’s current bus tour of Queensland.
In the same way, as Mr Morrison heads north through Queensland this week, he is likely to “announce’’ other already funded projects like the Rockhampton Ring Road and the Mackay Ring Road (Stage II), which Labor has already committed to funding.
If the Coalition had released the funding for these important projects at Budget time, work could already be under way, creating jobs and economic activity across Queensland.
Infrastructure investment should be treated as a key plank of economic policy, but for Mr Morrison it’s all about campaign opportunities.
Despite its attempts to claim credit for Gold Coast Light Rail, the Coalition is no friend of the project.
In 2009, when the former Labor Government provided $365 million for Stage I of the project as part of our economic stimulus package, the Coalition opposed the investment at the state and federal level.
Five years later, when Stage I opened, shameless Gold Coast Coalition MPs including Defence Industry Minister Steven Ciobo fell over each other to pose for media photographs seeking to claim credit for the project they had campaigned against.
If it had been left to them, Gold Coast Light Rail would never have been ready for this year’s successful Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
After five years of infrastructure cuts the Coalition is now trying to play catch-up to Labor, which has led from Opposition by developing sensible plans for rail and road investment around the nation.
Whatever Mr Morrison claims he is doing on infrastructure, the independent Parliamentary Budget Office exposed the truth earlier this year in a report warning that over the next four years, Federal infrastructure grants to the states as a percentage of GDP will halve to 0.2 per cent.
MONDAY, 5 NOVEMBER, 2018