Jul 7, 2015

National leadership needed on cities

Tony Abbott must reverse his $613 million worth of Budget cuts to infrastructure spending in Queensland and allocate funding to the city’s much needed Cross River Rail Link.

Years after transport experts began warning Brisbane would face a public transport crisis without a second CBD rail crossing of the Brisbane River, Mr Abbott is doing nothing to help because of his ideological opposition to public transport.

While he could have helped fund a solution in this year’s Budget, Mr Abbott instead slashed Queensland infrastructure funding by $613 million over this year and next year compared to what he allocated in the 2014 Budget.

The Brisbane CBD’s only rail crossing over the Brisbane River – the Merivale Bridge – is running out of capacity and will be unable to cope with projected passenger rail demand over coming years.

That’s why the former federal Labor Government allocated $715 million in funding to work with the Queensland State Government to build the Cross River Rail Link, which would provide critical new rail capacity and deliver productivity gains to the entire Queensland economy.

Labor’s support for Cross River Rail came after the independent experts at Infrastructure Australia backed the project as ready to proceed based on rigorous cost-benefit analysis.

However, after taking office in 2013, Mr Abbott cut all funding for the Cross River Rail in line with his ideologically driven refusal to invest in public transport anywhere in the nation.

More than halfway through his term in office, Mr Abbott has not lifted a finger to help Brisbane come to terms with its growing pains.

At the same time, he has allocated billions of dollars of funding to new toll road projects in southern states which have not been subject to published Infrastructure Australia analysis.

It is time Mr Abbott got over his contempt for public transport and backed Queensland’s new State Labor Government, which is currently working on plans for a second river crossing based partly on the original Cross River Rail concept.

It is also time that Coalition MPs including Teresa Gambaro, who holds the seat of Brisbane, stood up for their constituents and pressed the Prime Minister to do the right thing for Brisbane and Queensland.