Jan 18, 2015

Not an extra dollar for the Bruce Highway

Campbell Newman has let Tony Abbott off the hook over his failure to meet his election promises to boost funding for the upgrading of the Bruce Highway.

Despite promises of extra funding, the 2014 federal Budget did not include a dollar of extra funding for the Bruce Highway that had not already been budgeted for by the former Labor federal government.

Mr Abbott and Mr Newman have attempted to conceal this reality by re-announcing or renaming road projects that were designed, funded, commenced and in some cases even completed by the former Labor state and federal governments.

A great example is the Mackay Ring Road, a critical component of the upgrade that will ease traffic congestion for 15,000 motorists who use this section of road every day.

Having previously funded the planning for the Mackay Ring Road, the previous Labor Government provided funding for construction in the 2013 Budget.

The real test of the Coalition’s commitment to the Bruce Highway upgrade is whether they can commit to new projects on the highway beyond those already delivered by Labor.

So far in the Queensland election campaign, Mr Newman has made a range of infrastructure “announcements,’’ but most are contingent on the sale of public assets.

To be taken seriously, Mr Newman and Mr Abbott must commit to real investment for real new projects.

Successive Coalition governments at the state and federal level have always campaigned hard on Bruce Highway funding but have been found wanting when it came to actual investment.

The former Howard Government spent only $1.3 billion on the Bruce Highway over 12 years, while the former Labor commonwealth government invested $5.7 billion over only six years.

That’s more than four times as much investment in half the time.

And while Mr Abbott has declared he has a strong interest in infrastructure, his 2014 Budget included no new extra infrastructure funding, with his few new projects funded with huge cuts to public transport projects across the nation.

That included the scrapping of a $715 million investment in Brisbane’s proposed Cross River Rail project, with the money diverted to new toll roads in southern states like the discredited East-West Link in Melbourne.

Labor has a strong history of delivering Queensland its fair share of infrastructure funding.

Under six years of the former Labor federal government, commonwealth spending on infrastructure rose from $143 per Queenslander when we took office to $314 per Queenslander in 2013.

In the same period, Australia moved from 20th to 1st among OECD nations in terms of infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP.