May 22, 2013

Petty politics must not prevent progress – Opinion – The Courier-Mail

THE 2013 federal Budget provided more funding for Queensland transport infrastructure than any budget since Federation, a fact missing from LNP state MP Scott Emerson’s piece in these pages on Monday.

This year’s Budget provided support for both road and rail funding in Brisbane, with new investment in the Cross River Rail project, the Gateway North upgrade and the Darra to Rocklea section of the Ipswich Motorway. This is a strong, smart and fair investment to keep Brisbane moving.

And this builds on the federal Labor Government’s nation-building investment, which has seen the upgrade of the Ipswich Motorway between Dinmore and Goodna and improvements to the Pacific Motorway delivered. Promised, funded, built and opened.

Other federally funded projects are also under way, such as the long-overdue Moreton Bay Rail Link and the Legacy Way project. These projects are creating thousands of jobs and will help Brisbane grow.

We are also making a record investment in the regions, with $5.7 billion for Queensland’s most important road, the Bruce Highway, and we have quadrupled funding to improve the Warrego Highway.

This is real money, for real projects, that will make a real difference to communities right across Queensland.

The Federal Government has established an orderly and considered approach to infrastructure investment. We established Infrastructure Australia to undertake independent assessments. We have worked closely with the Queensland Government to make sure we respond to its key priorities.

The Cross River Rail project is a case in point. It was identified as ready to proceed by Infrastructure Australia. I worked through funding arrangements with the Queensland Government – $715 million from each government upfront. Then a 50-50 split on future availability payments. A Federal Government guarantee on private debt.

The Queensland Government’s final request, after the funding profile was agreed, was to ask for the project to get concessional GST treatment. The Federal Government agreed.

Queensland asked and the Federal Government delivered. All done in writing, through an exchange of letters. Now, the Queensland Transport Minister is complaining in spite of the fact he got exactly what he asked for. It is extraordinary the Queensland Minister is now seeking to create a fake argument rather than deliver this critical project.

The counterproductive position is even more inexplicable given Tony Abbott and the Federal Coalition have made clear they will not fund any urban rail projects – even a project such as Cross River Rail, which will transform and shape the way this great city works and grows.

This is a project that would take 14,000 cars off Brisbane’s roads. It would allow an extra 17,000 people to travel on the rail network during peak hours. A project that would allow more services to the western and northern suburbs as well as the Gold and Sunshine coasts.

If Cross River Rail does not proceed, Brisbane will be in gridlock.

Federal Labor knows it and is prepared to act. Some in the Queensland Government know it too, but are looking to distract attention from their loss of an internal LNP argument.

It is time for petty politics to be put aside and for this critical project to be delivered. The people of Brisbane deserve nothing less.