States push back on cuts to infrastructure spending

Suzanne Simonot |

Trucking and farming groups are among a delegation lobbying against infrastructure funding cuts.
Trucking and farming groups are among a delegation lobbying against infrastructure funding cuts.

The federal government’s “outrageous” infrastructure cuts will drive up the cost of living in Queensland, the state’s premier says.

A delegation from Australia’s fastest-growing state will head to Canberra on Wednesday to make the case for more cash after the federal government slashed funding for 50 projects around the country.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles will lead the delegation of seven mayors and industry stakeholders who hope to convince federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine King to “go back to the drawing board” over the cuts.

Nine projects valued at $363 million were axed in Queensland, including six road upgrades and two commuter car parks, as part of the cuts announced on November 16.

Funding for upgrades to the Bruce Highway and Gateway Motorway were also scaled back.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who has called the cuts “outrageous”, said the projects were crucial with 2000 people a week moving to Queensland.

“Five years ago our population reached five million,” she told parliament on Tuesday.

“Next year it will reach 5.5 million, which is why we cannot delay the need to build our roads, schools, housing and hospitals our state needs.

“We need the federal government to step up to its commitment to help us.”

Ms Palaszczuk said members of the delegation knew how important it was to provide for “our decentralised state”.

“They know that a failure to provide this infrastructure will only drive up costs and therefore the cost of living,” she said.

“Queensland is doing more than its fair share already.

“We are spending more on infrastructure in Queensland than the federal government is spending in the whole of Australia.”

The convoy to Canberra includes members of the Queensland Trucking Association and agriculture and farming groups.

It comes as the state government kickstarts the $1 billion Inland Freight Route project with a $107 million early works package.

The package includes priority upgrades along the 1185km critical freight route, known as the Second Bruce, to lay the foundation for major works.

The project will establish a viable north-south alternative to the Bruce Highway and form a freight corridor between Mungindi and Charters Towers.

Queensland has allocated $200 million towards the project as part of its 80-20 funding commitment.

The RACQ, the state’s peak motoring body, welcomed the commitment to get early works started.

“Our members tell us loud and clear that they’re consistently unhappy with the Bruce Highway and we need an alternative route through regional Queensland, particularly during extreme weather events,” RACQ managing director and group CEO David Carter said on Tuesday.

“If and when it’s completed, it will take a lot of pressure off the Bruce which gets banged up each and every year from heavy use and natural disasters.

“Widening narrow sections, improving surface conditions and providing proper flood immunity, particularly in regional Queensland, will help improve safety.”