Battle raging over money to fund CQ roads
FUNDING for Central Queensland's badly needed road upgrades is being ripped out of the region leaving projects languishing at the starting line, according to Queensland's main roads minister.
Main roads and road safety minister Mark Bailey said a list of the region's priority projects ready to start tomorrow were being ignored in the budget in favour of funding projects in the south east and interstate that weren't set to get off the ground any time soon.
"Raiding the Bruce Hwy Contingency Fund and pretending there's nothing to see here is a very serious concern," Mr Bailey said.
"These are funds that could have been allocated to upgrading priority projects in Queensland.
"There's now around $350 million in roads infrastructure funding that is missing from Queensland."
He said the Turnbull Government had a history of ripping roads funding from Queensland and not giving it back.
"Six months ago, the Turnbull Government ripped-off Queensland by around $150 million in promised roads funding under the Northern Australia Roads Programme (NARP).
"The Federal Government originally allocated $375 million in NARP funding for Queensland last year's budget, but they went back on their word giving us just $223.8 million."
"I called for the Turnbull Government to put the funding back in this year's Federal Budget, but they didn't.
"It's disappointing to say the least that Queensland's fair funding share was siphoned and spent interstate."
Mr Bailey said of the 26 projects put forward by the the Palaszczuk Government, the Federal government had only committed to ten.
He said CQ needed these projects support regional jobs, local communities and local industries.
"After last week's sod-turn on the Bruce Highway Caloundra Road to Sunshine Motorway upgrade event, I had a meeting with Federal Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester and he couldn't give me a straight answer on the missing funds." Mr Bailey said.
However, minister for infrastructure and transport Darren Chester said the claims by Mr Bailey were an attempt to to distract Queenslanders from the state government's failures.
He said the Queensland Treasurer didn't raise "a single concern" when they spoke in person.
"As has been proven consistently, the Australian Government is prepared to make serious investments in Queensland roads, with more than $14.1 billion to be invested in Queensland's land transport infrastructure between 2013-14 to 2019-20," Mr Chester said.
"Queensland has not had any funding cut from the Northern Australia Roads Program; funding was notionally allocated to Queensland in the budget but no funding was given."
He said NARP was a merit-based process with assessments on a competitive basis, with each state putting in applications which were prioritised.
According to Mr Chester, the Australia Government funded the projects given the highest priority by each state. Queensland will have 10 projects funded, and will receive around $223 million in federal funds.
He went on to discuss some of the region's marquee election road funding promises, firstly the duplication between Rockhampton and Gracemere.
"The Australian Government has committed $60 million to this project and our money is sitting there waiting to go," Mr Chester said.
"The Queensland Government told us they do not intend to start the project until next year."
As for the Rockhampton Northern Access, Mr Chester said the Commonwealth was waiting for the project proposal report from Queensland, which they expect to commence in mid-2018.
When talking about several of the priority Central Queensland road projects Mr Chester said the government was "ready for all of these projects to start but the Queensland Government has told us it will not be starting any of the following projects until next year at the earliest".
This includes the Peak Downs Hwy road widening, Capricorn Hwy upgrade, Bowen Developmental Rd sealing, Clermont to Alpha Rd sealing and Rockhampton Road Train Access Stage 2.
Regarding the Capricorn Hwy overtaking lanes between Rockhampton to Emerald, Mr Chester said the Federal Government was waiting for the Queensland Government to provide a proposed project report.
Queensland Labor Senator Murray Watt at yesterday's Senate Estimates hearing said Capricornia MP Michelle Landry had failed to deliver road funding for the electorate.
"It emerged today that the Turnbull Government is sitting on a pot of almost $300 million intended to improve regional Queensland roads, despite the Government having all the paperwork it needs to start work now," Mr Watt said.
"Under questioning from me in Senate Estimates today, departmental officials could give no reason why the Turnbull Government is holding these funds back.
"Officials even admitted that not one dollar had been spent on two Northern Australia roads programs that were announced over 16 months ago.
Ms Landry said State Labor was deflecting their own mismanagement, while the Coalition had honoured its commitments to road infrastructure and agreements with the Palaszczuk Government for road funding.
"The Palaszczuk Government has established its own project time frames and the Turnbull Government remains committed to delivering funding, as agreed, according to this time frame," Ms Landry said.
"Since I was elected, we have seen record investment in infrastructure while the Labor Party for years neglected this region.
"The Palaszczuk Government is again proving that it cannot make decisions, are incapable of getting projects off the ground and when they do, it's with unnecessary delay and political point scoring."