Monday, 26 March 2007
Private Members’ Business
Queensland Infrastructure Projects
That the House:
- acknowledges that South East Queensland has the highest growth in traffic congestion of any region in Australia;
- also acknowledges that the Australian Government has allocated to Queensland authorities over $3 billion in funding under AusLink Round 1 and $18 billion through other road related programs since 1996;
- expresses its concern for the lack of commitment by Queensland authorities in progressing the work financed by the Australian Government and the redirection of funds away from the authorised projects;
- further expresses its concern at the unreliable project costing provided by the Queensland Government for infrastructure projects and the failure of the Queensland Government to follow the example of other State governments to value-add to the Commonwealth contribution to national highway projects with state contributions; and
- notes the Australian Labor Party plan to only widen the existing Ipswich Motorway to six lanes and keep trucks on the Brisbane Urban Corridor while the Liberals want a solution to interstate transport needs, which will take trucks off the Brisbane Urban Corridor and provide ten lanes of traffic between Brisbane and Ipswich.
I move this motion today for a very plain and simple reason. My motivation is very clear: I want to highlight the lack of real progress on the important nation-building infrastructure which needs to be built to underpin the long-term prosperity of south-east Queensland’s economy in particular. I am concerned that, despite the record amounts of funding that have been handed to the Queensland government as the primary manager of these projects, no progress has been realised. I am hoping today that the Australian Labor Party in this place—the federal opposition—will resist the temptation to play a partisan game and back my ambition to see progress. There is absolutely no point in the alternative government of this country—and long may they remain the alternative—maintaining this cyclical game of attempting to blame another.
They know, as all Queenslanders know, that the job of planning and implementation when it comes to infrastructure is the job of the Queensland government. They are the manager of these projects. They maintain day-to-day control of the roads that are in question. They are the ones who have the opportunity to take the funds that are allocated and to prioritise their expenditure in the name of all Queenslanders. They should not have created this farcical situation where the first people that are paid and are always paid are the high-ranking bureaucrats in the Department of Main Roads; whether a road is built or not, they get paid.
We need to see an end to the circumstance where we are told, as we were in 1994 by the member for Ipswich, the then minister for main roads in the Queensland Goss-Rudd government, that there was a 20-year fix on the Ipswich Motorway in place. It did not even last 20 months—mainly, I suspect, because if you are a bureaucrat in the Department of Main Roads in Queensland, the last thing you want is for things to be fixed for the long term. The last thing you want is for something to be put in place that is going to sustain for many decades; you want a crisis every five to 10 years. Guess what: 20 months is all it lasted. All we have had since then is posturing and talk about widening the existing corridor along the Ipswich Motorway.
This is the farcical part. The member for Batman, who I understand will speak after me, has the opportunity to make it very clear once and for all that the federal opposition is opposed to the widening of the Ipswich Motorway starting at Rocklea, because if he is not—
‘You’ll be kidding,’ he said. Here we have, yet again, a return to the cyclical logic which will drive trucks forever along the Brisbane urban corridor. Here we have a repeat of the policy position they had at the last election, the election before that and the election before that—in fact, all the way back to 1990 and 1993—which consigned heavy B-double trucks past people’s letterboxes, through the electorate of Bonner, along the Mount Gravatt-Capalaba Road, and in Moreton through Kessels Road, through Riawena and through Granard Road. The member for Batman and the federal opposition do not understand that the widening of the Ipswich Road corridor is not the only solution for the Brisbane-Ipswich corridor. They have failed to understand that there will be a need for 20 lanes of traffic between Brisbane and Ipswich over the decades ahead. What are they going to do: widen out everything by hundreds of metres along a track that was discovered by Alan Cunningham in the 1840s? The route of the Ipswich Motorway is the road the horses tripped over as they were heading out towards Warwick. It has not changed. I can tell a story in the House about my great-great-grandfather. When he was a farmer at Moggill in the 1860s, he had to row across the river to court my great great-grandmother, who was the Congregational Church minister’s daughter, at Goodna. Nothing has changed.
While the Australian Labor Party want to revisit the agro and the cyclical nonsense of partisan attacks, the Howard government have now put $2.3 billion towards creating a link between the Warrego and Cunningham highways and the Logan Motorway. We are determined to expand our toll-free trial on the Logan Motorway and the Gateway Motorway. There are 221,000 fewer trucks thundering along Kessels Road at night because I have been able to secure the funding for that, and I need the Labor Party’s support in this place to urge the Labor Party in Queensland to get real and get fair and put the people of Queensland and their long-term infrastructure needs first. That is what this motion is about today. It is going to be very interesting to see how the Labor party respond to the challenge that I have outlined for them today.
I rise this afternoon as the shadow minister for transport. In doing so, I agree with the member for Moreton on one issue: south-eastern Queensland faces very high growth in traffic congestion. I also agree with him that we have to ease the freight congestion in the Brisbane urban corridor, just as we have to ease that same problem in other major cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, that face similar challenges. Unfortunately, the solution does not come wrapped in a single road project. The solution must involve a vision that integrates our ports, airports, intermodal freight hubs and the road and rail corridors in order for it to be a long-term solution. Nothing in the member for Moreton’s proposition actually addresses that requirement. I see only a poor attempt to justify a project that many of his colleagues in the Liberal Party do not support, including the member for Ryan, the state leader of the Liberal Party, and the Liberal Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman.
The Ipswich Motorway is a parking lot during peak hours. It should have been fixed years ago and would have been without the interference of the member for Blair. Let me remind members that the Labor Party supported the full upgrade of the Ipswich Motorway at the 1998 election, the 2001 election and the 2004 election. More importantly, as we face the 2007 election we remain committed to that project being delivered in full. The member for Moreton wants to shift the blame to the state government for the Ipswich Motorway mess. The truth is that he has not been part of the solution, as we went part of the way in 1998, 2001 and 2004. Now, at two minutes to midnight, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, Mark Vaile, have suddenly found $2.3 billion to supposedly do part of the job. But that is not what the community wants and needs. They have come over the top of the community with a proposal to spend $1.2 billion more than the community’s preferred project needs—funds that could be spent on solving other problems in south-eastern Queensland.
The Goodna bypass will do nothing for more than six years to ease congestion on the Ipswich Motorway or improve road safety for the 100,000 commuter vehicles using it each day. On the other hand, motorists could be driving on sections of the upgraded motorway within three years. Further contracts were recently announced by the minister for transport and his counterpart in Queensland. Federal Labor does not want motorists to wait six years for relief when we could get it on an ongoing basis. They have already waited long enough because of the Howard government’s failure to match Labor’s commitment to upgrade the Ipswich Motorway in 1998, 2001, 2004 and, again, in 2007. The Goodna bypass provides no opportunity for staging, and motorists will not see any benefit until the bypass is opened more than six years down the track. That is why the Queensland government, the Ipswich City Council, the state Liberal leader, and the Liberal Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman, still prefer a full upgrade of the Ipswich Motorway and why a federal Labor government will seek to work cooperatively with them to achieve that outcome as soon as possible.
The upgrade will see the Ipswich Motorway widened to six lanes and a network of service roads established to carry motorists during construction so that more than 90 per cent of the route can be rebuilt away from motorway traffic. Once work finishes, the service roads will be used for local traffic to keep short trips off the motorway—a win for motorway commuters and a win for local communities, with better local roads. While the upgrade is being completed, federal Labor will be working with the Queensland government and local councils on a clear, long-term vision for easing congestion and separating freight corridors from passenger transport in south-eastern Queensland.
AusLink is about national infrastructure priorities and cooperative federalism, not the blame game pursued by the members for Moreton and Blair. A nation-building agenda for the transport infrastructure requirements of south-eastern Queensland is too important for the future of Australia to be squandered on pork-barrelling every three years by representatives of south-eastern Queensland such as the members for Moreton and Blair. They are the ones who are responsible for the delays in the upgraded Ipswich Motorway. They have contributed to unnecessary accidents and deaths through their inability in parliament to get on with the job. They are to blame because of their failure to adequately represent the needs of their constituents. They are clearly consumed with pork-barrelling and political survival rather than easing traffic congestion, reducing accidents and reducing fatalities. They stand condemned— (Time expired)
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate and to debunk a lot of the nonsense that has just come from the opposition spokesman. We have had quite a long and very deep debate over the Ipswich Motorway issue in south-east Queensland. In November 2001, the Kellogg Brown and Root report into the state government’s plan to upgrade the Ipswich Motorway made the following finding. They said it was impossible, impractical and even undesirable to try and upgrade the upgrade plan, as was being proposed then by the state government and still—what, six years down the track?—is being proposed by members opposite. It was impractical, impossible, for them to upgrade that plan to the point where it could actually deal with the traffic according to national highway standards at its completion. That is what Kellogg Brown and Root said about the upgrade project in November 2001. Furthermore, they said that they would therefore need to seek the permission of the federal minister to accept standards that were below the national highway standards and to be prepared to foist upon people in the western corridor of Brisbane a lower than acceptable national highway standard for the handling of what is now 100,000 vehicles a day on the motorway. It is just incredible.
At that time, that was the full extent of the upgrade plan, yet members opposite, six years down the track, after there has been an even greater blow-out in the amount of traffic, are still trying to tell local people in the Ipswich area that it will be sufficient merely to add two lanes to the existing motorway. We heard the member opposite, the opposition spokesman, saying that there would be this mysterious network of local—what did he say?—
service roads to support the motorway. I can tell you the names of those service roads. In the section through Goodna, it is Smiths Road and it is Brisbane Terrace. Those are existing roads. It is not a new service network; there ain’t no new service network there. They are saying, ‘We’re going to add just two additional lanes on the existing motorway, and we’re going to co-opt Brisbane Terrace and Smiths Road, and they will be our service roads.’ So to all the poor people who rely on those roads for their current service today: ‘Sorry, no, it’s a service road.’ That is the total extent of the Labor Party planning and contribution to what is one of the most important corridors—the growth corridor, according to the state government. There they are directing growth into this corridor, saying, ‘Grow, you corridor,’ and saying that, for people in Ipswich, where the population is going to treble in the next 18 years, it is just sufficient to add two measly lanes and, not only that, to dig up the road for 5½ years to do it.
I heard the opposition spokesman saying that he came up with some figure of three years. That is nonsense. Maunsells, the well-reputed engineers, produced a study of the upgrade plan. They said, ‘Sorry, guys, you’re going to need another 18 months of planning if you want to do the upgrade work, and you’re going to need another four years of construction.’
That is exactly the same time frame within which the coalition government can provide six lanes on a whole new route. So we are more than doubling capacity into the corridor in a region where the population is going to more than treble. What are they adding? They are not even adding another 50 per cent to the existing equation. They are taking away people’s local streets in order to provide what they call ‘service roads’. For the local people in that area, this has got to be the greatest con job ever.
The concept that I think the spokesman opposite was putting was that—when this was going to occur—they said that they had proposed this as their policy in 1998. If the Labor Party put it forward as their policy in 1998, that was four years after Laurie Brereton and David Hamill opened what they said would be a road that would last for 20 years. That is the short-changing; that is the inadequacy; that is the snake oil that members opposite stand for when they talk about development in the Ipswich Motorway corridor. Bandaid after bandaid after bandaid, and no relief for anyone. Five and a half years of digging up the Ipswich Motorway is their recipe for an outcome which could not meet the traffic on the day it was delivered—and that is according to a forecast that is already six years old. There is an awful lot that the coalition government is prepared to do, and I note that— (Time expired)
The issue of the Ipswich Motorway has been the matter of an urgent safety upgrade for nearly a decade. In fact, since being elected to this place nearly nine years ago, I have been campaigning, along with the community, to ensure that the federal government meets its obligations to federal roads and in particular to the upgrade of the Ipswich Motorway. This campaigning over a long period of time with the community has not been in vain. While the federal government and in particular the federal members for Blair and Moreton have actively sought to derail the safety upgrade of the Ipswich Motorway and prevent all road users from getting the urgent safety upgrade they so desperately need, we have managed to get partial funding for the Ipswich Motorway to the tune of around $600 million. The result is that some stages of the Ipswich Motorway upgrade are to go ahead. These include upgrades along some of the worst sections of the Ipswich Motorway, such as the Gailes-Logan interchange, which has been the cause of many—
The essential section upgrades, while they are well overdue, will come as a huge relief for the long-suffering motorists on the Ipswich Motorway. But this only gets half the job done. We need the section into Ipswich between Gailes and Dinmore upgraded to complete the job and finally provide a solution to the chaos, accidents and bottlenecks along the Ipswich Motorway.
By doing this, the full upgrade will have cost about $1.7 billion in total. If we compare this to the federal government’s option of the Goodna bypass, at an initial estimate of $2.3 billion, plus the $600 million already allocated between Gailes and Darra, it will take the cost to nearly $3 billion. This is a massive cost that is not supported by the community or the state government and has no consensus or evidence as a solution.
The federal government has gone to a great deal of trouble over the past 10 years to ensure that the Ipswich Motorway would not be fully funded or upgraded. The government has run interference at every possible opportunity to prevent the upgrade of the motorway, and it has ignored the core problem. Surely the federal government should be more interested in getting an agreed solution that provides a long-term fix and is better value for taxpayer dollars.
There clearly seems to be some other agenda at play by the federal government. To put this into context, let us examine the government’s own report which it used to validate its decision to build a bypass road instead of a full upgrade of the Ipswich Motorway. The Maunsell report cost taxpayers $10 million, the terms of reference were dictated by the federal government and it specifically provided that the only possible outcome was one option: the bypass. To make matters even worse, the report cannot make any comparisons between a fully upgraded Ipswich Motorway and the bypass. In this way, the government could always be safe by referring to the report without any fear of unwanted comparisons or other information. This is convenient but very deceptive and a waste of taxpayer dollars to the tune of $10 million. For that sort of money you could get a report to say whatever you wanted and have whatever outcome you desired.
The fact is that the federal government has lost credibility on this road issue. It should allow a full and accountable funding process in cooperation with the community and the state, which will be responsible for construction of the motorway. The funding is not Liberal Party funding but taxpayer dollars, and it should be spent in consultation with the community and the state government. The member for Moreton has got one thing right, though, in his motion today. He has acknowledged that south-east Queensland is the fastest growing region in Australia. But he has done nothing about it for the past 10 years. He has always been vocal on state road issues but suspiciously silent on federal road funding matters. After 10 years of road funding starvation on the Ipswich Motorway, the feds finally dump a bucket of money—but in the wrong place. This is typical of the federal government operating blindly from Canberra.
The Goodna bypass represents a very expensive and flawed option that does not have the support of the community or the state government. But let me assure the federal government and, more precisely, the members for Blair, Ryan and Moreton: the community is very angry with them and with their bypass road, and they will make their views heard all the way to the next federal election.
I am certainly pleased to rise in support of the motion moved by the member for Moreton. The motion effectively recognises the Howard government’s significant contribution to the people of south-east Queensland and the great need for funding for roads in Queensland’s south-east corner. We know that the south-east corner of Queensland is the fastest-growing area of our country, and we know that, as a consequence of this growth, residents there—particularly in the city of the Gold Coast—have a great and genuine need for additional road funding. I note in particular that the motion from the member for Moreton, seconded by the member for Blair, expresses concern over the unreliable project costings provided to the Howard government by the Queensland government, who seem completely unable to manage their costings appropriately.
As a consequence of the Beattie government’s blow-outs, we see the Australian government being expected, on a continual basis, to pick up the cost of these blow-outs. I listened with great interest to what the shadow minister had to say, because we know that the Beattie Labor government has primary carriage of funding for the road needs of Gold Coast city. So it is the Labor Party at state level that is responsible for improving infrastructure, in particular roads, in Gold Coast city. What did the shadow minister have to say about Gold Coast roads with respect to this motion—a motion that talks about south-east Queensland roads? What did the shadow Labor minister have to say about Gold Coast roads?
The member for Blair is correct: he said nothing. We heard not a single comment from the shadow minister about what the Labor Party is going to do for roads in the Gold Coast, the fastest growing city in Australia. We have heard not a single word from the Australian Labor Party about what it is going to do to improve the lives of residents. That is because the Labor Party does not care. We know that because the Beattie Labor government does not care about residents on the Gold Coast. The Beattie Labor government could today, if it wanted to, provide the funding necessary to ensure that important local roads like the Nielsens Road interchange were built. The Beattie Labor government could start the widening of the M1 from Nerang to Tugun today, if it chose to. But the Beattie Labor government turns its back on it.
Paul Lucas, the Minister for Transport and Main Roads in Queensland, would rather keep up his political posturing and political game-playing than actually do something to improve the lives of local residents. I say to Paul Lucas and to the Labor Party: start to understand that Gold Coast residents will not accept your shabby treatment of them. Start to understand that Gold Coast residents know some simple facts. That is, this government has provided to the Queensland Labor government a 119 per cent increase in local road funding. That is our commitment to local roads. If we had our own engineers and our own main roads department, I would have them out there building the roads. But, unfortunately, we have got to rely on the state Labor government, which is completely inept when it comes to project planning and delivery.
If you want a case in point—Gold Coast residents know about this—you can look at the absolute mess that was the Tugun bypass, thanks to the Beattie Labor government. That bypass was initially costed by the Labor government at $70 million. That was the initial project cost that the Labor Party put forward. Right then and there, the federal government said, ‘We’ll fund half of that. Here’s our $35 million.’ And then we waited, and we waited, and we waited. The consequence was that, when the Beattie Labor government finally got around to building the bypass, it was no longer a $70 million project but a $500 million project. That is the Labor Party legacy to the Gold Coast residents. That is Labor’s record: massive cost blow-outs that cause massive inconvenience to local Gold Coast residents, and we do not hear one word from the Labor member opposite, who claims that he cares about road funding in south-east Queensland. He spoke about one road, the road to Ipswich, and I say that Gold Coast residents know that the Labor Party turns its back on their needs; they know that the Labor Party cannot control costs and they know the Labor Party cannot deliver roads.
I say to my local residents that I will continue pushing for funding increases and I will continue pressuring the state Labor government to do something for them with its 119 per cent increase in road funding. I say to the Labor Party: you stand condemned because of your ignorance of Gold Coast local road needs.
Well, ‘some mothers do ’ave ’em’. On the day that the member for Moreton brings forward this private member’s motion for debate, we have banner headlines on the front page of the Courier-Mail quoting the Liberal state leader saying, ‘I don’t care.’ And what didn’t he care about? He was asked yesterday if he was worried that his continued opposition to the bypass proposal being advocated by the member for Moreton would be perceived as disloyalty to the Prime Minister. In response, Dr Flegg said, ‘I don’t care.’ He went on to say:
My position has been strong and clear before the feds adopted any position about this matter ... I think my party room and my party would expect I would honour my commitment.
The member for Moreton said in his piece that he sought Labor Party support for the plan. The Labor Party has been supporting for years the upgrading of the Ipswich Motorway, as the member for Batman said, in 1998, in 2001, in 2004 and now in 2007.
But when it comes to the Queensland Liberal Party it is a case of every man for himself and God help the women and children. They are at each other’s throats over this. This is the blame game writ large, but on this occasion the Liberals are blaming each other. Let me tell you about the Lord Mayor of Brisbane. He said:
It is very clear to the people who live in the western suburbs of Brisbane that this will be the precursor to a western Brisbane bypass ... There are alignments on maps now which show where that route would go.
The Lord Mayor of Brisbane condemns this proposal of the Howard government in the strongest possible terms. He went on to say, in another article:
My impression is there has never been a proper comparison of the options and I can’t understand why there hasn’t been, especially if you have the state government, the state opposition and the Lord Mayor all backing an upgrade and it’s an option that costs less.
Hear, hear to the Lord Mayor of Brisbane. But where oh where is the member for Ryan in all of this? The same article says:
... across the river in the safer electorate of Ryan, where traffic flows will increase, Michael Johnson—not known as a prime ministerial favourite—is battling a backlash. “I’m bitterly disappointed,” he said. “I’m in the process of writing to my constituents explaining that.”
So the blame game is the Liberals blaming each other. We have got the member for Moreton and the member for Blair advocating the Goodna bypass, which is absolutely, totally and vehemently opposed by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and by the Liberal leader, the Queensland opposition leader, who says ‘I don’t care’ when people ask him, ‘What if you are seen to be disloyal?’ because he knows that the Labor proposal is the right proposal.
I am tempted to move that so much of standing and sessional orders be suspended as would allow the member for Ryan—the missing Liberal—to come into this parliament and participate in the debate. Where is the member for Ryan? He is opposed to the views and the proposal of the member for Moreton and the member for Blair.
I said I would be tempted to. If I thought it would produce a result, I would. But the member for Ryan will not come in here, because he does not have the courage to stand up to his colleagues the member for Moreton and the member for Blair. (Time expired)
Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting. The honourable member for Rankin will have leave to continue his remarks when the debate is resumed.