Thursday, 16 August 2007
I want to speak today about my concerns over the false claims made by the Deputy Prime Minister yesterday when he insinuated that enough is being done to fix Queensland’s road network. The amount of funding into Queensland from the federal government for improving my state’s road network is, in fact, completely inadequate. We in Central Queensland know that our highways are a vital link to services and job opportunities and particularly important given the region’s huge coal production and export facilities. But federal government road funding has not kept pace with our growth and, as any regional driver will attest, our road networks in Queensland are feeling the strain.
I am particularly concerned following yet another tragic death on the Eton Range in my electorate and yet another report showing that not a single section of the Bruce Highway in Capricornia is up to scratch. The poor state of our roads is reinforced further by an AusRAP report showing that not a single section of the highway is of suitable standard. In fact, the report points out that half of the network in Capricornia is at medium-high risk of traffic fatality and most of the other half is at medium risk. This is an appalling legacy of neglect that this government is now finally waking up to.
It is high time the Prime Minister took my state seriously. We are the fastest growing state in Australia, with 1,500 new arrivals coming across our border each week. Combined with the massive wealth my state brings to the national economy, the facts are clear: Queensland deserves a better go than it is getting—and you would be hard-pressed to find any Queenslander who disagrees. It is high time the Australian government stopped the blame game with the state and fixed these important roads. These roads bring billions of dollars to the national economy and are hugely important to the budget surplus that the Treasurer insists on claiming is all his own work.
I would also like to point out the vast differences between the federal coalition government and the state Labor government on this issue. This year Queensland Labor will embark on the biggest capital works program of any state or territory. On a per capita basis, the Labor state government will be investing more than any other state or territory. Queensland will spend six per cent of gross state product on capital works, compared with only one per cent of gross domestic product spent by the Commonwealth.
The coalition government has ignored the needs of Queensland for years. But now, after 11 years in government and 11 years of neglect, Queensland is finally being wooed in earnest by the Howard government, as it is desperate to cling to power. It has announced $83 million in regional roads funding on top of the roughly $7 billion in AusLink II funding that Queensland will receive from the federal budget. And of course, while most people would accuse the government of pork-barrelling for this year’s federal election, I welcome any money we Queenslanders can pry from the hands of Canberra. But, as always, the devil is in the detail. While the government has still only released some of that money, the RACQ, the peak motoring body in my state, says that Queensland’s national highway has been so fundamentally neglected over the last decade—the decade in which this government has been in power—that the network needs at least $12 billion just to get it up to scratch, let alone to a standard that the people of Queensland can be proud of and can rely on.
I am of course aware of a number of projects locally—such as the Peak Downs Highway, which connects Mackay to the mining towns of Nebo, Moranbah and Claremont—that will make a real difference to locals and commuting mining traffic. But $6 million, when the RACQ says billions more is needed from the federal government, is simply a drop in the bucket. I am also greatly concerned, as are many in Queensland, with changes to AusLink funding that mean state governments and councils will need to find billions of dollars for roads traditionally funded by the federal government. It is plain that the Howard government is shirking its responsibility to fund their roads, including the Bruce Highway, a national highway whose current state, at least in my electorate, is inadequate and downright dangerous.