Origin clash Queensland may lose

Opinion Piece


17 June 2015

Courier Mail

There is one State of Origin clash which Queensland is at risk of losing, and badly if action isn't taken.

Infrastructure investment and construction in New South Wales is booming, with more than $32 billion of major transport projects underway or about to start. This massive pipeline of works will create thousands of jobs, slash travel times for motorists and cement Sydney's position as a global economic powerhouse. This is no fluke, but rather the product of all levels of government working with the private sector to deliver the infrastructure New South Wales needs for a stronger and more prosperous future.

Meanwhile north of the border, almost six months after the state election, we still have no plans from the Palaszczuk Government on what their long term infrastructure priorities are to help build Queensland's economic capacity. In fact, despite all their rhetoric on public transport, their first action in government was to abandon the Bus and Train Tunnel, a $5 billion public transport project. This inertia cannot continue.

Last year the Australian Government delivered the biggest infrastructure investment in Queensland's history to build world class projects like the multi-billion dollar Bruce Highway upgrade, the Gateway Motorway North and the Toowoomba Bypass. These projects are progressing quickly and will support thousands of new jobs, but as highlighted by Infrastructure Australia's audit of our national infrastructure, we need to build more.

According to the audit, Queensland's population is projected to grow by 2 million and traffic congestion will cost the economy a staggering $9 billion annually by 2031. This unprecedented growth will place huge pressure on the state's transport networks with average road speeds and travel reliability declining by over 25 percent if nothing is done.

The Australian Government is ready to invest in more nationally significant infrastructure for Queensland, but we cannot fund vague aspirations. The Queensland Government needs to provide us with a credible pipeline of well-planned projects that can be assessed by Infrastructure Australia for future funding consideration. They must also look at other revenue sources like reinvigorating their asset base to unlock greater investment in world class projects.

Infrastructure Australia's audit shows that federal and state governments alone cannot fund the infrastructure we need to prosper into the future. We must increasingly involve the private sector to meet this critical gap. That is why the Queensland Government needs to consider taking advantage of our $5 billion Asset Recycling Initiative and sell or lease mature assets to build new productive infrastructure, including public transport.  

The fifteen percent bonus payment that would be paid to Queensland from the Asset Recycling Initiative would unlock hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more, in additional revenue to be reinvested into building better infrastructure for all Queenslanders. New South Wales will receive an extra $2 billion from the Australian Government by leasing mature assets and reinvesting the proceeds into game changing infrastructure. That's enough to fund the second stage of the Gold Coast light rail project three times over.

With Queensland's debt at $80 billion and an annual interest bill of $4 billion, simply borrowing billions of dollars to meet the infrastructure back-log and increasing taxes to pay for it is not an option. Sadly this appears to be the direction Labor is heading, which will be disastrous for the state's future.

As it stands, Queensland is at risk of grinding to a halt and being left in New South Wales' wake as billions of investment dollars continue to flow south to Sydney's infrastructure market while city-transforming projects like the Brisbane Cross River Rail remain in limbo. It's time for the Palaszczuk Government to reconsider its antiquated views on infrastructure funding through asset recycling and work with the Australian Government to build a stronger future for Queensland.

Later this year we will release Infrastructure Australia's 15 year plan which will outline the pipeline of infrastructure priorities we need to address as a nation. I encourage the Queensland Government and anyone who's interested to work with Infrastructure Australia on the development of this plan.

We can no longer afford to be complacent about building for our future. Industry needs the work and commuters want the infrastructure. The Australian Government is ready to deliver both.