ABC Radio Brisbane Breakfast with George Roberts and Rebecca Levingston
07 May 2018
Subjects: Federal Government infrastructure funding in Queensland
Rebecca Levingston: Well, let’s put beef aside for the moment to talk about billions of dollars that’s going to be spent on Queensland bitumen. That’s what tomorrow’s federal Budget is promising for the Bruce Highway and public transport in particular in Brisbane. The $5.2 billion spend also promises to create 50,000 extra jobs in the next 10 years. Paul Fletcher is the Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cites. Minister, good morning.
Paul Fletcher: Good morning, Rebecca and George. Good to be with you.
Rebecca Levingston: The centrepiece for this spend is $3.3 billion for the Bruce Highway. Can you talk us through where that money will go?
Paul Fletcher: Well look, the Bruce is such an important artery, running from Brisbane up to Cairns, so we’ve committed very substantial funding. The Turnbull Government is committing $800 million for Cooroy to Curra-Section D, and also $880 million for Pine River to Caloundra. So these are the next stages of projects on the Bruce, part of our overall long-term commitment on the Bruce.
Rebecca Levingston: In Brisbane, the metro project gets a big boost. What benefit does the Federal Government see that will deliver?
Paul Fletcher: Well, the Brisbane Metro Project which is being developed by Brisbane City Council is a really important public transport initiative. It will provide more public transport services between Eight Mile Plains and the Roma Street busway, and between the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and the University of Queensland. So it’s a really important public transport initiative at the centre of the city and then in the inner regions, and so we are committing in tomorrow night’s Budget $300 million towards the Brisbane Metro Project.
Rebecca Levingston: But no money for the Cross River Rail?
Paul Fletcher: Well, the Queensland State Government’s position has been that Cross River Rail is fully funded. What you can see from our announcement today and in preceding weeks is that we are investing very heavily in Queensland infrastructure, some $5.2 billion for new projects in this Budget, in addition to the ones I’ve mentioned, there’s a billion dollars for the M1 between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. There’s $390 million for the Beerburrum to Nambour rail upgrade on the Sunshine Coast. That’s really important to assist in people commuting down to Brisbane, but also improves freight and by duplicating the rail for 20 kilometres of that 39 kilometre stretch and passing loops for the remaining 19 kilometres will mean that passenger and freight rail move more reliably and efficiently.
George Roberts: Minister, that billion dollars for the M1, it’s still not the 80 per cent that the State Government has asked for, which would put it in the same category as funding for the Pacific Highway south of the border. Does the Federal Government just not like Queensland as much as it likes New South Wales? Why won’t you give the 80-20 share that you give New South Wales?
Paul Fletcher: Well, look, we like Queensland to the tune of $5.2 billion which is the funding that we’ve committed in this Budget. Of course, Queensland is a vitally important state and the point I’d make is that under federal governments, both Liberal and Labor for a number of years, the funding on the M1 corridor between Brisbane and the Gold Coast has been provided on a 50-50 basis, much as we provide funding for other urban infrastructure projects around the country on a 50-50 basis. And so we did have some to-ing and fro-ing with the Queensland Government on earlier projects—Varsity Lakes to Mudgeeraba, and the Gateway Merge. In the end, we reached an outcome and I’m very confident that we’ll get a similar outcome here, because we’re contributing a billion dollars to reduce congestion, improve journey times, improve safety on the M1 between the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
George Roberts: So clearly, the Federal Government won’t increase its offer there, but just looking- the Federal Treasurer’s office today has told our Parliament House Bureau that the approximate $24 billion infrastructure spending over the next decade is new spending on new projects, and it’s part of a package of $75 billion in terms of a rolling plan announced last year. So it’s actually less than a quarter being announced in this budget. So how much of the $5.2 billion announced for Queensland in this budget is actually new money, new spending?
Paul Fletcher: Well, what’s being announced here is new, absolutely. The key point that the Treasurer’s office is making quite correctly is that we announced last year a commitment to spend $75 billion over ten years on infrastructure. We announced some new projects last year which comprised some of that $75 billion. We’re announcing this year over $24 billion on new projects around the country that we are allocating funds to. So out of that $75 billion pipeline, we’re now telling the people of Australia, the people of Queensland, what those projects are so that if you are someone who uses public transport to get into the city of Brisbane, you now know we’re committing $300 million to Brisbane Metro.
George Roberts: But is that- sorry to interrupt, minister, but is that $5.2 billion all new money out of that $24 billion?
Paul Fletcher: Yes.
George Roberts: All of it?
Paul Fletcher: So the $24 billion is new money, so it comes out of that overall envelope of $75 billion we’ve committed to spend over 10 years, and what we’re doing each year is now giving priority to those projects that are to be funded and $24.5 billion around the country, $5.2 billion in Queensland. So these are very significant and of course what it then means is we can now move to completing the planning work on the project, and getting projects underway.
Rebecca Levingston: You’re listening to Paul Fletcher, the Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities about 24 hours out from the Treasurer Scott Morrison delivering his budget tomorrow night. Minister, I’ve got to say for most people $25 billion as part of a $75 billion 10-year infrastructure investment pipeline. I mean the figures are kind of mind boggling and also a bit confusing because wages growth is still very slow, inflation is below trend, economic growth is slow. How or why has the Australian economy suddenly improved so much?
Paul Fletcher: The reason that we are able to make commitments of this scale is because of the hard work the Treasurer Scott Morrison has been doing, the hard work the entire government has been doing to get the Budget under control and move back towards balance - and the Treasurer will of course have more to say about progress on that in the Budget tomorrow night. And the other point I’d make is that this is also about our economic plan because infrastructure investment generates jobs, generates economic activity, but it also then makes our economy work better because people can move around more quickly, you can get to and from work more quickly, tradies can do more jobs in a day if they’re not sitting in congested traffic…
George Roberts: Sorry Minister, we are running out of time. Just to pick you up on something there when you say the Treasurer’s done the hard work. That normally means pushing out spending in the forward estimates. That normally pushes cost out to the forward estimates to allow you to come in and have money to spend in the lead up to an election. Is that what you’re going to do?
Paul Fletcher: I’ll leave it to the Treasurer to run through the details when he releases the Budget tomorrow night. The point I’d make is we’re bringing $5.2 billion in infrastructure into Queensland, $24.5 billion around Australia, and you’re right the numbers are big but what it means is people can get to work more quickly and easily, our roads are safer, new rail. It means benefits for the people of Queensland, for the people of Brisbane.
George Roberts: We’ll look forward to hearing where you’ve trimmed the fat to deliver the sweets, if I can say that.
Rebecca Levingston: Minister, thanks for your time this morning.
Paul Fletcher: Thanks Rebecca.