OPINION: Turnbull Government Minister Paul Fletcher talks funding for the M1

Opinion Piece

PFO-006/2016

10 October 2016

QUEENSLANDERS who use the M1 between the Gold Coast and Brisbane every day are probably wondering why the Turnbull and Palaszczuk Governments are having an argument about whether the M1 falls within a metropolitan area.

If you are stuck in peak hour traffic on the M1 you just want to know that your governments are doing something about it.

That is why Karen Andrews, LNP Member for McPherson, fought so hard to secure a $110 million funding commitment to widen the M1 between Mudgeeraba and Varsity Lakes.

And it is why Bert van Manen, LNP Member for Forde, worked to deliver a $105 million commitment to upgrade the M1 where it intersects with the Gateway Motorway.

When we announced this funding a couple of months ago, the response from the Queensland Government was surprising: rather than welcoming this as a positive step, Queensland Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the Commonwealth was not putting in enough.

Business cases developed by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads estimate the total cost of the first project at $220 million, and the second at $210 million.

So the Turnbull Government committed to fund half of the cost, with Queensland to pay the other half — just as previous M1 upgrade projects over the past decade or more have generally involved the state government paying at least half.

This has been so under both federal Liberal and federal Labor governments. (In some cases, Queensland paid more than half: on the $543 million Tugun bypass completed in 2008, Queensland put in $423 million.)

50:50 has also been common on other projects: recently the federal and Queensland Governments agreed to fund the upgrade of the Rocklea to Darra section of the Ipswich Motorway on a 50:50 basis.

But Mark Bailey says the Turnbull Government has somehow breached a commitment about funding. He quotes a 2014 press release by then Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss which referred to funding principles for “road and rail projects on the national network outside metropolitan areas.”

Of course this statement has no relevance to the M1 which runs through one of Australia’s largest metropolitan areas — the Brisbane-Logan City-Gold Coast conurbation.

Recently I joined with Karen Andrews and Bert van Manen, as well an adviser to Moncrieff MP Steve Ciobo, to meet with Mr Bailey, Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, and representatives of RACQ and CCIQ. In my view it is much better that we are talking face-to-face rather than through the media.

I reiterated the Turnbull Government’s commitment to fund half the cost of these two critical M1 projects — as part of our total expenditure on Queensland infrastructure which exceeds $13 billion — and our desire to get work underway as soon as possible.

That is why I suggested the Queensland Government should hold a tender or expression of interest process on these two M1 projects, to obtain firm costings from construction companies. If these costings turn out to be lower than the estimates in the business case — something which is quite common at the moment due to highly competitive conditions in the construction sector — that would make our collective task a little easier.

I also said that the Commonwealth may be prepared to provide its funding earlier in the life of the project, if that would assist the Queensland Government to fund its share at a later stage.

We agreed that officials of the two Governments would meet to discuss these two issues further and come back to Mark Bailey and me with their recommendations.

These two M1 projects are vital for the people of southeast Queensland.

That is why I want to see if we can find a way for the two governments to both contribute their fair share, working together, to get these projects built.

Originally published as OPINION: Turnbull Government Minister Paul Fletcher talks funding for the M1