A big investment by the Abbott government in national roads and infrastructure valued at $35.5 billion is being cheered on by one of its key beneficiaries.
The Queensland government is toasting the big spend on the other kind of ‘black gold’ – bitumen –thanks the federal government’s election promise to stump up $6.7 billion as part of a wider package to strengthen the state’s notoriously flood-prone Bruce Highway.
A major artery that stretches 1,700km along the Queensland coast from Cairns to Brisbane, the road became critically inundated in key sections during the 2011 floods that inflicted unprecedented destruction on the state’s infrastructure.
Following the promise to provide $6.7 billion when the Coalition was in Federal Opposition, the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Warren Truss, introduced the $35.5 billion Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill in February 2014.
Mr Truss is promoting the Bill as a replacement for what he said was Labor’s “disjointed and shambolic” Nation Building Program with the National Land Transport Act 2014 to deliver the “biggest infrastructure agenda in Australia’s history” over six years.
The Bruce Highway project is one of several high priced “roads of the future” upgrades that include the completion of the duplication of the Pacific Highway in New South Wales for $5.6 billion; the WestConnex project in Sydney for $1.5 billion and the East-West Link in Melbourne for $1.5 billion.
Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Scott Emerson welcomed the first step to deliver a 10-year program to bring the Bruce Highway up to a “satisfactory standard”.
“This is a package that delivers certainty for the Queensland government and ends the attempts by the former Federal Labor government to slash their contribution for Federal roads to just 50 per cent,” Mr Emerson said.
Mr Emerson stressed the high stakes of the funding for the Bruce Highway, saying that it’s a “lifeline” for Queensland and that insurance company RACQ predicted that if no action was taken, 300 to 400 people will die over the next ten years.
Local governments are also expected to see a slice of the federal government’s infrastructure funding as Mr Truss said the Bill reflects the government’s commitment to the Roads to Recovery program.
He said the program’s future has been locked for a further five years beyond the current end date of 30th June 2014 to 30th June 2019 at a cost of $1.75 billion.
“Roads to Recovery provides vital funding to local governments for the maintenance of the nation’s local road infrastructure,” Mr Truss said.
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