By Paul Hemsley
The Queensland government has slammed the Gillard government’s plan to fund the flood-proofing of the state’s Bruce Highway, labelling it an “election year stunt” that has no additional funding beyond the amount that the government was already expected to spend.
The Bruce Highway is a major road that extends 1,700km from Cairns along the Queensland coastline to Brisbane that endured significant flooding during the 2011 deluge, which prompted Prime Minister Julia Gillard to call for the road to be flood-proofed.
What resulted was the Bruce Highway Action Plan, which was released by the Queensland government in October 2012 to provide solutions to the almost annual flooding problem that became even worse during the 2011 monsoon. Road closures have continued up until the present due to flood risks.
Organisations such as the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) called out for federal government funding in conjunction with the release of the Action Plan, and has since welcomed federal Minister for Infrastructure Anthony Albanese’s ten-year, $4.1 billion capital works program to improve the safety and flood resistance of the highway.
Mr Albanese announced the “unprecedented investment” as a way to “right a decade of neglect” and promised to negotiate with the Queensland government on a timetable to deliver the next round of improvements to infrastructure.
However the Queensland government wasn’t thrilled at the federal government’s funding commitment, accusing the federal government of failing to commit new funding as demanded by the Action Plan as it claims that no additional funds are being sent.
Queensland Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure, Jeff Sweeney said the announcement by Ms Gillard and Mr Albanese is “little more than a scam”.
“If Julia Gillard and Labor were fair dinkum they would provide this base funding and then commit to our Action Plan which calls for an additional $4 billion from the federal government over the next decade with an additional billion dollars from Queensland,” Mr Sweeney said.
He accused the federal government trying to convince Queenslanders that Canberra is “spending up big” on the Bruce Highway, but is instead announcing spending that is base funding that it would spend over the next decade.
“We are prepared to spend a billion dollars on top of what we would normally spend to upgrade and maintain the highway over the next ten years,” Mr Sweeney said.
“What we are seeing today is a shabby trick on Queenslanders who have to put up with an inferior and dangerous road which is less than 10 per cent of the national highway system, but accounts for 17 per cent of fatalities.”
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