(This piece first appeared in the Sunshine Coast Daily of Saturday 22 September 2018)
We saw wild and unhelpful speculation earlier this week from the Sunshine Coast Daily’s Scott Sawyer about what a leadership change in Canberra might mean for the billions of dollars of infrastructure which our Federal Government has committed to constructing on the Coast. I can reassure you now that every project we have committed to will be delivered.
I understand why we are sceptical at times, and why some of the progress we are making here on the Coast is hard to believe. I have lived here for almost 26 years and I know that for decades our region was short changed by every level of Government. For a long time, we did not get our fair share. However, it is a simple fact that in the past two and a half years, we have seen more than $3 billion of Federal Government infrastructure funding allocated to our community. Our Federal Government has listened to local residents, and has understood that our community must have the new infrastructure we need to keep up with our growing population. These unprecedented billions will transform travel on the Sunshine Coast and get you and your families home sooner and safer.
On the Bruce Highway, the Commonwealth Government has contributed 80% of the necessary funds to upgrade the Caloundra Road, Sunshine Motorway and Deception Bay interchanges, flood proof the road and we are now working on the designs for three lanes each way to and from Caboolture. We have committed $3.13 billion to these projects. You can see these works underway on the Coast right now, and they will only expand in the next few years as more of the money is spent.
On the railway, our Federal Government has allocated $390 million to duplicating the North Coast rail line, and to other upgrades north of Landsborough. The State Government has only agreed to fund this project to the tune of $160.8 million and we continue to negotiate with them in good faith for them to increase their funding on what is, after all, their asset.
When it comes to the Sunshine Coast Airport, the Federal Government has provided a $181 million concessional loan which will go a long way toward funding this Council project. That money is allowing the Council to build a new runway, creating 1,500 direct and 650 indirect jobs and making sure that we will be able to have international flights direct from Maroochydore by 2020. Once again, that project is already being built today.
Our Federal Government has also funded a feasibility study to examine fast rail between Brisbane, Nambour and Maroochydore via Beerwah which would see commuters’ travel time slashed to just 45 minutes. If we are to grow as a successful region in the long term, we have to provide rapid mass transit. As important as it is right now, the answer to our transport woes is not simply continuing to add lanes to the Bruce Highway. If the feasibility of this project stacks up, we will fund it with contributions from the State Government and from our Federal $10 billion National Rail Program.
Our Federal Government has locked its funding in for these projects. The question that should be on every Sunshine Coasters lips is, has Labor?
Federal Labor’s infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese is quoted by Scott Sawyer as refusing to commit to funding these vital Sunshine Coast infrastructure projects beyond the forward estimates, a period of four years. For its part, the Labor State Government is failing the Sunshine Coast.
The Bruce Highway upgrades between Caloundra and Caboolture, for which the Federal Government has committed 80% of the costs, are being held up and have been for more than 250 days, by the State Labor Minister Mark Bailey’s failure to release the planning study we need to get these works started. On the rail duplication, the State Labor Government’s failure to provide even 50% of the necessary funding for a project which is by rights a 100% State Government responsibility demonstrates and contemptuous neglect of their duty to local residents.
Scott was wrong when he spoke of a threat to our infrastructure arising out of the Federal leadership change. The biggest threat the to the Coast’s infrastructure is a Shorten Labor Government.
Andrew Wallace MP
Federal Member for Fisher