MP derailed by forgotten LNP rail funding promise
THE Coalition has been caught short by an infrastructure promise it made in 2014 that covered 80 per cent of the cost of North Coast Rail duplication.
The promise included non-urban national road and rail networks and was at odds with claims by two Sunshine Coast federal Coalition members that the Palaszczuk Government's $160.8 million budget rail pledge was $230m short.
The Coalition Government in 2014 committed to a return to an 80:20 funding split with the states for non-urban national road and rail networks.
And it also released amendments in its National Land Transport Network Determination in that year under section five of National Land Transport Act to include the North Coast Line to Cairns.
The Palaszczuk Government has come under fire from state and federal LNP politicians and Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson for failing to match a $390 million Turnbull Government commitment towards duplication of the North Coast Line from Beerburrum to Nambour.
Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and Transport Minister Mark Bailey were in Nambour Saturday to announce a $160.8 million budget allocation to the long-awaited project.
Fairfax MP Ted O'Brien and his Coalition colleague Andrew Wallace (Fisher) responded saying the money was $230m short and wondered where it would come from.
"This ($390m) is a gift of money to the State Government for an asset they own," Mr O'Brien said adding no precedent existed requiring federal funding for the project, describing Ms Trad's 80:20 split demand as 'baloney'.
Mr Wallace described the commitment as poor, likening it to giving a child a present only for it to say it was not good enough.
However in a joint press release issued on December 11, 2014, former Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Australia, Jamie Briggs, and then Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss pledged to re-introduce what they described as "the traditional 80:20 funding split for new road and rail projects on the national network outside of metropolitan areas".
The release added that under Labor the networks would have been abandoned.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the Palaszczuk Government was simply playing by the rules introduced by the federal Liberal National Government in 2014 when it it established the funding split.
"They even amended the National Land Transport Network to include the North Coast Line," Mr Bailey said.
"80:20 funding on rail is unprecedented in Queensland simply because this is the first time since 2014 that there has been an investment by the Feds into a new project on the National Land Transport Network. It's a shame that after four years, it's undercooked.
"The Turnbull Government even announced $5 billion for a rail link to Melbourne airport without a business case.
"And yet toothless Ted makes excuses for not being able to deliver $230 million for this vital project where the Palaszczuk Government started and completed a strong business case.
"Importantly, our contribution of $160.8 million in this year's budget will allow work to commence on this vital upgrade.
"We are committed to delivering the full scope of the project and to working with the Federal Government into the future for the benefit of South East Queensland commuters."
Mr O'Brien thanked the Daily for its continued support in pushing for this vital piece of infrastructure and for bringing the 2014 media release to his attention.
"This 2014 statement from Mr Truss is news to me but I am determined to get to the bottom of it," he said.
"I immediately sent it to the Federal Minister for Infrastructure asking for clarification about the current partnership arrangement and where the Beerburrum to Nambour rail project fits within that.
"There have been several Federal Ministers for Infrastructure since Mr Truss and so let's find out what's eventuated since this 2014 announcement.
"Nonetheless, we've never seen a Federal Government put a cent towards this stretch before and now we have $390 million on the table.
"The Commonwealth is not asking for an equity stake, it's free money for the State Government for an asset they own. My advice is take it, match it and get the job done.
"My priority remains the Sunshine Coast first and foremost, and this rail upgrade must be done to fix the issue of freight and as a pre-requisite to fast rail.
"Carving out $390 million wasn't easy and I'm not letting go until we get this deal over the line and I'm going to keep fighting for it."