Albanese's admission reignites debate over Bruce funding
A POLITICAL stoush has erupted over funding the Bruce Highway, after Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese admitted nearly half of the government's $4.1 billion highway funding announcement on Wednesday was old money.
The fight, between the conservative state government and Federal Opposition and the Labor Government, came after Ms Gillard announced a new 10-year plan for the highway.
Under the scheme, $4.1 billion was announced for numerous new infrastructure upgrades along the highway, as part of the coming May budget.
But of the total funding announcement, $1.7 billion was already included in last year's budget or announced by the Federal Government in December last year.
The remaining $2.4 billion of new money will go to major upgrades near Rockhampton, Mackay and the Sunshine Coast as well as continuing the existing black spots and overtaking lanes projects.
Ms Gillard said the total program reaffirmed the Federal Government's commitment to improving the highway, lower transport costs and improve productivity.
Mr Albanese said well over half of the $4.1 billion was new money, as part of a total $5.7 billion in federal government funding for the Bruce Hwy since 2007.
But the funding discrepancy sparked outrage from both the state government and Mr Albanese's opposite number and Nationals Leader Warren Truss.
Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the announcement was "little more than a scam", despite the state contributing more than $1 billion to the highway as part of a fund-sharing deal with the Commonwealth.
Mr Seeney said the state government wanted the full $4 billion on top of the existing $1.7 billion in federal funds, not just the $2 billion of new money announced on Wednesday.
"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 10 years," he said.
"Queenslanders deserve the Federal Government to do the same on what is, after all, a part of the national highway system and a federal responsibility."
Under national highway fund-sharing deals between the two levels of government, the funding ratio has traditionally been 80% from the Commonwealth and 20% from the state.
Mr Truss said the announcement was a smoke and mirrors routine, saying the total new money announced was closer to a 50:50 funding arrangement.
New South Wales Nationals candidate for Page Kevin Hogan said the Commonwealth was prepared to pay an 80:20 funding split on the Bruce Hwy, but had refused the same treatment for the Pacific Hwy.
"If 80/20 is good enough for the Bruce, it has to be good enough for the Pacific," he said.
But despite the Coalition criticism of the funding arrangement, Mr Truss was unable to guarantee such a commitment should the Opposition win government in September.
Comment was also sought from the New South Wales Government but not received by deadline.