State’s new political time bomb set to explode
CROSS River Rail will be the State Government's new Adani political time bomb. The city rail plan does not invoke the same passions as those anti or pro-mine supporters, however, it is becoming a looming political problem that exposes the Government to inexplicable stubbornness and recklessness.
It is digging in its heels, while digging itself in a hole, and giving regional Queenslanders a two-fingered salute.
In July 2017 Infrastructure Australia said, "it has not included the current proposal for Cross River Rail as a Project on the Infrastructure Priority List at this time.
"Infrastructure Australia considers that the benefits of the proposed project, as set out in the business case, are significantly overstated, and that the costs of the project as currently presented are likely to exceed its benefits."
It is understood IA still considers the plan incomplete from a business case perspective.
Labor in Queensland has cursed itself with infrastructure inertia, unable to match the big ideas or big spending of Victoria or NSW because it is blinded by its cause to build Cross River Rail.
Brisbane City Council's Metro plan, a proposed high-frequency bus rapid transit system, is said to have greater benefits than the Cross River Rail. But inner-city seat holder, Treasurer Jackie Trad, is desperate for Cross River Rail to go ahead because she has invested so much energy in the project that also suits her green leanings and seat.
Federal Labor planned to tip in billions of dollars for Cross River if it won the recent election but the Morrison Government won't have a bar of it, because it believes there are more pressing needs, including rail in outer Brisbane, plus investment in regional Queensland.
And this is one of the problems for the State Government: a growing number of regional communities believe - rightly or wrongly - that they are being ignored or discounted by William St. Some are ready to dust off their baseball bats for the next state election.
For those who live in areas outside of Brisbane, the roads aren't as good - some are downright dangerous - and the infrastructure is ageing.
People outside Queensland travel longer and they are sick and tired of lucrative royalties, delivered to the state from resources dug up in their towns, going to pet projects like Cross River Rail.
How ironic that Trad called in mining bosses last week and told them to "voluntarily" chip in for an infrastructure fund for the regions or face a royalty hike down the track.
For some around the table, it was inevitable they thought that the billions of dollars in royalties they already pay should be invested back into the places they come from.
And exclusive new figures exposed today reveal what a sad state of affairs Labor has so far been able to hide.
Internal analysis from Infrastructure NSW reveals Queensland in 2018-19 had the second lowest infrastructure spend as a percentage of gross state product at 1.75 per cent - ahead of only the ACT. NSW clocked 3.88 per cent and Victoria about 3 per cent.
And when it came to capital expenditure as a percentage of revenue, Queensland came dead last as 10.27 per cent in 2018-19. Victoria and NSW were 19.78 per cent and 30.18 per cent respectively.
The responsibility of maintaining and investing in roads is often a shared responsibility.
The Federal Government has budgeted to provide Queensland almost $10 billion for infrastructure projects over the forward estimates.
Previously, Annastacia Palaszczuk has pointed to research to tell Parliament that Queensland was not getting its fair share from the Federal Government - however, that research did not take into account measures announced in the most recent Federal Budget. Over the Budget forwards from 2018-19 out to 2021-22, the percentage of federal infrastructure spending for Queensland is at least three times as much as NSW.
Meantime, with the Reserve Bank widely tipped to cut interest rates tomorrow, pressure will be placed on banks to pass on any interest rate cut in full - and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will be among the first in line to pile it on.
The Morrison Government wants these cuts to come plus need their tax cuts passed by Labor when Parliament sits from July. The economy needs a sugar hit and requires workers to get a pay rise.
The RBA believes as the labour market becomes tighter, bosses will have to pay more.
And part of the overall strategy is more investment in infrastructure.
Money remains cheap and the investment in roads and rail not only boosts productivity but gives jobs to a workforce that flows through to other sectors.
Queensland's unemployment rate remains stubbornly high.
It could help fix this problem by investing more in infrastructure across the state.