Derail or fail: The risk Kate Jones just had to take

WHEN the Beattie government redeveloped Suncorp Stadium in the early 2000s it was acutely sensitive about cost blow outs hitting Queensland taxpayers.

The administration had already copped criticism after the price of the Goodwill Bridge overshot its budget by more than $20 million and stern orders were issued that this was not to happen again.

 

An artist impression of the Cross River Rail station at Woolloongabba.
An artist impression of the Cross River Rail station at Woolloongabba.


However, in the two decades since, massive overruns on taxpayer-funded projects have become so common that even governments, the supposed custodians of the public purse, don't seem to care much any more.

The new Townsville Stadium blew out by $50 million, a whopping 20 per cent, and nobody appeared to blink an eye.

It would have been a scandal that scorched a government's credentials in the past, spurned audit inquiries and hand-on-heart promises it won't happen again.


But the response to what occurred in Townsville was little more than "Meh. How about them Cowboys?".

Cross River Rail Minister Kate Jones clearly has a different attitude.

Her decision to remove the $5.4 billion project's board and take direct control is politically risky but probably the right move given it is the most expensive public transport project in Queensland's history.

 

 

Cross River Rail Minister Kate Jones has taken control of the $5.4 billion project.
Cross River Rail Minister Kate Jones has taken control of the $5.4 billion project.

 

 

A slip of just a few per cent in costs would make the Townsville Stadium blowout appear minuscule.

Jones insists the contract for Cross River Rail is still $5.4 billion and her job is to ensure that's what it costs.

But given the spate of blowouts to major transport projects in other states because of costs that were unaccounted for, the real question is what is and what isn't included in that contract.

The next question after that is clear. Can the State Budget really afford to fully fund Cross River Rail?



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