Queensland deserves more from Morrison
WHEN Scott Morrison pulled off the most unlikeliest of victories on May 18 last year, he uttered that now-famous statement posed as a question in his victory speech: “How good is Queensland?”
It followed a stunning result in the Sunshine State, where if Queenslanders voted the same way in the upcoming state election on October 31, Labor would be left without a seat north of Brisbane.
The result solidified the LNP’s main federal election policy of rewarding aspiration and hard work as Queenslanders rejected Labor’s politics of envy and its decision to abandon blue-collared workers, especially miners in central and north Queensland.
It exemplified the huge debt of gratitude the Morrison government owes to Queensland – without us, he and his cabinet would now be cooling their heels on the opposition benches.
It is against that backdrop that today’s announcement on the fast-tracking of major infrastructure projects in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis is so disappointing for our state.
As we report today, just one of the 15 projects will come here. Even worse, it won’t start until 2022 – and it is not even a specific Queensland project, but the inland rail, which will traverse through Victoria and NSW before getting here.
This multibillion-dollar package will be a vital and much-needed part of any stimulus to kick-start the national economy. But more than half of the infrastructure projects come from the Prime Minister’s home state of NSW.
Justifiably then, Infrastructure Queensland has lamented the lack of spending – saying it was clear the state that delivered the keys to The Lodge for the PM is now “not a priority’’. It is a doubly bewildering decision considering Queensland has handled the coronavirus outbreak as well as any Australian state or territory, meaning it is shovel-ready. Not so, hard-hit Victoria, where it could be months before they can even think about restarting the process of large construction work.
The Morrison government will no doubt defend the lack of infrastructure spending by saying it is waiting on the outcome of Queensland’s 2032 Olympic bid.
Should Queensland get the green light, it will trigger a raft of nation-building projects that will need Commonwealth fiscal help – from a second M1 to a very fast train between the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane and a massive upgrade of the Bruce Highway. But the timeframe on any start to those projects is at least four years away, and that assumes that we win the bid (now likely to be 2022).
With COVID-19 ripping apart the economy, Queensland is at the fiscal crossroads. Tourism is in a world of pain because of the coronavirus impact and the state’s debt is ballooning out to $100bn.
The COVID-19 crisis is expected to create double-digit unemployment for years to come, and thousands of small businesses are on the brink of closure as the deadline for the end of JobKeeper edges closer in September.
To help get us back on our feet, Queensland needs a healthy dose of federal government infrastructure.
Prime Minister Morrison, then, needs to do the deal and reciprocate the love we showed for him and his government at last year’s election.
There needs to be a rethink on how this Commonwealth infrastructure fund is being divvied up. Maybe swap a few out of NSW for a few here?
Queensland is a make-or-break state for federal elections. The north of the state is particularly sceptical of governments that have ignored its infrastructure needs in office.
And so, now we have called it out, it’s over to you Mr Morrison.