The Courier-Mail

Queens­land de­serves more from Mor­ri­son

- Politics · Queensland · Scott Morrison · Brisbane · Liberal National Party of Queensland · New South Wales · Sunshine Coast

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.

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