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Monday, 23 May 2005
Page: 76

Ms GAMBARO (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (5:03 PM) —Sadly, I find it necessary to speak today on the subject of the complete disregard that the Queensland government shows to the transportation needs of the residents of my electorate of Petrie, particularly those on the long-neglected Redcliffe Peninsula. It is interesting to note that 38 per cent of the residential work force in this area travel to Brisbane daily, to their places of employment. Yet when it comes to issues like bridges and rail links, the Queensland government is more than happy to sacrifice those workers’ needs on the altar of political favouritism. It is unbelievable that the proposed duplication of the most vital road link in my electorate, the Houghton Highway bridge, will now not be completed until Christmas 2009, more than a year after the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. This is despite the fact that in the current financial year alone Queensland is to receive $590 million in GST revenue additional to the amount that was forecast when the deal between the states and the federal government was originally struck. I emphasise: Queensland will receive in excess of half a billion dollars.

This is the same Houghton Highway bridge that one of my constituents, John Cook of the suburb of Kippa-Ring, correctly described in a letter to the editor of the Redcliffe and Bayside Herald in November last year as ‘a death trap with little room for error’. This is not an isolated view. It is one which I know to be shared by the many tens of thousands of drivers who negotiate it on a daily basis and wait with bated breath for the problem to be finally eliminated. Yet the Queensland government would have my constituents believe that it cannot be fixed until Christmas 2009. Presumably, we will all have to stand by the side of the road and wish the Premier ‘Happy Christmas’ as he floats by in the opening procession. All this is against a background of a state government absolutely awash in GST cash. I would also point out that this is in stark contrast to the federal government’s ongoing commitment to better transport by providing $196 million over the next few years to widen the Bruce Highway to six lanes from the Gateway Motorway to Caboolture.

Surely in the interests of road safety, the duplication of the Houghton Highway bridge can be accelerated and moved forward some years so that those poor, long-suffering residents in my electorate can have a decent connection to the Greater Brisbane area. The Queensland government’s plan is to spend about $149 million on this bridge duplication, or about 25 per cent of the additional GST revenue that will literally fall into their laps in this financial year alone. As my colleague the honourable Treasurer said on Brisbane radio earlier this month, the hardest thing that the Queensland Treasurer has to do with the monthly GST bonanza is decide which bank to put it in. At the current rate of GST collection, it could be argued that the total bridge duplication cost will represent a mere five per cent of the unexpected GST windfall by the end of 2009. I am well aware that once plans have been put in place there is some degree of difficulty in change, but in the interests of commonsense I simply implore the Beattie Queensland government to revisit this issue and substantially move forward the funding and construction of the Houghton Highway bridge duplication now that these extra GST funds are available.

I again implore the Queensland government to honour its innumerable pre-election promises to get started on the Brisbane to Redcliffe rail link. This rail link was originally proposed in the century before last and it is high time that it was completed. In fact, it is way past ‘high time’. I am aware that the Beattie Labor government in Queensland continues to say it owns the land corridor necessary for building such a link, but to then say that it needs private investment to make the project a reality is a real slap in the face for the commuters in my electorate, who already face the disadvantage of a road network whose inadequacies I have previously spoken of.

It was interesting to read an article from June 2004 by Dr John Nightingale of the Brisbane Institute in which he argued strongly for the Brisbane to Redcliffe link, comparing it to the recent expansion of the rail line from Beenleigh to the Gold Coast. All the so-called experts said that the Gold Coast line extension would not be profitable but, in Dr. Nightingale’s words, ‘It has proved itself a spectacular success.’

If the Labor government in Queensland are so cashed up from the GST windfall, it seems incomprehensible to me and to the people in my electorate that the Beattie government continue to argue for a seemingly perpetual delay in this much-needed work. It is interesting to hear their federal counterparts argue for substantial increases in so-called infrastructure funding when the hands-on problem is squarely at the feet of the Labor state government. So why can’t they do something about it now, and why is it too hard? How ridiculous it is that the plans for the Brisbane-Redcliffe rail link were first put forward when Breaker Morant was overseas fighting in the Boer War and we are still talking about it in 2005.

According to the Queensland government, they will continue to review it. Thank heaven the Wright brothers did not live at Redcliffe; we would still be waiting for the parts of their ‘flying machine’ to arrive by rail. I am aware that many residents on the Redcliffe Peninsula simply raise their eyes to heaven and laugh every time this issue is raised. However, they laugh, not through lack of interest in the subject but through frustration with the succession of state governments that have let them down so badly on this issue—it has become a political joke. The land for the rail corridor is already there and the demand is already there. The people in my electorate want a state government that is really there for them, a state government that will share with the Commonwealth government the workload of providing a decent, multilayered transport system.

It beggars belief that a rail link in one of the highest growth areas in the state is not of prime concern to the state government in providing proper transport for the residents, to make it possible for them to commute with ease between major centres. I have heard transport experts and environmentalists from many places put forward well-reasoned arguments for the expansion of the rail networks. Yet the Queensland government will not deliver on what they have promised at every election since Federation. It is no wonder that people occasionally view the decisions made in these places with a degree of scepticism.

With the interests of my constituents in mind, I urge Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, to make life better for the tens of thousands of commuters who live on the Redcliffe Peninsula and in the surrounding high-growth suburbs I represent. Now that the Queensland government has all this unexpected GST money—more than half-a-billion dollars extra—I ask them to bring forward the implementation of the duplicate Houghton Highway bridge and start getting serious about the big-picture transportation issues in the electorate of Petrie.