Regions big winners in $1.6b road-rail spending spree
Regional Queenslanders are set to get home faster and safer under a whopping $1.6 billion budget roads and rail bonanza from the Coast to Cairns, while Brisbane has missed out on the spending spree.
The record spend exceeds last year's $1.3 billion pandemic cash splash and is being spruiked as major employment booster, with 2800 jobs on the line.
There will be cash for the Bruce Highway in central Queensland, light and heavy rail on the Gold Coast, major highways in Cairns and Townsville as well as intersection and rail upgrades at the Sunshine Coast.
No new money is going towards the M1 through Logan and Brisbane this year, after some upgrades and pledges towards a second M1 in last year's budget.
It is no accident that the major cash injection is going into the regions, as the Morrison Government seeks to shore up the support it received outside the southeast at the last election.
It has already pledged to fund 50 per cent of 2032 SEQ Olympic Games critical infrastructure, should Australia win the bid, if it gets an equal say on what goes ahead.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison hailed the infrastructure investment as "creating jobs, boosting investment and securing Australia's COVID recovery".
There will be $400 million go into the Bruce Highway, from Gladstone to Rockhampton and Mackay to Proserpine, to start from early 2023 and go towards floodproofing, safety improvements and reducing congestion.
Another $400 million will go towards the inland freight route from Charters Towers to Mungindi on the NSW border, helping to take truck traffic off the Bruce Highway.
For the Gold Coast and Logan, as well as contributing $126 million to stage 3 of the light rail, there will be $178 million for pre-construction work to upgrade 19km of rail track between Kuraby and Beenleigh, also pegged to start in 2023.
The Cairns Western Arterial Road duplication will receive $240 million to increase its lanes to reduce congestion for the 22,000 vehicles on it each day, with construction to start late next year.
There will be a study into doubling the rail line capacity from Beerburrum to Nambour, as well as $160 million for the Moolooah River interchange upgrade and $10 million for fixing Caboolture-Bribie Road, though construction on the later will not start until 2025.
Townsville will benefit from continued freight corridor upgrades, from Tennant Creek to Townsville and Townsville to Roma, with construction already underway.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said it was a comprehensive infrastructure project for the state.
"Upgrades to the Bruce Highway, local road projects and rail projects on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast will support a significant number of jobs," he said.
"This budget will continue to fund our $110 billion pipeline of infrastructure projects, it's going to continue to invest in new skills programs, including addressing some of the work force shortages in the care work force.
"It will invest in the digital economy, it's going to cut red tape to free up business so they can spend more time doing what they do best - growing, innovating and hiring."
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said investment's like the inland freight route were "generation-defining" projects.
"These initiatives will enhance transport connectivity, underpin economic growth and help Queenslanders get home sooner and safer," he said.
Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick had called for funding for several of the projects on Sunday morning, including the Bruce Highway upgrades, inland rail, Cairns Western Arterial Road and light rail.
"For too long, Scott Morrison has paid lip service to Queensland," Mr Dick said.
"He has said how great our state is, but we just haven't gotten the funding that we deserve."
Opposition treasurer spokesman Jim Chalmers said the economy would be doing better if the government had not made mistakes on the vaccine rollout, or left the budget "riddled with rorts and weighed down by waste".
"Even if the recession wasn't as bad as many economists feared, it doesn't mean that the recovery can't be better," Mr Chalmers told the ABC.
Originally published as Regions big winners in $1.6b road-rail spending spree