War of words about Bruce tolls

QUEENSLAND Roads Minister Craig Wallace and Queensland Shadow Infrastructure Minister Jeff Seeney have erupted into a war of words.

Mr Seeney, while visiting Gladstone yesterday, hit out at Mr Wallace, who claims a newspaper journalist in North Queensland confirmed reports to parliament that the LNP wants to introduce tolls to the Bruce Highway.

However, Mr Seeney said the claims were untrue and called Mr Wallace a joke.

“I think that’s just absolutely absurd for Craig Wallace to suggest that tolls would be applied to the Bruce Highway,” he said.

“The Bruce Highway is a Federally-funded road. I think Craig Wallace is something of joke. I think his ridiculous press releases indicate why he is not taken seriously by Canberra.

“Queensland has to get the funds from Canberra to fix that road. Canberra doesn’t take Queensland seriously because Craig Wallace is the minister, and while Craig Wallace carries on with that sort of stupidity, Canberra is never going to take Queensland seriously. Queensland is going to continue to be beaten by New South Wales and Victoria in that competition for road funding.

“Craig Wallace is the problem when it comes to the Bruce Highway. He’s a minister who doesn’t take his job seriously. He’s a minister who comes out with all sorts of absurdities but no real solutions for that problem.”

Mr Wallace, on Friday, through press releases, claimed the LNP would charge motorists $457 to drive to Mackay and $380 to travel to Gympie under a plan by Campbell Newman to toll the Bruce Highway.

Mr Wallace said trucks would pay $1329 and $1105 respectively for the same trips, while a trip by car to Brisbane would cost $612 for a car and $1780 for a truck.

“Campbell Newman is a tolls junkie and he is looking longingly at tolling the Bruce,” Mr Wallace said.

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan has entered the war of words today, saying it was a ridiculous idea by the LNP and Campbell Newman which would hurt local families under cost of living pressures.

“If the neglect of Central Queensland’s roads by the Howard Government for twelve long years wasn’t bad enough, then this just takes the cake,” Mr Swan said.

“I think it shows how city-centric the LNP are and how out of touch they are with regional Queensland.

“The Gillard Labor Government is investing $2.8 billion in the Bruce Highway over six years. Compare that to the $1.2 billion the Howard Government put in during their entire time in office.”

Mr Seeney said wherever you go in Queensland, it’s the Bruce Highway that’s the issue. “The extent of traffic, the degree to which that volume of traffic makes the road unsafe is obvious to anybody that drives on it,” he said.

“No where more so than the Calliope Crossroads.

“You see the line up of cars at the Calliope Crossroads every morning in the peak period, and in the afternoon too, where the traffic intercepts at right angles without any control mechanisms.

“The need for a fly-over there should have well and truly established in the minds of the people planning for this activity.”

Mr Seeney said even if they start building the overpass today, it would take a long time to build.

“Yet we see all that heavy pipe landed here at harbour all being transported west, all intermixed with the traffic volume building up over a period of time and it’s becoming a major problem.”

In response to Main Roads’ recent decision to decrease traffic speeds along the highway, approaching the Crossroads to 60 kilometres an hour, Mr Seeney said this was the department’s solution to every road problem.

“The fact that they reduce the speed limit is a clear indication that they fail to ensure that the road infrastructure can cope,” he said.

“Slowing everybody down is an admission of failure. It’s not a long term solution and it’s not a solution you would expect if things were planned for properly and within an appropriate time frame.”