QLD BUDGET 08/09: Opposition hits out at infrastructure spending and fuel subsidy

By: Jason Whittaker

Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg has used his Budget reply to criticise the Government’s investment in infrastructure as well as its

Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg has used his Budget reply to criticise the Government’s investment in infrastructure as well as its move to alter the State’s fuel subsidy scheme.

Springborg highlighted cost blow outs to argue the Government is unable to manage their roads budget. He says the State has been forced to foot an extra $500 million in costs after work on the Centenary Highway increased by 43 percent; the cost of the Ipswich Motorway blew out by 119 percent; the Cunningham Highway by 44 percent; the Charters Towers-Hughenden road upgrade by 41 percent and the Forgan Bridge near Mackay by 80 percent.

"This Government cannot manage, cannot cost and cannot build to a budget," Springborg says.

Despite the Bligh Government claiming it is investing record amounts in infrastructure, the Opposition claims investment in real dollars has actually fallen, adding the Government has constantly neglected the state of the Bruce Highway.

Springborg also criticised the recently-opened Tugun Bypass, questioning why the Government celebrated its efforts when it took it ten years to build it.

In order to address these faults, the Opposition, Springborg says, will use Main Roads departmental advice to work towards contributing 20 percent to national highways funding. According to Springborg, this will fast-track federal funding and allow key works to proceed.

Its failure to adequately invest in infrastructure is coupled by its approach to the State’s fuel subsidy scheme, which currently ensures Queensland fuel is 8.3 cents a litre cheaper than other states.

Premier Anna Bligh is looking at overhauling the scheme so fuel retailers charge full price and then deduct the 8.3 cents off the total by way of scanning a barcode on the driver’s licence of the person when they pay.

Springborg says this will equate to "a total administrative melt-down" because it will be costly to administer and hurt interstate trucking companies because they will not be able to access cheaper fuel prices.

As a consequence, Springborg says the cost of everyday goods will rise because trucking companies will pass on the increased cost of fuel in the form of goods they deliver, whether they be groceries or clothing items.

He says the Opposition will not support the scheme because of its potential to adversely impact on Queensland businesses and consumers.

"On our side we see the need for a simple fuel tax rebate scheme to demonstrate Queensland’s low tax status, to help downward pressure on inflation and fuel and grocery prices," Springborg says.

Part of this will involve the Coalition’s proposed "five key policy areas" which will be the focus of the party in the lead-up to the next election.

This includes climate change, looking at renewable energies, health and social policies, sustainable development and ensuring the State is prepared to cope after the resources boom ends.

As part of these five policy areas, the Coalition says it will commit to using $1 billion to fund roads, schools and hospitals.

"It is time Queensland was led by a government which does more than flip flop from one crisis to the next," Springborg says.

During his Budget reply speech, Springborg also hit out at the Government’s increasing levels of debt, which will be $65 billion in the 2011-12 financial year.

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