Federal Budget 2016: No asset sales — so billions go south

May 3, 2016 12:24pm
CM_Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk pictured here during May Day march in the outback of Barcaldine in Queensland this morning 2/5/2016. Pictures: Jack Tran

TREASURER Curtis Pitt has warned Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull he could be punished at the ballot box if he doesn’t deliver for Queensland through tonight’s Budget.

Mr Pitt has called on the Commonwealth to stump up cash for infrastructure projects like Cross River Rail and the Townsville stadium.

He has also again called for the state to be given access to $1 billion from the Commonwealth’s asset recycling fund without having to be “blackmailed” into selling assets first.

“Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison will have a very clear opportunity to tell Queenslanders and the rest of Australia whose side they are on.

“Are they on the side of corporate tax cuts and addressing bracket creep or are they on the side of addressing health and education cuts.”

“This is a real test for Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.”

Mr Pitt said it was hoped the Budget would bring good news for regional Queensland through the Northern Australia Infrastructure facility.

“We are obviously very keen to see there is going to be some action there. That’s a $5 billion concessional loan fund.”

He repeated Ms Palaszczuk’s call for the $200 million promised for the Ipswich Motorway upgrade to come with no strings attached.

Curtis Pitt: “This is a real test for Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.” Picture: Steve Pohlner

EARLIER: Queensland has missed out on billions in rail and road funding that will go to NSW and Victoria in today’s federal Budget because the state will not privatise assets.

But other major projects including for Brisbane’s Cross River Rail are being planned and are set to be announced before the July 2 election.

Treasurer Scott Morrison will dip into a $5 billion “asset recycling” program to hand $2.19 billion to NSW and $2.4 billion to Victoria.

BONANZA: How assets sales could create jobs boom

The program set up by Mr Morrison’s predecessor Joe Hockey offers funds to states that privatise and use the proceeds to pay for new infrastructure.

Queensland has been blocked from access to the scheme because of state Labor’s refusal to sell off assets.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has so far failed to secure changes to the way the infrastructure funds are carved up, arguing the state is missing out on $1 billion it should get if the money was divided up based on population size.

A list of demands from the Queensland government for projects to be funded includes upgrades to the Bruce Highway, the Beerburrum to Nambour rail line, the Mount Isa — Townsville rail corridor, Cunningham Highway, Pacific Motorway — Gateway merge, the Gold Coast light rail State 2 and the Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail corridor.

The state also wants federal funding for Townsville stadium and boosts to roadworks in Rockhampton, Emerald, Townsville, Cairns and Mt Isa should be upgraded as part of a Northern Australia package.

What to expect in the 2016 Budget39760

Malcolm Farr assesses the possibilities of the 2016 Budget

Ms Palaszczuk welcomed the $200 million federal plan to match state funding for the first stage of the Rocklea to Darra upgrade to the Ipswich Motorway, revealed by the Courier Mail yesterday.

But she warned there could be “strings attached” and claimed the federal government could insist the state privatise assets to be eligible.

Federal Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester hit back, accusing the state of delaying the upgrade initially agreed under the former Newman government.

“Instead of getting on with this project, Queensland Labor walked away because it wasn’t prepared to provide its share of funding,” Mr Chester said.

“Premier Palaszczuk then took 12 months to come back with a proposal that removed key elements of the project in order to save $158 million.”

Mr Chester said the federal government would demand more information from the state about when it could roll out the new roadworks.

State Treasurer Curtis Pitt said the state needed a boost to schools and hospitals along with grants to pay for housing in remote indigenous communities and more water funding.

“It’s time for the Turnbull Government to put its money where its mouth is and deliver real funding increases so the Queensland Government can continue to provide the front line services and priority infrastructure projects that Queenslanders deserve,” Mr Pitt said.