State Transport Minister Mark Bailey.
State Transport Minister Mark Bailey.

‘Unfunded fantasy’: War erupts over four-lane promise

THE State Opposition's $33 billion dollar promise to build a four-lane Bruce Highway has been labelled an "unfunded fantasy" by Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey.

Mr Bailey questioned where the funding would come from, asking what would be cut or sold to deliver on the "massive election promises" being made by the LNP.

But LNP leader Deb Frecklington said under her watch, there would be a four-lane bypass.

"The LNP's plan will include a four-lane Tiaro bypass and we will consult with the local community about the best route," she said.

"Thanks to Labor, Wide Bay has the worst unemployment rate in all of Queensland, with 14,000 people desperately looking for work."

Ms Frecklington said if the LNP was elected on October 31, it would work with the Federal Government to secure an 80:20 federal-state funding arrangement to meet the $33bn cost of the 15-year project.

But Mr Bailey pointed out the Federal Government had already provided funding for the two-lane bypass of Tiaro and would not consider increasing the funding for four-lanes, even at the urging of Nationals party member Llew O'Brien, who has been a strong advocate for a four-lane bypass.

"The Bruce Highway is too important for Deb Frecklington and the LNP to be making empty promises and playing politics weeks before an election," Mr Bailey said.

"The Palaszczuk Government is delivering $12.6 billion in Bruce Highway upgrades with 39 projects underway right now including the $1 billion Gympie Bypass, with another 61 fully funded projects in the pipeline with an 80:20 partnership with the Federal Government.

"We have bulldozers and new hot bitumen being laid up and down the Bruce Highway.

"We've brought together leaders of Queensland's peak transport and industry bodies to establish the Bruce Highway Trust to take the politics out of the Bruce.

"Llew O'Brien has been unable to get federal funding from his own Canberra colleagues for Bruce Highway upgrades, and here's Deb Frecklington with an announcement that has zero dollars from Canberra.

"As part of the Bruce Highway Trust, we locked in our part of $1 billion every year for Bruce Highway upgrades."

Under Ms Frecklington's plans, the four-lane upgrade of the highway would be carried out over the next 15 years.

"The LNP's plan will deliver a safer, stronger and more efficient Bruce Highway for everyone in the Wide Bay region," Ms Frecklington said.

"The LNP will ensure that Wide Bay construction contracts go to Wide Bay businesses to create new jobs for locals.

"Our plan will create construction jobs, but will also boost productivity and help Wide Bay businesses to grow - creating further jobs for this region.

"Right now, the Wide Bay economy depends on a two-lane road that can be closed for hours at a time by crashes or accidents.

Mr Bailey said the LNP's plan was "unrealistic".

"The Australian and NSW governments have been jointly funding the Pacific Highway duplication to provide a four lane divided road from Hexham to Queensland.

"They made that commitment in 1996," he said.

"That highway is 657km long - less than half the length of the Bruce and it hasn't been finished 24 years after the project started.

"Deb Frecklington wants you to believe she can do double the length in half the time at a fraction of the cost with no funding."