Media Release (16/11/2023) - Federal Government slowing Queensland Road Investment

The announcement by Hon. Catherine King, Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Regional Development to stall promised funding for the Inland Freight Route (IFR) is a major setback for Queensland productivity. 

The commitment to a purposeful high productivity freight network will not be realised as the promised funding has now been referred for further business case analysis. Has the new Melbourne Suburban Rail Link been subject to any business case analysis? Queenslanders know how they are being treated. This will significantly impact the progression of this key freight route in Queensland and leave Queensland with a flood-prone single National highway.  

Queensland will have no viable alternative to the Bruce Highway, which is known to be vulnerable to a raft of road safety, flooding, capacity and congestion issues.  

Road freight is critical to the Queensland economy serving as the backbone of supply chains. The road freight industry’s importance will only increase as the domestic freight task is forecast to grow by 26 per cent by 2026, a percentage increase above both population and economic growth. Furthermore, since the announcement of the 2032 Brisbane Paralympic and Olympic Games, the importance of securing the future of freight supply chains in Queensland is without question. 

Queensland has one of the fastest growing container ports in Australia, with the Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd (PBPL) handling product worth around $50 billion each year.  PBPL handles over 95 percent of Queensland’s import and export containers and 50% of Queensland’s agricultural exports and most of Queensland’s meat exports. 

Currently the South Burnett, Central Highlands, Atherton Tablelands, Gladstone and Mackay Port regions that supply these major export markets, cannot be accessed with the safest high productivity vehicle combinations due to infrastructure requiring urgent upgrades. The IFR is critical to unlocking access for high productivity vehicles to enable the delivery of larger volumes of freight and reduce truck traffic on our roads in the order of 25%. 

Mr Gary Mahon, Chief Executive Officer, Queensland Trucking Association states “The impact of this decision will severely constrain productivity in Queensland as an energetic, innovative, and competitive road freight industry that is crucial to the prosperity and growth of our State. It stimulates employment opportunities and drives economic growth, a fact that has been clearly overlooked by Minister King.” 

“Minister King has extinguished the opportunity to reduce road freight costs for the benefit of our economy and international competitiveness. These road investments are urgently needed to boost the supply side of the economy to improve productivity and raise living standards and curtail rising costs of living.” 

“The practical impacts for our economy of not investing in road infrastructure represents higher costs of doing business, higher cost of living, decreased efficiency and productivity and delayed business expansion activities and a reduction in liveability of our regions and in turn, their workforces.” Mr Mahon said. 

Interestingly, as recently as September this year, Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Minister Richard Marles announced the Garrison City of Townsville as Australia’s new Army capital and the location of Australia’s only combat armoured brigade.  

Mr Mahon said, “The reductions and delays in funding for critical new road investments will now limit the country’s primary combat force to only being able to access the rest of the country via the most flood prone highway in Australia, the Bruce Highway.” 

The investment in the Inland Freight Route would have provided Queensland with an all-weather freight route which is much needed, as the Bruce Highway can be cut in more than 40 places at any one time during a flood event. 

Minister King has also overlooked the critical benefits infrastructure investment would yield for Northern Australia including enabling forecast growth in the agriculture and resource sector, value-adding to regional production and distribution and reducing the carbon footprint through increased capacity for high productivity vehicles. 

This announcement does leave one wondering if the Australian Government still support the benefits of increasing the economic performance of Northern Australia.