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Announcing Infrastructure Projects is Akin to Letting Everyone Know you Went to Work Today

The state election between the major parties, minor parties and independents has become a competition in announcement and re-announcement around of big-ticket construction projects.

The assertive politician in ‘high vis’ bringing forward so-called ‘shovel ready’ projects is a recurring theme touted by policy makers to boost economic activity in the near term while offering the prospect of ‘jobs of the future’ as the long term benefit.

For the incumbent Labor government, the continuation of the Cross-River Rail, Bruce Highway, Pacific and Ipswich motorway upgrades and expansion of Port of Townsville and Gladstone Port are effectively already announced initiatives.

For the opposition, regional projects such as the New Bradfield irrigation scheme and the duplication of the Bruce and Pacific Highways.

While attractive as headlines, the delivery of infrastructure is a core function of state government that in large part coalesces around schools, hospitals, emergency services, roads, dams, bridges and projects that complement need as opposed to media release.

The Courier Mail highlighted a $12 billion infrastructure ‘black hole’ in cuts to capital works spending by the incumbent state government between 2014-15 and 2018-19.

The article rightfully points out how capital works spending in Queensland has substantially lagged New South Wales and Victoria as a proportion of state revenue – in fact by over half in recent years. 

It should therefore be no surprise that economic growth in Queensland during the decade to 2018-19 grew on average by 2.3%, which is under half the average annual rate of 4.7% during the previous decade to 2009-10. 

In building enabling economic infrastructure for Queensland, politicians are not doing taxpayers a favour; rather, they are merely doing their job.

Given the state’s poor performance across employment outcomes, private investment and business confidence prior to the COVID-19 crisis, whichever party holds the keys to the treasury benches after the plebiscite on October 31 must do a better job.

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