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The political buck-passing over Brisbane's long-delayed Cross River Rail project has continued after a top Commonwealth bureaucrat laid blame at the feet of the Newman government at a Senate hearing in Canberra on Monday.
It prompted a rebuke from Queensland's Liberal National Party opposition that said, through a spokesman, the project it scrapped in office had "stalled" under Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's leadership.
But Ms Palaszczuk's deputy said the state government planned to have shovels in the ground before the year was out.
Cross River Rail was first announced by then-transport minister Paul Lucas almost a decade ago and has been, in its various incarnations, in planning stages ever since.
On Monday, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development secretary Mike Mrdak came under questioning by Labor Senator Murray Watt during a meeting of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee.
Senator Watt was was a member of the Bligh state government between 2009 and 2012 when he served as the Member for Everton in Brisbane's north.
"I'm right, aren't I, that if the federal government hadn't withdrawn funding that previously existed for public transport infrastructure, Cross River Rail would be well underway by now, rather than still arguing about planning money?" Senator Watt asked Mr Mrdak.
In response, Mr Mrdak said that was not the case when it came to Cross River Rail.
"It's also important to remember that the Newman government cancelled the project and substituted it with a different project," he said, referring to the Newman government's planned Bus and Train Tunnel.
"So, irrespective of the Commonwealth's position leading into the 2013 (federal) election – the government's perspective – the reality is that the Newman government substantially changed the scope.
"The Palaszczuk government has reinstituted a design that is much more similar to the pre-2013 commitment that was made by the former federal (Labor) government.
"So it's not quite accurate, given the changes in scope and project in Queensland, to argue the project has been delayed by Commonwealth funding constraints."
Last year, federal Labor infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese revealed a funding agreement between the Gillard and Newman governments had been reached prior to the 2013 federal election when he was infrastructure minister.
But the plans, which Mr Albanese said were so advanced a joint media release had been drafted, were scrapped for what he said was the "ideological objection that (then-federal opposition leader) Tony Abbott had to public transport".
The LNP spokesman stood firm on the Newman government's decision to scrap the original Cross River Rail project in favour of the so-called BaT Tunnel.
The spokesman said the Bligh Labor government's plan was "an $8 billion unfunded and unaffordable" project.
"The funding offered by federal Labor in 2013 would have seen Queensland's share of GST reduced, meaning Queensland would have been worse off," he said.
"This stingy funding offer was less favourable than terms offered by federal Labor to New South Wales and Victoria. It was a bad deal for Queensland."
The spokesman said the Newman government reviewed Cross River Rail before deciding on its preferred BaT Tunnel public transport solution.
He said the Cross River Rail project had been "hopelessly stalled" under the Palaszczuk government.
"Annastacia Palaszczuk said Cross River Rail was shovel-ready in 2013, yet after two years as Premier the project hasn't progressed, isn't funded and doesn't even have the necessary state government approvals," he said.
As Mr Mrdak made clear in the Senate hearing, the scope of the Cross River Rail had changed since 2013.
Deputy Premier and Infrastructure Minister Jackie Trad said it was a "major failure by the Newman-Nicholls government" that Cross River Rail was not more advanced.
"They didn't govern in the interests of Queenslanders, they only cared about themselves," she said.
"All levels of government agree Cross River Rail must happen and the fact is it would have been well under way if it wasn't for the LNP's petty political games, spearheaded by (then-premier Campbell) Newman, (Opposition Leader Tim) Nicholls and (then-transport minister Scott) Emerson.
"They tore up the 50-50 funding deal for Cross River Rail in 2013 in a bid to get in bed with then-opposition leader Tony Abbott.
"Things are different now. Under Annastacia Palaszczuk's leadership, we've been focused on getting this project back on track and we are determined to get shovels in the ground this year."
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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