November 15, 2005 | Jeff Wall

Meddlesome backbenchers need to get out of the way

Before John Howard handed out $320 million of taxpayers money for a partial upgrade of the notorious Ipswich Motorway he should have done some homework to what the impact might be.
Had he done so, he would have kept the cheque in his pocket for seldom has such a significant handout attracted almost universal disapproval…even from his political friends and allies.
About the only person who is pleased is the Federal Liberal MP for Blair, Cameron Thompson, who has single-handedly run interference on the total upgrade of one of the most dangerous roads I have ever driven on…and I have driven on mountain “highways” in Papua New Guinea, and “freeways” in Egypt.
And John Howard would have been well advised as part of his homework exercise to have a talk to Rob Borbidge, or even Wayne Goss, distinguished former Premiers of Queensland. Or, better still, he might have really crossed the political divide and had a chat to Molly Robson, the former Labor MP for Springwood.
Had he done so, he would have realised that the “alternate proposal” being pushed by Thompson is fraught with political danger…the same “danger” that just about obliterated the Goss Government in 1995.
And if he had spoken with Rob Borbidge he would have been told in no uncertain terms that the upgrading of an existing motorway is not only more sensible politically, it is the best way to meet a major infrastructure need in the shortest possible time.
One of the best freeways in Australia today is the Gold Coast Motorway. It was started by the Borbidge Government and completed by the Beattie Government in what must have been record time.
And it was achieved by a widening and reconfiguration of the old Gold Coast Highway…the alternative being the Goss Government’s proposed entirely new highway that caused it so much political angst.
This time around, the political boot is on the other foot. It is the State Labor Government that is sensibly proposing a total widening and upgrade of the existing Ipswich Motorway, and a Federal Liberal-National Government that is considering some hair-brained alternative that bears a close resemblance to the “koala highway” that wiped out a group of State Labor MP’s a decade ago.
And the State Liberal and National Opposition is siding with the Beattie Government, as is the Liberal Lord Mayor of Brisbane.
How can it possibly be that one irrelevant Federal backbencher is able to single-handedly derail the much needed upgrade of a dangerous road that has already caused untold tragedy for too may families?
John Howard’s political antenna is one of the best in the business. The arrival of the new Airbus aircraft on Saturday morning must have caused it interference…there is no other possible explanation for a total political blunder.
Most of the Ipswich motorway is in the electorate of the Member for Oxley who has diligently fought for its upgrading.
But there will be a redistribution of Queensland Federal Seats in the coming months, and, given the growth occurring in the Springfield/Forest Lake areas, the Member for Blair might find himself representing significant more of the city of Ipswich, with the Member for Oxley representing the huge growth corridor that has to be seen to be fully appreciated.
If that happens, then the Member for Blair might find his folly leads to the same outcome Molly Robson achieved – political oblivion.
But if the Federal Government persists with this nonsense proposal he won’t be the only victim.
The inevitable consequence of a northern bypass road to supersede or supplement the Ipswich Motorway is a massive spill over of traffic into Brisbane’s western suburbs…and new pressure to build the politically hazardous western ring road.
That will present the Member for Ryan with a massive political headache. And it will be a political godsend for Peter Beattie and be a massive dent in the overconfidence of the State Liberal Party.
All because of one meddlesome backbencher who has inexplicably been allowed to hijack an issue that ought to be determined by a State Government negotiating with a Federal Government on the basis of what is best for motorists, and what is the most fiscally responsible way to achieve that.
And he is someone who should know better, for he was, after all, in the employ of the then Liberal Leader, Joan Sheldon, when she and Rob Borbidge reaped a political harvest from the Goss Government’s 1995 political blunder that bears eerie similarities to today’s events!

Posted by Jeff Wall at 10:10 am | Comments Off on Meddlesome backbenchers need to get out of the way |
Filed under: Australian Politics

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.