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$250m Qld public servant bonuses could have funded major rail projects

$250m Qld public servant bonuses could have funded major rail projects It’s not only farmers who could have benefited from the $250 million doled out as bonuses to public servants — two important infrastructure projects could have gotten the go-ahead.

A NEW congestion-busting and job-creating rail line could have been built for southeast Queensland with $250 million instead being splashed on public servant bonuses.

As anger builds over the $1250 payments to public servants earning up to $122,000, The Courier-Mail can reveal two rail lines labelled as “priority projects” by Infrastructure Australia could have been funded with the money.

The next stage of Gold Coast light rail and the Sunshine Coast rail duplication are both stalled due to a funding fight between the state and federal governments. But either shovel-ready project could have broken ground for the same amount being doled out to public servants.

Despite state and federal funding commitments, light rail stage 3A from Broadbeach to Burleigh Heads is short by $270 million and the Beerburrum to Nambour line needs $230 million to go ahead. The State Government is arguing the Commonwealth has short-changed the state and needs to tip in the shortfall. It comes as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk defended the taxpayer-funded handouts — which come on top of a “responsible” 2.5 per cent pay boost — after Treasurer Jackie Trad insisting the move was about driving economic growth.

She said the pay rise was in line with other states and the bonuses were factored into the Budget. “Let’s be very clear here, we’re talking about our nurses, our fireys, our teachers,” she said. “Are people saying that the fireys don’t deserve this?” The Government maintains 91.4 per cent of its workforce are in “frontline and frontline support roles”, but there is no list of jobs defined as “frontline support”.

The Courier-Mail revealed this year that of 4391 public servants expected to join the ranks in 2019-20, only 61 per cent are in what the Government lists as key frontline positions – teachers, teacher aids, nurses, health practitioners, doctors, paramedics and police officers. Infrastructure Association of Queensland chief executive Priscilla Radice said building infrastructure was a real economic stimulus.

“As a principle, I would like to see money going into infrastructure more broadly,” she said. “We believe investment in economic-enabling infrastructure stimulates the economy. “It provides jobs … (and) ensures that we can deliver on population growth and it’s population growth that drives economic growth.” “It keeps companies working in Queensland and people in jobs and we have to support private sector jobs.” She said both rail lines were key projects that must go ahead as southeast Queensland was “rail light” and poorly connected, but road networks also needed upgrading.

Public servants earning up to $122,000 will be paid a $1250 bonus. Meanwhile, pensioners joined the chorus of farmers, builders and economists who suggested the money could have been better spent. Australian Pensioners and Superannuants League state secretary Cherith Weis said her members would have preferred to see rego rises capped or utility subsidies increased. “I mean the first I knew about it was when I grabbed the paper on Sunday on the way home from church,” she said. “I think it’s outlandish, I really do.” She said she didn’t see how the money would boost the economy, as claimed. “I can’t see how and I’ve been around for a while and I just can’t see the reasoning,” she said.

Jessica Marszalek & Domanii Cameron, Courier Mail