Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in Mackay. Picture: Melanie Whiting
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in Mackay. Picture: Melanie Whiting

Budget battle: Deputy PM defends spend on Mackay

DEPUTY Prime Minister Michael McCormack has responded to criticism over a lack of regional spend in the Federal Budget during a visit to Mackay today.

Mr McCormack donned hi-vis and a hard hat to take a tour of the $120 million Mackay Northern Access Upgrade, currently under construction.

The deputy leader was also spruiking budget sweeteners for the region, after the financial blueprint was handed down last week.

Major highlights for the region included half a billion dollars for Dawson infrastructure projects, $14 million for local roads in Mackay Whitsunday and being selected as one of 10 areas vying for a slice of $100 million in the Regional Recovery Partnerships fund.

But Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said the budget was missing incentives to entice skilled people to regional Queensland.

“There is still, in my mind, a major focus on capital cities in Australia, a major focus on where all the votes are and I would just like to see a little bit more focus on regional Queensland,” Cr Williamson said.

“Their (federal politicians) job is to talk the budget up, my job is to say we don’t get a fair share of the public purse.

“There’s 1000 jobs in Mackay that we can’t fill.

“The inability to attract health professions here – that is a real issue.”

Progress on the Mackay Northern Access Upgrade. Picture: Melanie Whiting
Progress on the Mackay Northern Access Upgrade. Picture: Melanie Whiting

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Responding to Cr Williamson, Mr McCormack said he should “really have a good, close look” at the budget documents.

“The Mackay mayor should be very, very thankful that (Dawson MP) George Christensen fought on behalf of his region to secure one of those 10 economic partnerships,” the deputy leader said.

“I say to the Mackay mayor, you shouldn’t be too disappointed.

“There’s a lot of money coming into Mackay and there are other cities and towns across Australia which would love to have a representative just like George Christensen and money coming into their area.”

Mr Christensen said a lot of funding in the budget was for grant programs, where councils would have to apply for money.

“Yes, we’d like to see dedicated funding, but we don’t do that as a Federal Government, we have programs … that people have to apply for,” he said.

“So councils, in particular, need to put their best foot forward.”

Mr McCormack met with local workers helping to build the Northern Access upgrade.

It aims to improve the capacity of the Bruce Highway on the approaches to Mackay.

Lanes will be increased from four to six from Ron Camm Bridge to the Mackay-Bucasia Rd turn-off.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Dawson MP George Christensen in Mackay. Picture: Melanie Whiting
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Dawson MP George Christensen in Mackay. Picture: Melanie Whiting

The project includes building new bridge overpasses at Davey St, a new bridge at Janes Creek and local road intersection upgrades.

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Of the 150 jobs created by the upgrade, 70 per cent went to local people.

Multinational Spanish company CBP won the contract for the project, which is scheduled to finish in 2022.

LNP candidate for Mackay Chris Bonanno said the Northern Access Upgrade would provide a “great gateway to our beautiful city” for northern visitors.

“This project is paramount for traffic flow from the Northern Beaches into Mackay,” he said.