Labor's plan to build a second Bruce Highway has been cast into doubt after the Morrison government said it could only be done if money was "ripped" from other projects.

The Palaszczuk government's $200m commitment yesterday to build an alternative inland route for heavy vehicles was dependent on the federal government tipping in $800m for the project.

But the announcement seemed to catch Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Michael McCormack off guard as he branded it a "thought bubble" and called on Queensland Labor to explain "how and from where it would be funded".

Labor has previously attacked the LNP's centrepiece Bruce Hwy plan - to expand the road to four lanes - as a "hoax" because it also relies on uncommitted money from the federal government.

Construction workers at the Haughton River Bridge construction site on the Bruce Highway, south of Townsville. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited the site while on the election campaign trail. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
Construction workers at the Haughton River Bridge construction site on the Bruce Highway, south of Townsville. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited the site while on the election campaign trail. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

The duelling Bruce Hwy plans add to a lengthening list of promises from each major party that have been targeted at the same policy areas if not virtual copies of each other.

Both sides have offered similar or competing visions for major infrastructure projects, including building a second M1 between Logan and the Gold Coast, installing airconditioning in classrooms, a new Bradfield irrigation scheme, hiring thousands of new teachers and committing to no new taxes or asset sales.

Labor has hounded the LNP over its Bruce "highway hoax", but was left exposed when Mr McCormack poured cold water on the plan for a "second Bruce".

Funding for the national highway is regularly completed under an 80-20 federal-state split, but Labor's plan is effectively an upgrade of a network of inland state highways.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it would upgrade existing roads between Charters Towers in north Queensland and Mungindi in the south of the state, to divert big trucks and freight off the main arterial coastal road.

She also announced $100m in new funding for the existing highway, with just $30m for both projects required to come from Labor's $4bn debt-funded election war-chest.

Roads Minister Mark Bailey said there was a "locked and loaded" principle for an 80-20 split for projects "off the Bruce", but the state has not secured any kind of commitment on that front despite discussions.

"We believe the federal government needs to back this in," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said federal funds for the road were "already allocated to several upgrades and projects" so Labor had to "explain which part of the existing Bruce Hwy it wants to rip money from to fund today's thought bubble".

LNP Leader Deb Frecklington said Labor had been "caught ripping money out of the Bruce Hwy to fund a cobbled-together imitation".

Originally published as Second Bruce roadblock: 'Which part do we rip up to fund it?'



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