Monday, 22 February 2010
Maranoa Electorate: Roads
I rise tonight to express my great disappointment with this Labor government—specifically the attitude of the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Mr Albanese, towards the very important Warrego Highway in my electorate. Last week I was reading Queensland Country Life, which is a very popular paper in my electorate of Maranoa, and to my great dismay I read an article that says that this Labor minister does not deem the Warrego Highway in Southern Queensland to be of any importance to Labor’s so-called nation building. Despite my frequent correspondence with this Labor government, my submission to Infrastructure Australia, my frequent calls for an urgent upgrade—both in this chamber and in person to the minister—and my tabling of a petition with more than 5,000 signatures calling for a vital upgrade, the people of Maranoa will have to wait at least four years for this road to even make it onto this Rudd Labor government’s notepad.
This is a Labor Party that, when it came to government, inherited a $20 billion surplus. There was no net debt, and Prime Minister Rudd had $20 billion in his piggy bank. Then we saw him throwing it around as if it was just Monopoly money, and now this Labor government finds itself with projected net debt that will peak at some $153 billion by 2014. What infuriates me most is that the net interest bill on Labor’s $153 billion debt will reach $9 billion per year by 2015. Nine billion dollars in interest payments could pay for a full upgrade of the Warrego Highway almost 20 times over. Just one month’s interest payment on the debt that this government has created could fund a full upgrade to this vital transport link. Just one month’s interest payment by 2015 would fund a full upgrade of the Warrego Highway.
This Labor transport minister claims the Warrego Highway is not a priority in terms of freight, traffic volumes and safety concerns, yet this highway was ranked fourth in the 20 worst state roads and AusLink network national highways for 2005 and 2008. The Howard government recognised its need for constant upgrade and maintenance. We recognised that it was a vital link in the transport systems between Darwin and Brisbane. In our 11 years of government, I secured funding for the construction of the Oakey bypass, the realignment of the highway west of Dalby to avoid flood-prone areas of the highway, the upgrade of the Cecil Plains turn-off, the upgrade of the highway between Dalby and Bowenville and the widening of the highway between Morven and Mitchell to allow access for type 2 road trains right through to Mitchell. During the 2007 election campaign, we committed some $128 million for an upgrade between Oakey and Mitchell. These works would have started by mid-2008, almost two years ago. Now this Rudd Labor government has committed $55 million as an election commitment, and these works have only just begun. I think the first $5 million is due to be approved for work construction within the next month.
Last year the Rudd government increased the road user charge for trucks. This was in cooperation with the trucking industry, with the expectation that the money generated from the increase would fund rest stops across the nation. Despite the Warrego Highway being the only main road in and out of Roma, which is home to the largest cattle saleyards in the Southern Hemisphere, this city-centric government has not constructed any of these rest stops on the more-than-800-kilometre stretch between Brisbane and Charleville along the Warrego Highway.
The fledgling development of the Surat coal basin, the slow death of Queensland Rail’s grain and cattle trains and the drought’s impact on the cattle industry has seen the volume of heavy traffic on the Warrego Highway increase rapidly and radically over the last few years, but this traffic highway is only going to get worse. The opening of the Cooper Basin, the growth of resources exploitation in the Galilee Basin and the Surat Basin and the increase in tourists to rural Queensland will only serve to make this highway busier and ultimately more dangerous. It cannot go four years without attention from the minister. More people will die unless this Labor government acts to address the safety concerns and the upgrade of the Warrego Highway.