Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Groom Electorate: Toowoomba Second Range Crossing
I rise tonight to speak on a topic that is very dear to my heart and it is the culmination of a campaign I began when I was first elected to this House in 1998. Next Monday we will see the sod-turning for the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, a road that has been long awaited by the residents of Toowoomba and the Darling Downs and a road which would only ever have been built by a coalition government. I am sure the member for Grayndler will rise at some point in the future, if not tomorrow, to try to claim some credit for this road. The reality is that, when the Howard government lost government in 2007, having promised to build the second range crossing, it was the Labor Party under Kevin Rudd and then under Julia Gillard that took that money away and spent it in other areas. Monday is a hugely significant day for the residents of Toowoomba and the Darling Downs. It will see the commencement of work on the construction of a 42-kilometre road that will literally snake its way up the Murphys Creek valley across the top of the range and then out onto the inner part of not only the arterial roads that lead to Mount Isa and all points west of that, including Darwin, but also the arterial road that runs through New South Wales to Melbourne.
This road will be a massive engineering feat—a road that will cost around $1.7 billion; a road stretching from below the range to join the Gore Highway, after a distance of 42 kilometres, with huge viaducts spanning valleys and cutting through mountains; a road that will allow transport into the inland. This road will not only open up the economic development of the rich areas of the Darling Downs but also provide a vital and safe pathway that does not traverse through Toowoomba and that carries freight all the way from Brisbane to Melbourne.
I said that the residents of Toowoomba have waited a long time for this road—and they have; some would argue, 30 years. Certainly in the 17 years that I have been the member for Groom, it has been an issue very close to the front of their minds. Toowoomba is literally cut in half by a highway that, as I said, economically joins one capital city to two others and services regional and provincial cities to the west. The construction of the Toowoomba range crossing will see the end of the endless trail of trucks that literally cut through the centre of Toowoomba and traverse the main street of Toowoomba, as they go about the necessary duty of carrying freight goods and produce. Of course, Toowoomba is one of the few towns where you can see cattle in the main street every day of the week, because every day of the week a cattle truck will roll through Ruthven Street on its way down James Street, taking cattle to the abattoirs in the Brisbane area.
I said that this road would not have been constructed were it not for a coalition government. That is an unassailable fact. At this point, I would like to pay tribute to a few people who were instrumental in its happening. Firstly, the Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, who made a commitment to me in 2007, who carried that commitment through opposition and into government and who ensured that, when the opportunity came, the road was built. I want to recognise the support of a series of local government officials, including Paul Antonio, the current mayor of the Toowoomba Regional Council, who supported me in my quest to have to this road built. I also want to recognise the commitment that Tony Abbott, the previous Prime Minister and current member for Warringah, made to build this road. I also acknowledge the commitment of Campbell Newman, the former Premier of Queensland. It took two coalition governments—one in Queensland and one federally here in Canberra—to ensure this road was built. So Monday will be the beginning of the end of a campaign which, as I said, has lasted 17 years. For me, it is going to see something that I, at times, wondered would ever happen but was always committed to achieving. The construction of the Toowoomba range crossing will bring an end to trucks in the centre of Toowoomba and signal a new phase in the economic growth of Toowoomba and the Darling Downs.