Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Grey Electorate: Strzelecki Track
I want to speak today about the Strzelecki Track, around 450 kilometres of outback track connecting Lyndhurst, at the northern tip of the Flinders Ranges, and near the extent of the bitumen road network leading to the Birdsville and Strzelecki Tracks, both of which lead to South-East Queensland. Historically the routes were opened up to service the cattle industry, bringing stock to the railhead on the Ghan railway. In later years both tracks have become popular tourist drives, but the Strz stands alone over the last 50 years because it has been the main service route to supply the Moomba gas fields, one of South Australia's greatest economic assets. While 10 years ago it was thought that the Cooper Basin had passed its half-life, the advent of modern drilling and the ability to exploit 'tight gas' now means it is likely we have not gone much past the 15 per cent point. The best is yet to come.
However, there is one important proviso here: the Strz is as rough as guts, and the 400 km from Lyndhurst to Moomba can take more than 12 hours in a road train. The road inflicts a very heavy and expensive toll on equipment. In recent years the Queensland bitumen road network has continued to push to the west and has reached the border at the most adjacent point to Moomba, near Innamincka. The issue here for South Australia is that although the distance to Brisbane is 400 km further than Adelaide to the south, increasingly freight is taking that path simply because of the condition of the Strzelecki Track. This is an enormous risk to South Australia. Unless the Strz is bituminised, we are likely to lose many of the secondary benefits that should come to our state, not just as a right of access but because it should be the lowest cost access and thus lead to extra production, lower costs and consequently more local gas leading to more competitive electricity and industrial production. That must flow to SA; we cannot let these opportunities pass us by.
The Strzelecki Track is of course a state asset and as such it is essential that the state government be heavily engaged in bringing about this outcome. I have been having ongoing discussions with Santos on this issue, as well as with a private equity group and some of the nation's largest infrastructure contractors. I have a meeting scheduled with the South Australian Premier, Jay Weatherill, in early October and am hoping to raise his interest in the project. I have already had a phone conversation with him. I am really looking to build a partnership between the federal and state governments on this issue. The federal government does not initially have prime responsibility; it is not one of the AusLink road network roads, but I think we need to bring all parties together and bring about the right outcome for South Australia.