Tuesday, 21 August 2018
Capricornia Electorate: Infrastructure
When we are elected by our constituents to serve in this place, we are handed a job to do. We are handed the hopes and responsibility of tens of thousands of good, hardworking people and those of their families. We are sent here to stand up for our people, to deliver for our people, to always keep our people in our minds and to always advocate for policies that benefit our people. I have always fought for the people of Capricornia, and I'm proud of the record of delivery we have achieved by remaining local, by focusing on what our people need. It's this mentality that delivers the projects that Central Queensland needs and it is this mentality that I will continue to implement, to fight for what Central Queenslanders need and deserve.
I have always focused on infrastructure that makes a difference: infrastructure that makes a difference to people; infrastructure that makes a difference to families; and infrastructure that makes a difference to the economy—infrastructure like the Rockhampton Hospital car park, a solution to a major source of frustration in the past for Central Queenslanders. This, along with jobs, was a hot issue for the real people of Rockhampton back in 2016. Families visiting loved ones in care and those who required care themselves were forced to share a tiny, single-level car park, akin to what you may find at a small suburban shopping centre—a gross underresourcing for a major regional base hospital that services a population of 200,000.
I took this issue forward. I took the issue of the need for a new car park for the Rockhampton Hospital to anyone who would listen. I advocated for the needs of my people, and we eventually, during the 2016 election, secured $7 million to help the state government do precisely what they are doing now: building a magnificent three-storey car park to take pressure off suburban streets and make the experience of visiting the hospital, often a stressful and emotional time, just that little bit more pleasant.
While it is nice to be able to make someone's difficult day a bit better, to deliver infrastructure that gives that person a new or better job is even more rewarding. Rookwood Weir has sat on the books of the Queensland government for decades as a promising water infrastructure project. While having it on the books is one thing, to stump up and deliver the funding for it is another thing altogether. Unfortunately, Labor state governments in Queensland are almost allergic to building real job-creating infrastructure. I believe in the project because I know how hard our farmers work and how much our CQ farmers are able to achieve when they get the water they need to thrive. Water infrastructure has had a transformative effect on communities where major investments have been made. I want the same thing for CQ communities like Rockhampton, Gracemere, Yeppoon and Marlborough. These are communities that deserve the benefits of a more-diverse economy. These are communities that will make the most of the jobs and growth delivered by new water infrastructure and the subsequent agriculture boom. Being able to grow macadamias, rice, lucerne and tree crops, to develop feedlots or to irrigate pasture where dryland grazing previously dominated opens up a great deal of investment and job opportunities.
Not only does Rookwood Weir promise to deliver more jobs; it promises to deliver lots of new jobs. This project will create over 2,000 new jobs and over $1 billion worth of extra economic productivity. This is a serious project for the region, and one I have been proud to push every inch of the way. It would appear now that, after a lengthy period of foot dragging, the Queensland government have finally come on board. We look forward to them getting on with building this major project next year after the wet season has ended. All I can say is: it's about time.
To see these projects underway is certainly very rewarding, but rather than make me feel like the job has been done, it keeps me keen to listen to the people of Central Queensland and keep an eye to the future. There are plenty of projects to keep CQ moving forward, especially in the transport sector. Central Queensland is home to the coal and beef capitals and, as such, our road networks have to put up with a lot of heavy traffic. Road trains, B-doubles, cranes and low-loaders are all common combinations met on one's travels around Capricornia. It's certainly not a rare thing to have to leave the road to let a particularly large wide load pass. Massive dump and haul trucks, with wheels and trays removed so that they fit on the trailers that carry them, travel from the service and sales centres of Rockhampton and Mackay in the east to the vast array of coalmines of the bountiful Bowen Basin in the west and back again.
When it's not one of these extreme loads, our roads carry thousands of heads of cattle and millions of tonnes of grain and goods. Our truck drivers keep Australia going, but our trucks certainly place a strain on our road network. That's why we need to continue to deliver safer and stronger roads. It's a job that's never over, but it's a job that is vital to the productivity of Central Queensland. The coalition has devoted great funding to roads already, with over $10 billion committed to Queensland's most important highway—the Bruce Highway. We have seen great improvements and we must continue this process so that Central Queenslanders get to enjoy the same standards as our neighbours.
I have my sights set on a suite of vital road upgrades across the electorate that I know Central Queenslanders need, because they have told me so. The Fitzroy Development Road, which is better known to the locals as the beef road, runs from Dingo in the south to Nebo in the north, covering some 235 kilometres of rather remote cattle country. This road is a vital link for the beef producers of the area. This area represents a large section of the Brigalow scheme of the 1970s, which saw millions of hectares of Brigalow country developed and broken up to create some of the country's most productive tropical cattle land. This makes the so-called beef road a heavily used route for the beef industry, as cattle transport between the properties of the area to the saleyards and abattoirs of Gracemere and Rockhampton. The road also carries significant amounts of grain and services to the mining industries based around Middlemount and Dysart. All this traffic is very good for the economy, but, unfortunately, takes a toll on the road surface.
I visited the beef road recently with local residents and beef producers. James Pisaturo and Tamara Finger raised serious concerns about a range of spots along the road that need urgent attention. Many of these spots don't look terribly bad when you first look at them, but the accidents that continue to occur because of them are dangerous and prove that lives are put at risk every day they go unrepaired. Many trucks have run off the road at different trouble spots, placing at risk not only their loads but also the lives of the drivers and other motorists. This is just one example of why we need to attack this road with the funding it deserves and that the state government denies it. I'm fighting for the beef road and the people who not only call it home but also need it improved so that they can get home safely each day.
At the other end of the road spectrum is the heavy vehicle ring road for Rockhampton. This project means a great deal to Rockhampton. It promises to deliver the much-needed third bridge for Rockhampton, relieving a great deal of the daily traffic pressure from the two existing bridges across the mighty Fitzroy. By providing this third bridge we will open the opportunity to get over 3,000 heavy vehicles out of the heart of the city, making our streets not only easier to navigate but also somewhat safer.
The heavy vehicle ring road promises so much more than just an alternative route for heavy traffic. Something I continue to hear about and continue to prioritise is jobs. The heavy vehicle ring road will deliver jobs in abundance. The last major road project we secured around Rocky was the Yeppen South project, and the employment it created was immense. The ring road is estimated to cost and employ triple the figures of the Yeppen South during construction, as well as help open up our industrial zones in Gracemere and Parkhurst, further driving employment.
We have some of the best tradespeople in Central Queensland. Their handiwork can be enormous and needs an appropriate road network. The heavy vehicle ring road will provide a much more efficient avenue for these products to get to where they are going without needing to be traipsed through the heart of the city. This project really is a win, win. It will provide better and safer roads, more jobs and more opportunities for Central Queensland. I'll keep up my fight for these projects and look forward to discussing them with the relevant ministers.