PMB – Bruce Highway
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (11:52): I rise to speak in support of the original motion moved by my colleague the member for Herbert, Mr Ewen Jones. The Bruce Highway is the single most important piece of public infrastructure in Queensland and in my electorate of Hinkler. Sadly, it was also the only Australian highway to be named recently as one of the world’s most dangerous highways. The list of the world’s worst roads was compiled by UK based Driving Experience and includes the likes of the trans-Siberian road in Russia, the Nairobi-Nakuru highway in Kenya and the Federal Highway 1 in Mexico. Also on the list is New Zealand’s Skippers Canyon, and anyone who has been to Queenstown will be familiar with Skippers Canyon. It is single-lane dirt and rubble track that winds its way along some of the sheerest cliffs you will ever see. That is what Queensland’s Bruce Highway has been compared to. Covering a stretch of approximately 1,700 kilometres, the Bruce Highway represents less than eight per cent of Australia’s national highways but accounts for the almost a fifth of the country’s road toll. As reported in the Courier-Mail, the RACQ predicts that up to 400 people will lose their lives on the Bruce Highway over the next decade if action is not taken.
That is why I am proud to be part of a government that is investing in a road that was sorely neglected by both state and federal Labor governments. We have committed $2.6 billion more than was promised by Labor. The coalition’s Bruce Highway plan includes 16 existing projects and 45 new projects, bringing the total investment to $6.7 billion over 10 years. The package represents an 80-20 split between the Commonwealth and Queensland state government, putting an end to the unproductive and politically driven disputes between the various levels of government. This includes major upgrades and realignments, flood immunity improvements and strengthening and widening works. It also includes a range of safety measures to target crash black spots and provide additional overtaking areas and rest areas.
In my electorate, locals will share in about $1.1 billion in funding for safety and black-spot funding including those overtaking lanes. Eight million dollars will be spent to plan and acquire land for a heavy-vehicle bypass near Childers. One hundred and three million dollars for the upgrade at Saltwater Creek near Maryborough will also benefit Hinkler constituents, and just last month I turned the first sod on an $8 million federally funded project to upgrade the Bruce Highway at three intersections just south of Childers. More than 6,500 motorists, including many heavy-vehicle operators, use this section of the highway in my electorate every single day. Expected to be finished by the end of the year, the works will cater for those growing traffic volumes, especially during peak periods, by extending the dedicated right-hand turn lane at the Lucketts Road intersection and installing traffic signals at the Goodwood Road intersection. To cater for these new signals, the Butchers Road intersection will also be moved a short distance to the south to ensure that safety is maintained. The original scope of works involved the removal of a right-turn access at the Lucketts Road intersection in accordance with a 2010 coroner’s recommendation. But, after listening to the community, we came up with an upgrade that will maintain all traffic movements at Lucketts Road while still achieving the desired safety outcome.
The Bruce Highway is the major artery connecting Queensland’s coastal communities and the economic centres between Brisbane and Cairns. The North Queensland Roads Alliance estimates that the Bruce Highway contributes $11.5 billion per annum to the Queensland economy, and the highway is routinely cut off due to flooding at up to 33 sites. The 10-year Bruce Highway Action Plan produced by the Queensland government estimated that on average, every year, nine locations along the Bruce Highway are closed for more than 48 hours and six locations are closed for more than five days due to flooding.
If you are in the fresh food industry, 48 hours is a long time to be cut off from your markets. The two major industries in my electorate are horticulture and seafood. With no container port located nearby, refrigerated trucks are their only method of transport. The poor condition of the road is also damaging to the products themselves. Not only must growers battle high input costs like electricity, weather, pests, weeds and diseases, but also, by the time they get their soft produce—strawberries and blueberries—to market, they have also lost some of their profits due to potholes and wash-outs in the road.
While not physically located directly on the Bruce, the two major towns in my electorate are both dependent on the Bruce Highway for access in and out to the north and to the south. Bundaberg and Hervey Bay and all of the smaller communities in Hinkler rely on the Bruce Highway for medical transportation, particularly during emergencies. Tourists flock to the region each year to watch whales and turtles in their natural environment. The condition of the road is causing unnecessary wear and tear on vehicles and caravans, and the busiest shop in Gin Gin, which is in Flynn, is the tyre repair shop—every single week.
Imagine what could be done to improve the Bruce Highway with the $1.5 million per hour we are spending on interest to service Labor’s debt. Queensland and our nation cannot achieve their full economic potential without a safe, reliable and efficient Bruce Highway, so we are delivering on our commitment to upgrade important sections of the Bruce. With any luck, within a decade the Bruce Highway will no longer be referred to by the Australian Automobile Association as one of the most dangerous roads in Australia.