Speech - Bruce Highway Cooroy to Curra upgrade Section D - Federation Chamber
Members in this place will not be surprised that I rise to call for federal funding to be allocated in the 2018 budget to complete the final project of the Bruce Highway Cooroy to Curra upgrade section D.
Road safety is everyone's responsibility, but in Wide Bay it's of the highest priority.
Too many lives are being lost on the section of Bruce Highway which passes through my electorate. It has consistently been rated as one of the deadliest sections along the national highway, and as a former policeman and traffic accident investigator I have dealt with the tragedy wreaked on my community by this road.
Now I'm pleased to report that we are seeing the benefits of the newly completed section C—a four-lane divided highway between Traveston and Woondum. This came in ahead of schedule and under budget, but the Cooroy to Curra job is still only half done. We need to get on with construction of section D, the biggest part of this Bruce Highway upgrade. Its time has well and truly come.
This 26 kilometre section of highway from Woondum to Curra is a completely new road that will skirt around Gympie, eliminating eight sets of traffic lights, two school zones and eight speed limit changes. When completed it will save considerable time, providing a high capacity, high speed highway. Most importantly, long sections of subgrade 100 km/h road to the north will be avoided, and it will be safe.
After the tragedy and horror of deaths and injuries caused by accidents between Cooroy and Curra and a multitude of pleas from the community, the Gympie Times, Fraser Coast Chronicle, WIN and 7 News and road safety experts, the federal and Queensland governments know they need to work together to get this job done. There are no more excuses. The Queensland Government has committed to the project. We have the business case. The detailed design report is about to be released. The federal government has spent $52 million on land acquisition and planning. All that's left now is for the federal government to commit funding, to get construction of this life-saving and nation building piece of infrastructure underway.
This project was first planned by my predecessor, Warren Truss, over a decade ago, and now funding must be allocated to it.
Last year, as transport minister, the member for Gippsland said that section D is the government's top priority on the Bruce Highway.
The new transport minister, Barnaby Joyce, is well aware of the importance of section D. His visit to my electorate last month immediately followed the tragic death of a 21-year-old man from Maryborough on the highway at Chatsworth. As Barnaby described the section, 'One mistake and you're dead.'
The Bruce Highway is Australia's most dangerous highway and is ranked as one of the worst in the world. Each year there is an average of 50 deaths. The RACQ estimated that without future action there will be a further 350 deaths and 5,000 injuries over the next decade.
The coalition government is making important trade deals and opening up new export markets for Australian producers, but we also need a decent freight network to transport the goods to market. Section D will allow industries in South-East Queensland to compete with those in the city, better connecting Bundaberg, Maryborough and Hervey Bay to Brisbane. Section D will improve productivity, labour mobility and the supply chain and eliminate frequent blockages caused by flood.
I made these points to Treasurer Scott Morrison when I met him recently to impress upon him the importance of section D funding. He understands the need for this project and its significance to Wide Bay and the wider community.
Section D is common sense. Once it is completed, fewer families will be shattered by the news that their loved ones are not coming home. If we delay, more people will die. I call on the government to prioritise funding for section D. Every day we wait risks more lives.