Press Conference — Bruce Highway QLD

Interview

DCI009/2016

26 October 2016

Subjects: Plans to upgrade the Bruce Highway, rail duplication.

Andrew Wallace: The Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester is here, and my state and federal colleagues; we're here to show the Transport Minister today the $929 million upgrade to the Bruce Highway. It's the first opportunity he's had to see the finished project, although we haven't even started, but the finished plans, and we're also very, very keen to show the Federal Transport Minister that now that we have this project underway that we're now turning our collective attention to south of Caloundra between here and Pine Rivers, and we are calling on the Palaszczuk Labor State Government to fast track the planning study, the $8 million planning study, which according to the Labor State Government is not due to be completed until July 2018. We say that is far too long. We need that planning study done as soon as possible, we can't afford to wait that long.

When we get that planning study done we can ensure that we get proper state and federal allocations of funds to get that work done, and we're also here to talk about rail. This is not just about roads, it's very important for a very growing area such as the Sunshine Coast, we've got Caloundra South and Aura coming on board. An extra 50,000 people will be living south of Caloundra within the next 20 years, and it's vital that we ensure that we not only have upgrades to the Bruce Highway, but we also have the duplication of the rail system from Beerburrum to Nambour.

Now, traditionally rail is not the purview of the Federal Government, but this Federal Government has demonstrated that it is prepared to fund rail projects. It's done it in Melbourne and Sydney and the Gold Coast, and obviously Redcliffe, and I'm here with my state colleagues and Ted to try and impress upon the Minister that the duplication of the railway is a very, very worthy project for federal funds, and when we leave here we'll be off to Landsborough Railway Station to show him that. Later on we'll also be showing the Minister around Aura, and just to give him a better understanding of just how large this project is going to be and how very important it is that we get that extra funding for transport infrastructure on the Sunshine Coast. So I will now throw to Ted.

Ted O'Brien: So without echoing everything that Andrew has said, I'm obviously delighted to have the Minister here today. If you think about it, we've got over $1 billion being spent on the Bruce Highway and local stretches here on the Sunshine Coast, over $1 billion being spent over the next few years on local stretches of the Bruce Highway. Now that's one big bucket of money. That's a lot of change. However, as far as we're concerned it's not enough, and we're here to keep on fighting as a united team of the LNP, and that's why you had the federal and state members of Parliament here today with the Minister on one hand to say thank you very much for the investment, and on the other to say Sir, we've got a few other ideas in mind. Over to you, Minister.

Darren Chester: Well thanks Ted and thanks Andrew, and it's great to have the state team here as well. The Federal Government's investing in the order of a billion dollars because we recognise that these good investments can change people's lives and they can save people's lives. We're going to change lives by reducing congestion, improving productivity, but also reducing road trauma in the community, and that's an important achievement in itself. But I recognise that once you get this work done there's always more to be done. It's a growing part of the state, it's an area where many people want to live, for very good reasons, and the local members of Parliament are working together to come forward with more projects. They'd like to see the State and Federal Governments supporting in the future.

So today's visit is all about understanding more about the future needs of the community, certainly checking up on the projects that are already underway, but also looking towards the future and seeing what are the projects that we need to invest in, what are the pipeline of projects that will actually make a difference to the lives of people on the Sunshine Coast.

Question: Great, so where abouts is the duplication of the rail up to? Where abouts is that?

Darren Chester: Well it's a question for the State Government to come back with a business case and make that application to the Federal Government for funding support. At this stage we wait for the State Government's business case and will assess it at that time. I'm certainly open to suggestion, and the state members and the federal members are obviously very supportive of that. It's not just about having a roads solution for the congestion issues on the Sunshine Coast, it's about having a rail solution as well, and I'm certainly open to a funding solution being put to us by the State Government at some stage next year.

Question: Are you going to check out Aura as well? Is that your first visit there?

Darren Chester: Well part of the visit today is moving throughout the community with Andrew and Ted and looking at a range of issues in their community, so I'm very receptive to seeing what they've got on offer in terms of future pipeline of projects. Obviously the billion dollars worth of investments going to go on in the next three years is going to lift the local communities, going to lift jobs, it's going to deliver long term benefits, but then you always think looking to the future, what is the future infrastructure investment that's going to make a difference in people's lives here on the Sunshine Coast or people travelling further north.

Question: Darren, we've been trying to get the rail duplication here for longer than I can remember. Have we done enough studies? I mean, what's the point of doing another study when I think people universally agree on the need for that duplicated railway?

Darren Chester: Well I think the point is you need to actually have a business case to take to the Commonwealth to prove you're going to get value for money for Australian taxpayers. We're not going to simply roll out cheques to the State Government without seeing the business case, so I'd certainly put it to the State Government and come back to us with the details. Obviously there's a lot of support from the local community. Both state and federal members of Parliament have spoken to me about the proposals. We need to work through the details and see whether there is a business case that stacks up for the Commonwealth to invest in the future.

Andrew Wallace: Just on that, the Premier announced only last week a third feasibility study in relation to the duplication of rail. We say that, you know, enough is enough. Enough feasibility studies, they've done the work previously. I mean, if the Coalition LNP State Government was still in power, this project would be underway. Enough is enough, enough studies; let's get this duplication underway. We don't need a third feasibility study into the duplication of the railway line north of Beerwah.

Question: So you're saying basically just get that business case to the Commonwealth Government?

Andrew Wallace: Let's get on with it.