13 December 2017
Subjects: Bruce Highway intelligent transport systems announcement.
Darren Chester: Well, it's great to be here with the Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry and Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd, and my friend, the Queensland Senator Matt Canavan and fellow Minister. So we have got an announcement today in relation to the Coalition Government's further commitments for the Bruce Highway. We are determined to build a better, safer Bruce Highway, but we are also investing in a smarter Bruce Highway. The announcement today is for $45 million of Federal Government funding to invest in intelligent transport systems. We are going to see installation of 473 items along the length of the Bruce Highway—473 devices along the length of the Bruce Highway: closed circuit television cameras, monitoring systems which will allow for some real-time monitoring of the Bruce, particularly providing valuable information in terms of natural disasters. The information will allow for safer transport along the Bruce Highway; it will allow for improved productivity, so heavy vehicle operators will know when it's safe to go through after a flood event, and it's important that we provide this information for drivers, for the visitor economy, but also for locals and the heavy vehicle transport sector.
So it is great to be here with Kenny and Michelle, who have been real champions for these investments in the Bruce Highway. We have seen, in total, $6.7 billion invested over 10 years by the Federal Coalition Government, to improve the Bruce Highway, to make the physical improvements—new overtaking lanes, bypasses, rest areas, safety upgrades which are already saving lives—but we're also now seeing an investment in a smart Bruce Highway with this intelligent transport system. I might invite Michelle to say a few words.
Michelle Landry: Look, it is fantastic to have Darren Chester here today to make this announcement about the Bruce Highway, and we saw how well the Yeppen Bridge worked in the last flood. So things like this is only going to help, and it is going to be very helpful with the signage, particularly when there is a major flood in the area. As we saw last time, the lower section of the Yeppen Bridge was actually closed off, and people used the upper levels. So with this signage, as they come down the highway, people will know exactly what is in front of them, so I think that this is wonderful. This is going to go from Brisbane up to Cairns, right along the Bruce Highway, all those dangerous areas. So there will be monitors in place, there will be signage in place, and I think that this is going to be very good for the road's safety, but also this all helps the highway keep open, and as we knew after Cyclone Debbie, and we had the mass of water through here, it kept the city open, so it was very, very pleasing to see, and this is only going to be a win for our area.
Ken'Dowd: Cyclone Debbie sort of proved that our new entrance to Rockhampton over the Yeppen floodplain worked fantastically well. It's a brilliant piece of engineering, and [indistinct] because we had savings on the Yeppen floodplains—John Holland was the contractor, we saved over $8 million dollars, and we want to use that $8 million to improve the safety around this area where we're standing here today. There was a little bit of congestion, a little bit of confusion, but the roadworks worked well. But just on this point of the Rockhampton Upper Dawson Road, there was heavy congestion, of traffic, on this road just to the right of us here. So anyway, that'll all be improved with this new signage plan for this area here.
On the 473 points along the Bruce Highway, if we are going to have 73 in Central Queensland between Michelle's country and my country, that's going to be a godsend. We've already reduced deaths on the Bruce Highway from 50 a couple of years ago to 16 my last count. This will further help reduce the deaths on the road, and safety is the number one concern for us. Thank you.
Question: I guess with the safety side, you mentioned the congestion. Are there any plans to actually fix this issue here, or would that need discussions with the State Government?
Ken'Dowd: Yes, that's all going to be in the plan by Main Roads and the State Government. This area in particular is going to be looked at pretty closely, with proper signage so there is no confusion to the traffic who have got to come from a changed or everyday use to a once in a flood time. So around this area, right where we are now will be changed with signage so people will know exactly what they're to do and how to go about it.
Question: And it's been prompted by the issues that were during the flood?
Ken'Dowd: Yeah, cyclone—that part of Yeppen worked very, very well; this part, there was a bit of congestion, but this is not to do with the Yeppen, it's to do with the local traffic and the way local traffic are handling the flood conditions.
Question: Do you know the cost of what it'll be to upgrade around here? Like, would it be cheaper for the Government to put money into the weir that the council's talking about to keep that open?
Ken'Dowd: Oh, the levee?
Question: Oh, levee. Sorry.
Ken'Dowd: Yeah. Well, we're just talking about the main road, the Bruce Highway, and just about how the people coming in from Gracemere and off the Capricorn Highway from Emerald and Blackwater and all those places. Just to fix up, it is a minimal cost to the Government, to our Government and the State Government, so we just want to correct that the cheapest way, but the best way. We can handle that congestion problem we have got.
Question: Do you think you might have to look at changes in the future though because we were quite lucky the flood happened during the school holidays if we had school traffic as well, do you think that that would've been just too much for Upper Dawson Road to cope with?
Ken'Dowd: Look, the master plan is that Rockhampton gets a bypass road, out past the airport and over the Ring Road.
Question: The Ring Road?
Ken'Dowd: Yes, the Ring Road. So that will be the master plan and that should take care of most of those issues.
Question: How far off?
Ken'Dowd: It's in the planning stage and it shouldn't be that long. It's going to cost a fair bit of money. We're trying to get our plans together right now on how we're going to fund it, but plans are already underway. So shouldn't be that long. We've got to do the stretch between here and Gracemere, that's $70 million, and that's going to upgrade that road and then the Ring Road will be an extension of that.
Question: So is the Federal Government in talks with the State Government then about how we can work on fixing Upper Dawson Road? 30,000 cars; this road's only meant to take 10,000 a day?
Darren Chester: Let's make a couple of points. In terms of just some clarity around the intelligent transport systems. There's $8 million alone going to the Yeppen project. In total, there's another $45 million of Commonwealth money for the rest of the Bruce Highway and $11 million of state money. So Yeppen itself will have $8 million for six closed circuit TVs and six vehicle messaging signs.
But regarding the roadwork or the infrastructure priorities for this part of the state, it's critical we get on and build the things already promised. The Gracemere project, for example, was one that is on the books. Fully funded, ready to go. The Commonwealth agreed to do its share of the heavy lifting on the project. We're waiting on the project proposal report from the State Government. I'd simply say to the State Government now that it's out of caretaker mode, there should be no further delays. Work is meant to start next April on this project. We want to see it get started and have those improvements flowing through the community.
Regarding further priority, we've worked very closely with Ken O'Dowd and Michelle Landry, Matt Canavan who live here on what the future priorities might look like. But as a general comment I'd say the Commonwealth Government is doing its share of heavy lifting when it comes to infrastructure upgrades in this part of the state. I'd be very keen to partner with the State Government on further upgrades, which we know will change people's lives, we know will save people's lives, and it is certainly going to boost productivity in this part of Queensland.
Question: I don't know, Michelle, if you'd like to talk about the flood levee. If we got the flood levee, I guess Gladstone Road would stay open and then we wouldn't have issues with Upper Dawson Road.
Michelle Landry: Well, obviously there has been a lot of talk about the flood levee and there's a lot of controversy still about it and we have made a commitment that we will continue negotiations now we have a new state member here. But we've never received an application for funding. So the ball's really in the council's court with this and the State Government. I mean, they can go on about this as much as they like, but unless we get an application for the funding for the $25 million, we really can't move forward on it. So there's funding available in the Building Better Regions at the moment. That closes very soon. I don't know if council's put an application in for that, but there has been a lot of talk. There has been a lot of political play on this, but we need to have an application put in if they actually want this to go ahead.
Question: Could they be holding off until they get support from the Federal Government?
Michelle Landry: Well, we have talked obviously quite a lot about it. I think that part of this actually needs to be the airport as well, and I know there has been reports—it is only a minority of people—that are against this flood levee well, it's not. A lot of people talk to us. A lot of graziers, people who have spent their life on the land. And I keep on saying my major concern about this, is a massive water event and the water getting stuck in like a dam, particularly if the river is full. There will be three pumps down there, but is that going to be enough? That is my major concern about this, and as far as I'm concerned that still has not been properly answered.
Question: So if that was answered would you support the flood levee?
Michelle Landry: Well, I'd have to have a good look at the whole thing and they have to put an application in for it. As I said, that has not happened as yet, and we're waiting for that to happen.
Question: You didn't see eye-to-eye will Bill Byrne on this issue. With a new state member, are you hoping that negotiations might run a bit smoother?
Michelle Landry: Well, I must say that Barry O'Rourke and Margaret Strelow and myself are catching up next Monday for a cup of coffee and a chat about how things have been perceived in Rockhampton and Central Queensland. Look, I agree that there's been far too much bickering in this area over stupid things. We all need to get on with the job and that's what I'm prepared to do. A fresh start now that we have got a new state member here, and Barry seems like a really nice bloke. So I'm keen to catch up with him next Monday and just talk about how we are going to proceed with all this.
Question: Margaret did speak about the importance—she understands with the flood levee at the airport as well. So are you hoping that may [indistinct] now too?
Michelle Landry: Look, I believe it should do because the airport is the commerce centre of this city, really, and we saw it closed last time when the cars were still coming through. People could get down to Gladstone to fly out, but I think if we want to expand the airport, make it international, improve our defence capabilities in this area, we do have to do something about that airport as well and flood proofing that.
Question: So Douglas Rodgers said at the State debate that he had changed his mind about the flood levee. He hasn't convinced you?
Michelle Landry: Well, Douglas is starting as my media advisor next Monday, so I'm sure we'll have some interesting discussions about it.
Ken'Dowd: I can tell you, the people who lived in my electorate, Flynn, which is Alton Downs and south, they're not in favour.
Question: So how much of an impact do they think it might have?
Ken'Dowd: Well, the people of Flynn don't really know the impact of their area. I'm talking about Alton Downs and south down there, so really they are waiting to see. But even first, until they're told differently, they just see extra jobs, and that's what they're concerned about.
Matt Canavan: You wanted to ask me something?
Question: So yesterday the Premier wrote to the Federal Government emphasising their veto for the Adani loan. You were quite outspoken about this one now.
Matt Canavan: Yeah. I think it's regrettable that the first act of the new Queensland Government is to try and kills jobs in Central Queensland. Their decision to veto the line after supporting it for 18 months can't but be a hurdle for the creation of these jobs in the Carmichael mine. I think the people in central Queensland want to see this happen. It is a great opportunity for us here, especially as we have been selected for two FIFO hubs. Now, the Queensland Government's made that decision. I respect that decision. They're entitled to veto the line over the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility mandate and Act, but now we've just got to work together to try and make sure this project proceeds. I think it is unfortunate how it's evolved. It would have been better for the Queensland Government to have a consistent position on this for the last 18 months so Adani knew what was happening, the Federal Government knew what has happened, and we could all move forward knowing what each other's views were.
But we are where we are. I agree with Michelle, it's time to work together. It's time to work together for the best interests of Central Queensland. We have got so much going on here, including the Carmichael opportunity. I want to get the Rookwood Weir built. Let's just get these things happening. Enough talking, let's start doing. For my part, I'm intending to catch up—hopefully before Christmas—with my ministerial colleagues; Jackie Trad, Cameron Dick, and Anthony Lynham, who have relevance to these areas, and to see what we can do to work together for the best interests of Central Queensland.
Question: If the project falls through, must the Premier be held to account for the lost jobs?
Matt Canavan: Well, look, I think if the project proceeds it will be in spite of the actions of Queensland Labor Government, not because of them now, and if the project does fall over I think the people of regional Queensland will hang that around the necks of the Labor Government. They clearly did a deal with the Greens before the election to try and save their own seats in inner-city Brisbane, and those deals have jeopardised and put at risk thousands of jobs in regional Queensland. I think it's an unfortunate way to approach politics, but the only people who did deals with minor parties in the State election was the Queensland Labor party with the Greens.
Question: Since the Premier's letter, Adani has said they remain committed to Queensland, the project, and will work a way around it. But does that give you confidence?
Matt Canavan: Look, I very much hope they can proceed with the project and I want to see it happen. I'll do everything I can to work hard to bring these jobs to Central Queensland. That's my job, so I'll just keep at it. Obviously though this creates challenges for them. It's not the ideal way to attract millions of dollars of investment to our state. Look, I think we've all got to make our voice heard. I think people like Barry O'Rourke, I know the Mayor has been very strong on it.
We've got to stand up, got to stand up for the region, stand up to those in Brisbane who, I think don't think it is a big issue, when in reality it is our future. It's our future at stake here, getting this project and these opportunities to the Galilee across the line.
Question: In recent days, the mayor of the Isaac Region was concerned about high airfares between Moranbah and Brisbane. How much of a concern is the fares?
Matt Canavan: Yeah, look, it's a big concern. I hear it all the time. It's not just Moranbah, Mt Isa as well. I was speaking with the Mt Isa Mayor last week in Canberra about this issue. Look, it's a tough one because obviously there's a commercial element here and a high cost. The Federal Government already does support many of these routes, supports them being maintained, but I think the ultimate long-term sustainable way to get our airfares down is to get business to the region. The more people that are doing business in Moranbah and the Bowen Basin and hopefully the Galilee Basin in the future, the lower the average cost of providing these services will be and the lower the fares will be. So let's get focussed on these business opportunities, like Rookwood Weir, like the Galilee Basin. They will bring more business to our region, more people to our region, and also help underpin a business case for an international airport here in Rockhampton as well.
Question: And Rockhampton Council have been talking to airlines about trying to get direct flights between Moranbah and Brisbane. They don't have to go via [indistinct] and Rockhampton. Do you support any routes like that?
Matt Canavan: I think it's a fantastic idea. I applaud Neil's enthusiasm and energy on all issues relating to planes. He loves them and that's great. He's a great voice for our region. Look, clearly, with the decision of Adani to make Rockhampton a FIFO hub, this is not just about that one project. It's about creating a platform to make the Rockhampton Airport the gateway to the Bowen and Galilee Basins. I hope this very much gets going, because the services, the workforce we have here in the region will make us an attractive place for many other businesses to base their workforce. So it'll be a great thing for our whole region.