Townsville Press Conference
20 April 2017
Subject: Announcement of funding for the Northern Australia Roads Program
Darren Chester: It is great to be here with the State Government representatives and also members of local councils, and I'm very pleased to be announcing the Federal Government's commitment of $76 million for four projects under the Northern Australia Roads Program. Now, obviously this is an exciting program, and one we have been working very closely with the Queensland Government on delivering. These are the first four of many projects that will be rolled out across Queensland. Obviously, projects like this change people's lives and they save people's lives. It changes lives by reducing congestion, improving productivity, but also in terms of saving lives, it improves the safety of the road environment and reduces the amount of road trauma in our regional areas. So, very pleased to be here and it is a great announcement and one that I'm proud to be working in partnership with our Queensland colleagues on and also the local councils.
Curtis Pitt: Okay, it is fantastic to hear the news that we have the Northern Australia Roads Program funding coming through. It is no secret the State Government has to work very closely with the Federal Government to deliver safer roads and a National Highway Network is absolutely critical to that, both in terms of people movement and freight movement. Of course, we have been ready, willing, and able for many months to see these announcements come through. We have had our 20 per cent share on the table, so it really is pleasing to finally see this money coming through from the Commonwealth. We are very keen to continue working with our federal colleagues to ensure that this program is one that actually benefits Northern Australia.
Of course, there are local specific issues, and I have no doubt that Coralee O'Rourke, as Member for Mundingburra, will actually speak to those. But can I say that the partnership that the State Government has with the Federal Government in delivering our road network in Queensland is a critical juncture. We need to continue to work solidly with them. You'll note that the recent unemployment figures that have come out in Townsville have showed a 0.3 per cent drop this month. As many projects as possible that are either supporting jobs or creating new jobs is what we need to see in this region. So, of course, this region and the surrounds will benefit from these road projects and we are very keen to see them getting underway.
Warren Devlin: Warren Devlin, the Mayor of the Etheridge Shire and just want to commend both the State and Federal Government in committing money to the Northern Australia Road Network. It really does mean a lot. It actually connects the vital irrigation and agriculture areas of the north to the markets in the south, and it actually means a lot to our local government areas as well, bringing in employment to our region. Again, the State and Federal Government are to be commended for their commitment to Northern Australia.
Coralee O'Rourke: Look, it is great to be here today to hear that these projects will start this year. It is very important to understand that roads are a really significant part of our state. We have a significant network and it is very important to see that these projects go ahead. It is part of our Advancing North Queensland policy and plan for making sure that connections stay open in North Queensland, that we open up opportunities and economic growth, but more importantly, particularly here in Townsville and in the regional areas, it's great to see these projects go ahead because what it means for us on the ground and our local people is jobs on the ground. Great to hear today that the unemployment rate is moving in the right direction and more projects like this is going to see that go even further down.
Question: Can you tell us a bit about which roads, that sort of thing, and what the issues have been?
Darren Chester: The four projects we are dealing with are on the Flinders Highway and the Hann Highway. It is about improving the safety environment, providing opportunities for sealing of the roadway, widening of the roadway. In some sections it is about greater resilience in terms of flooding events and culvert replacements for the longer term. So, it's all about improving the road network to ensure that particularly the heavy vehicle sector can move more freely through the region, getting products to market, but also from a safety perspective, making sure the tourism market but also locals travelling can be undertaken as safe as it possibly can.
These are long-awaited projects, they are ones that we are very pleased we are working with the Queensland Government on, and there is more to come.