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- AUSLINK (NATIONAL LAND TRANSPORT) AMENDMENT BILL 2008
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Ms LIVERMORE (4:30 PM) —It is good to have the opportunity to continue my contribution on the AusLink (National Land Transport) Amendment Bill 2008. As I said in my opening comments last week, it is great under this government to be able to talk about the infrastructure planning and the infrastructure investment that this country has been crying out for for so long. I will mention a couple of the projects that are already underway in my electorate as a result of the commitments that Labor made under AusLink during the election campaign. AusLink funding does not actually commence until 2009, but on the strength of the funding that will flow next year some work is already happening, thanks to the Queensland government, and planning is underway for other work.
The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Anthony Albanese, was in Mackay a couple of weeks ago to see the work that is already happening as a result of one of the major commitments that we made during the election campaign, which is the duplication of the Bruce Highway south of Mackay, going from Bakers Creek up to the southern entrance to Mackay at the city gates. That is going to be very much welcomed by people in my electorate of Capricornia, which now goes right up to just north of the town of Sarina. The people living in that northern section of Capricornia will benefit greatly from the duplication of that highway up into Mackay, which is the major service centre for the town of Sarina and the communities between Sarina and Mackay. There is so much industrial activity happening around the southern outskirts of Mackay in Paget industrial estate, and that road was getting very congested. So my constituents will be very pleased to see that work is well underway on that important piece of roadwork.
Another project that I am aware is already in the fairly advanced planning stages is the work that I committed to delivering, which is a realignment of the southern approach to Sarina, which covers another section of the Bruce Highway. That stretch of road is quite dangerous; sadly, it has been the site of some fatalities in the past. We have committed $10 million to do the work to realign that road and make the thoroughfare through the main street of Sarina much safer.
Staying up in that northern part of the electorate—and this is not AusLink funding but another commitment that the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, made when he was at the Community Cabinet in Mackay—I was very pleased that I was able to organise a meeting between the Prime Minister and representatives of the Road Accident Action Group, which is based in places like Walkerston and Nebo just to the west of Mackay in my electorate. They wanted to see the Prime Minister about the Peak Downs Highway, which runs between Mackay and the mining towns of the Bowen basin—towns like Glenden, Moranbah, Dysart and Middlemount. These are places that are absolutely booming at the moment. The Peak Downs Highway between Mackay and those mining towns is an absolutely vital strategic link. Mackay is where a lot of the heavy engineering and supporting industries are based, it is where the fuel supply is sourced for the mining operations and it is where a lot of the workforce live. So there is an enormous amount of traffic on this road.
The Peak Downs Highway crosses the Eton Range 30 or 40 kilometres west of Mackay and it has a notoriously dangerous stretch of road, so the community have been calling for action on that road for some time now. The Peak Downs Highway is actually a state road, but in recognition of the vital strategic importance that it has for the coal industry and for the growing communities in the Mackay region the Prime Minister listened to the arguments that were made by the representatives from the Road Accident Action Group and committed $1 million, to be matched by the Queensland government, to undertake a major investigation into how to realign the Peak Downs Highway around that stretch of the Eton Range. That is very welcome news, and I know from talking to the Main Roads people in Mackay that that work is already starting. The investigation will be completed in the next 12 to 18 months.
We really need to do something about the crossing of the range, because it has been the site of about 31 truck rollovers in the last two years. That is an amazing figure and underscores the importance of making changes to that road. There have also been two fatalities on that stretch of road in the last year. So I thank the Prime Minister for the time that he gave my constituents at that meeting and the quick response he made in pledging that money to get some work done on realigning that very important road.
In the time that I have left, I want to comment on another issue related to roads, which is that of petrol. There will not be too much driving going on on these new and safer roads without affordable petrol. I want to put on the record that petrol prices in Rockhampton, the main city in the electorate of Capricornia, continue to defy what is happening to petrol prices elsewhere in Queensland. We have seen some significant drops in petrol prices in recent weeks, which are very welcome, in response to movements in the international price, but Rockhampton still routinely and regularly has prices that are 5c, 6c or 7c higher than those in comparable regional centres. For example, last Thursday unleaded petrol was selling in Rockhampton for $1.49 a litre; in Mackay, which is 350 kilometres to the north of us and is a similarly sized city on the Bruce Highway, just like Rockhampton, petrol was selling for $1.42; in Toowoomba, again a provincial city similar in size to Rockhampton, petrol was selling for $1.41; and in Brisbane it was $1.40.
I want to raise that here in the House on behalf of my constituents. We do need to see action on petrol prices, and I am pleased to know that the Rudd government is continuing with its moves in this regard, introducing measures such as formal price monitoring. The government is giving the ACCC the power that it needs to conduct formal monitoring of petrol prices, costs and profits to try and improve transparency, because obviously this is not about what the world oil price is doing. There is an inexplicable discrepancy between the prices in Rockhampton and those in other comparable cities in Queensland. We need to get behind what is happening in the pricing there.
We have also announced the appointment of a petrol commissioner to supervise the new powers of the ACCC. Importantly, the petrol commissioner is going to have powers to scrutinise documents and other information from any participant in the petrol supply chain whenever it is deemed necessary to ensure pricing is consistent with international benchmarks. Again, we are making sure the market mechanisms are in place in Australia, with strong regulations behind them, to stop the discrepancies that we see and that motorists in Rockhampton are suffering from at the moment.
In conclusion, I want to commend this bill to the House. It has two very important measures. One is the extension of the Roads to Recovery program for an additional five years, with additional money committed to that very important program, and also the changes to the definitions of ‘road’ in AusLink which will allow the government—once the opposition stops its blocking tactics in the Senate—to put in place the measures announced in the budget for heavy vehicle productivity and safety initiatives. I look forward to the money rolling out to provide those additional rest stops and parking bays for the truckies who are on our highways and doing a great job keeping the industries going in my electorate of Capricornia.