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Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Page: 5056

Mr TURNOUR (9:51 AM) —The multi-million-dollar upgrade to the Bruce Highway south of Cairns is now under threat, with the Liberal opposition admitting that, if elected later this year, they will have to cancel projects like this to fund the many road and rail promises they have made elsewhere in the country. The people of the southern suburbs of Cairns have been waiting too long to have this road upgraded to reduce congestion and improve safety. A study, involving extensive consultation, was undertaken 10 years ago to look at this road. All options were considered and the upgrade of the Bruce Highway was considered to be the best option. The Howard government was in power at the time and the then member, Mr Warren Entsch, ignored the study and did very little upgrading of the road during his time in office.

Prior to the last election I secured $150 million in funding to undertake works between Sheehy Road and Ray Jones Drive as the first stage of this upgrade. In the last two years, detailed planning for the project has been underway. Three options were released last year for further consultation. The options outline plans for a multi-use transport corridor including public transport, a cycleway and motor vehicle transport. The Queensland Department of Main Roads undertook extensive consultation and I visited businesses and members of the community who may be impacted. We are releasing the final option in the next month or so. We have boiled the options down to one. I want to see work started on this project later this year. We have a multi-billion-dollar upgrade planned over the next 30 years, but $150 million has been secured in this budget. We know that unemployment in Cairns is too high. It was at 10.4 per cent last month, a drop of two per cent from 12.4 per cent in the previous month. We need projects like this to support jobs. This project will support 400 jobs.

But the Liberal opposition and the LNP candidate do not support this project. In the Weekend Post on 13 February Mr Entsch was reported as saying that the highway upgrade was not the answer to Cairns’s future traffic needs. Mr Entsch had 10 years to upgrade the road or build an alternative access road and now he is looking to deny families and tradies in the southern suburbs of Cairns a decent and safe road. We know that Mr Abbott and the Liberal opposition support the cancellation of this project, because they have said they would reprioritise the Rudd government’s road plans to pay for their own promises. Asked to explain how they would do this, they said that they would reallocate the $10 billion that we have in our Nation Building Program into other things. A spokesman for their shadow finance minister, Mr Robb, said: ‘You would reprioritise. We would obviously consider all the programs as a whole over the coming months. We will release our details.’

This road is desperately needed. There are schools on either side of this highway. There are tradies trying to get around the place. If there is an accident on this road there is a bottleneck for hours. People desperately want this upgrade. The Rudd government is committed to it and I have money in the budget going forward. But the Liberal opposition are opposed to it. Mr Abbott has said he is going to reprioritise this funding. The people of Cairns will have a real choice later this year.