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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 732

Mr SLIPPER (10:09 PM) —There is a very important issue confronting the Sunshine Coast, and that is the need to upgrade the Bruce Highway from Caboolture to the Sunshine Coast to six lanes. The Howard government, following lobbying by me, as the member for Fisher, and other federal members, increased the Bruce Highway to six lanes as far as Caboolture, which removed the worst bottleneck between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. But, given the fact that we are one of the fastest growing areas in Australia, the failure to increase the width of the Bruce Highway to six lanes from Caboolture to the Sunshine Coast is having an effect on the development of the Sunshine Coast and the ability of people to travel to and from the capital and to and from the Sunshine Coast. We need the Bruce Highway to be six lanes the entire way. That would mean that people would be able to travel from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane at a reasonable speed and in a reasonable amount of time. There is a major need to widen the road to six lanes north from Caboolture to make the highway more efficient, safer and better able to do its job as a major transport corridor.

The inefficiencies of the Bruce Highway have been a major problem for many years. Sometimes it takes an hour and a quarter to travel to Brisbane and on other occasions it takes up to three hours. As we are one of the fastest growing areas in the nation, we need the Bruce Highway to be upgraded to three lanes each way, as more and more people need to commute to and from Brisbane each day. Because the Sunshine Coast is one of the most desirable tourist destinations in Australia, many people travel from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast. Eighty per cent of our tourists travel by road from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast. That road is in high demand, and that demand continues to grow. The four lanes we have from Caboolture to the Sunshine Coast clearly are manifestly inadequate to meet the needs of today.

It is now rare for people to travel to or from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane by car and not have to deal with some sort of traffic disruption—whether it be general congestion due to high traffic volumes or a complete gridlock due to an accident. The need is now beyond a joke. It is of vital importance that something be done about this infrastructure, to relieve the frustrating, dangerous and economically damaging delays that now occur on a daily basis. I urge the government to continue to look closely and seriously at upgrading this road. The Bruce Highway is the most important lifeline for road transport from Brisbane north to other parts of Queensland. It is the major link between the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane for thousands of commuters, truckies, tourists and retirees, and it is way overdue for further improvements, particularly the widening north of Caboolture.

The crucial need for work has been dealt another blow due to the decision in late January by the Labor government to cut some $86 million from a planned upgrade of the section of the highway between Caboolture and Caloundra, with funds to be diverted to help with vital flood repairs. I certainly support flood repairs and those flood-affected communities, including the community at Conondale, being assisted by the government. But it really is important to recognise that the upgrading of the Bruce Highway is not an optional, airy-fairy project; it is something that is entirely necessary.

The government’s funding cut of $86 million took $86 million out of a project that was worth $195 million. I think this is completely unnecessary, unwise and retrograde. I believe that the government ought to reconsider this matter because it really is being pennywise and pounds-foolish to deny infrastructure upgrades to the Sunshine Coast which are vital as far the development of this important area is concerned. I have written to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport to highlight further the need to improve the Bruce Highway by increasing the number of lanes from four to six. I ask the government to reconsider the retrograde decision that was recently made to wind back the improvements and I ask them to instead accelerate these improvements. South-East Queensland is rapidly growing and needs the Bruce Highway to be upgraded now. (Time expired)