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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 2030

Mr CHRISTENSEN (DawsonThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (21:15): When my colleagues and I drove the Bruce Highway in July 2012 we set out to cover some 1,700 kilometres of what Queenslanders less than affectionately refer to as 'the goat track'. I am proud to say that I covered every single kilometre of the Bruce Highway from Brisbane to Cairns, accompanied by the now Deputy Prime Minister, by the Parliamentary Secretary at the table here, my friend the member for Gippsland, and by 10 other Liberal-National party federal and state MPs from along the coast, who represent various sections of the Bruce Highway.

My electorate of Dawson has more kilometres of BruceHighway than any other electoratemore than 400 kilometres—so it was particularly important for me tohave with us the now Deputy Prime Minister, who is also theMinister for Infrastructure.

Ou r trip did two important things. I t highlighted the importance of the Bruce Highway to Queenslanders in terms of both economic value and amenity to the community, and i t also ensured that all MPs, state and federal, really understood the problems : where they were , what they were a nd the urgency of each of the fixes. It worked—the Liberal- National g overnment now has a serious plan that is the result of a calm, measured approach and a genuine desire to get the job done.

Our commitment , which we took to the election, provides an additio nal investment of $6.7 billion i n the Bruce Highway. With that investment we will partner with the Queensland g overnment to deliver an $8.5 billion upgrade of the Bruce Highway over the next decade . Together with a $1 billion commitment to the Gateway Motorway we have nearly $10 billion for our major transport arter ies in Queensland. The fact that our commitment dwarfed Labor's half-baked plan and inadequate funding commitment is one of the many reasons Queenslanders bought into our plan. Our plan includes more in dollar terms , but it is also better targeted. We are addressing the most urgent needs because we got off our backsides and did the hard work to find out exactly what wa s needed. Our plan is also backed by a government with the will to do the job and the reputation for getting the best value for taxpayer dollars.

The response in Queensland to our plan and to our trip in July 2012—has been fantastic. People appreciate that the Bruce Highway is being taken seriously for once, and they know they will see real results because we are a government that says what it means and does what it says. There has been a noticeable boost in confidence in business, in industry and in the community generally— since the election , because Queenslanders anticipate real action on axing the carbon tax, getting rid of the mining tax, cutting red tape and , most importantly for us, fixing the Bruce Highway . What i s more exciting for Queenslanders is that the Bruce Highway upgrades could be targeted as a means of stimulating the economy.

While in Townsville recently, the Deputy Prime Minister said he would ' absolutely ' recommend that North Queensland sections of the Bruce Highway be fast-tracked if the government needed to stimulate the economy. It certainly beats investing in over - priced school halls and insulation that burns your house down. The Prime Minister is quoted in the Townsville Bulletin :

"I am encouraging the Queensland Government to advance the design of the projects that we have outlined in this 10-year strategy so we have a capacity to advance them and our economic circumstances," he said.

"If there is a need (to stimulate the economy) there needs to be projects ready to go immediately."

Unlike the sugar hit of throwing out $900 che ques to dead people and overseas backpackers, accelerating upgrades on the Bruce H ighway w ill create employment and boost business in the short term. In the long term, it builds on an asset that increases GDP and boosts revenues.

So the Bruce Highway convoy and the trip we did over those 1,700 kilometres was incredibly effective. It was effective because we consulted with local highway users , stakeholders , c ouncils , t ransport companies , r oad safety groups and i ndustries that rely on the highway . As a result w e know what is needed . We know what is needed first . We hav e a measured, carefully-thought- out plan . We have the funding commitment . We have the commitment of government , a nd now we have the distinct possibility of fast-tracking these Bruce Highway projects. If g oat t rack gets fast-tracked it will be not just Queenslanders who will benefit ; it will be the entire nation.