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Thursday, 31 May 2018
Page: 5230


Mr LLEW O'BRIEN (Wide BayDeputy Nationals Whip) (11:56): I really do appreciate the opportunity to speak about some of the key achievements of the 2018 coalition budget for the seat of Wide Bay. I also congratulate the minister, Deputy Prime Minister McCormack, for those achievements, not just in my area but also in all of regional Australia, because he is a champion of regional Australia, as is Minister McVeigh, the minister for regional development. Both are not only from the regions as MPs, but from the regions in terms of life experience and what they've achieved before they came to this place.

To the Deputy Prime Minister, I welcome the coalition government's commitment to fund the Bruce Highway Cooroy to Curra section D project, which was made in this year's budget. This is a project that will save lives by transforming one of the deadliest sections of the National Highway into one of the safest. Section D realigns the highway around Gympie along a new 26-kilometre four-lane divided corridor. This major project enables faster and safer travel between Maryborough and Brisbane, eases traffic congestion through Gympie, keeps this section of highway open in times of flood, improves access to the Cooloola coast, eliminates eight sets of traffic lights for people travelling between Maryborough and Cooroy and ensures the efficient movement of freight. This is a project whose time has well and truly come. Too many lives have been lost along this treacherous stretch of highway.

Minister, I identified the need for funding for construction of section D in my maiden speech, and I've been campaigning hard ever since. In fact, the tragedy that this highway has wreaked upon Wide Bay communities is one of the main reasons I entered politics. I wanted to raise awareness of the need to build safer roads and be part of a team that delivers these vital life-saving projects, which we've done in this year's budget. I congratulate you and the coalition government for listening to the people of Wide Bay, for coming to Gympie to see for yourself how the existing highway has passed its use-by date and for committing federal funding to start and finish the final Cooroy to Curra project. But as the project is being managed by the Queensland Labor government I do have serious concerns. With the exception of their election announcement, I've not seen any firm commitment from the Queensland government that they want to start the project as soon as possible. I welcomed their announcement at the time, but I've not heard anything about when their share of the funding will be available or when they'll negotiate milestones, call tenders and get on with the project. I want construction to start this year, but I've not heard whether the Queensland government share my impatience to get section D started and finished as soon as possible.

Minister, can you please confirm how much funding is available for section D? When can construction start on it? When does the federal government expect it to be completed? While the coalition government is fully committed to the construction of section D, can the minister advise whether there are any threats to the timing of the completion of this project?