24 October 2016
Subject: Beef Roads, Northern Australia, Coal investment
Joint Doorstop with the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon Darren Chester MP, the Member for Gregory, Mr Lachlan Millar MP, and the Member for Capricornia, Ms Michelle Landry MP.
Well, first of all it’s great to be here with Lachlan Millar, the Member for Gregory, and Michelle Landry, my great friend and the Member for Capricornia, and Matt Canavan, Senator for Queensland. It is really fitting to be here to be announcing $300 million worth of important investment in Northern Australia. In particular, we’ve got $100 million for the Beef Roads Programme – it’s great to be here obviously in the beef capital of Australia to make this announcement – but another $200 million for the Northern Australia Roads Programme which is going to see a massive improvement in productivity for the north of Australia.
We recognise as a Government that when you invest in good infrastructure, you can change people’s lives, and you can save people’s lives. This is going to change lives by improving productivity, allowing for product into market more readily, but also save lives by reducing the number of accidents on our regional roads. We know across Australia over the past 12 months there have been 1200 deaths on our roads, and one of the worst areas for deaths on roads is regional Australia. So this investment of $300 million is going to change lives and save lives across Northern Australia, particularly here on Capricornia. So I’d like to invite Michelle to comment on the $20 million that’s going to go into the Rockhampton project which is going to be very significant in terms of the cattle industry.
Thank you. Look, this is fantastic news today, the $20 million going towards the upgrades from the Gracemere to the abattoirs in Rockhampton. This certainly has been very, very difficult for our cattle producers. They’ve had to unhitch the vehicles here at Gracemere and the trip takes about three hours, whereas now they can just keep going on the highway.
It’s also a major safety issue as well. We’ve had lives lost out here with the unhitching of the vehicles, and also with the fact that the cattle are sitting here for hours on end while the vehicles are taking the trailers to the abattoir, having to come back and re-hitch and unhitch and all the rest of it. So very, very pleased that we can work in with the State Government. They’ve put $10 million on the table, we’ve got $20 million on the table. So I think this is extremely important for Rockhampton and our cattle sector, and particularly with the high prices that we’re getting in the cattle sector at the moment. The graziers are very happy about this, and particularly the truck drivers, so this is going to save them time, money, but most importantly it is a huge safety issue that is going to be fixed up with this.
What’s the actual upgrade?
Well, they’ll be going from out here, and they’ll be going over the new bridge, the Neville Hewitt Bridge. I haven’t actually seen what streets it’s going to go up. What will happen now is that these B-Doubles will be allowed through on this access road that they’ve got. So instead of having to unhitch and take the cattle off and make the changes to the vehicles, they will be able to go straight through now. There is issues with the old bridge in going through Rockhampton that the vehicles couldn’t go over that as well, because it is quite old now and they’re just worried about the weight factor as well. So a lot of work has been put into this, and I’m really keen to see the finished plan when it’s all done up by Main Roads.
Yeah, so who’s in charge of it? Does the Federal Government have any say in the plans?
No, the Main Roads Department actually draws the plans up, and so that goes then to the Department of Transport with Queensland and the Federal Department as well. So as I said, I haven’t seen the finished plan as yet, and I’m really keen to see that obviously and get the feedback from the public about the route that it is following. So I’m sure that will be out in the next couple of months. But we’re keen to see this go forward as soon as possible, and they said that there was a possibility that this could be started by next year.
Has there been any consultation at all?
Michelle, maybe I’ll just say some words about Northern Australia if that’s alright. And on the roads, yes there has been a lot of consultation through the State Government. The road upgrades include and partner with our upgrades to the Capricorn Highway that we announced during the election. So that’s a related project to this, and also the upgrades to the Rockhampton Yeppoon Road, which will allow that access through to the meatworks through Rockhampton. So as Michelle said, a major change.
But what I’m also very proud of is the fact that this is part of a broader agenda for Northern Australia. This was all about bringing Northern Australia closer to Asia. We’ve got enormous opportunities in Asia, enormous opportunities now thanks to the Government signing three new free trade agreements. That will help our beef producers, help our beef sector, but we of course need to make it easier for us to get that beef from properties to the dinner plates in Asia and these investments and these roads will help us do that and that means more money for places like Rockhampton, which benefits so much from a strong beef industry.
So it’s fantastic to be announcing these projects in Central Queensland but it’s also just as important the roads we’re doing in the Barkly Tablelands in Western Australia as well because we’re all connected in this industry and so often even cattle that are raised or born in the Northern Territory and Western Australia end up here in Queensland and about 30 per cent of the cost of the final product can often be in transport costs. So this project, these programs are so important to our sector to make it strong and, by implication, making Rockhampton strong as well.
This has been an issue here for quite a while. Why like, why has it taken so long to get this funding?
Well, it’s the first time – I’ve got to give credit to Darren here and the broader government – it’s the first time the Federal Government’s put money aside to beef roads, to roads that are specifically to do with the agricultural sector since the Menzies Government in the fifties and sixties. A lot of these roads – the Burke Developmental Road, the Gregory Developmental Road – were built at that time, built in the sixties and seventies so it’s the money that’s put aside by the Menzies Government and, once again, we as a Federal Government are taking nation building seriously, we are taking our responsibility to grow our nation. A lot of these roads are not federal roads of course, they are not necessarily our usual focus but we believe they’re important for the country because they grow a sector like our beef sector that’s so important and that’s why we’ve got the funds available to do that.
Now, these funds started on 1 July this year, the beef roads funding, and we’re rolling them out on track as we announced last year. Now, Lachlan, if you want to say a few words.
Lachlan Millar, State Member for Gregory.
Yeah, how good is this for [inaudible]
This is fantastic news for Central Queensland, fantastic news for our grazing industry. It’s something I’ve been following for a long time. It is a major wealth artery for our beef industry. We need these roads to be able to be capable of taking the type of decks, you know, six decks and more to be able to get our cattle here to Gracemere or get our cattle towards Mackay or Townsville. I’ve always said that these roads are wealth arteries and if you don’t have these roads in good condition, open and driven on properly, it affects our beef industry, it affects our grain industry, it affects all industries in Western Queensland so I welcome this announcement and it’s about time we got on with the job and started sealing this road.
Can I say one other thing about coal and Adani as well? The Adani and what I’ve seen in The Australian this morning.
Look, yesterday in Brisbane I caught up with the Indian Resources Minister who’s here for a couple of days this week and his unequivocal message to us was that India need coal to electrify their country. They have up to 200 million people still without electricity and they need new power, they need renewable energy, they need gas, but they also need coal, just like every other country that’s used coal to develop their nation and their country.
Of course, India have lots of options to get that coal. They can get it from in Asia, they can get it from South Africa, but here in Australia we have some of the world’s best coal. Here in Central Queensland we have a world-class coal resource and we would be mad not to take that opportunity as a country to provide coal to India, to provide jobs for people here in Central Queensland and that’s why we need to get behind projects like Adani.
Now, over the weekend, we saw that it has been revealed or confirmed, if you like, that international environmental groups are on a campaign against the creation of jobs here in Central Queensland, that they are actively funding groups here in Australia, foreign donations, foreign interests trying to derail jobs being created here in Australia. That’s something we as local politicians should reject, that’s something we should stand up against, and I as the Resources Minister am certainly doing everything we can as a Government to support our coal sector, to support coal mining jobs, and to get projects like Adani going.
How good was it to see Baralaba back up and running again? It’s exciting times.
Look, there’s been great news here in CQ in the last few weeks. Obviously the higher coal prices that we’ve seen and the more than 30 per cent increase in thermal coal, a more than doubling of coking coal; it’s great news for Central Queensland and it shows that there’s a lot more life left in coal. As I’ve said before, coal is not like disco, it’s not dead, there’s plenty of life in it and in the last few weeks we’ve see three mines reopen, which is great news for our region, a great shot in the arm for business confidence here in Central Queensland.