MIL-OSI Australia: Transcript – Tiaro Bypass Announcement

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Source: Australian Ministers for Regional Development

LLEW O’BRIEN

This is a very important day in the history of our region today and it’s a part of an ongoing campaign by the local community to ensure that we have safer and economically sound roads for our local area. As everyone knows, I’ve been a strong advocate for road safety with my background in accident investigation and I have been pushing for better roads ever since I landed in Parliament. First and foremost, I should welcome by boss, Michael McCormack, the Deputy Prime Minister, for coming along, because we’ve got a very significant announcement today.

My job as a local member is to ensure that we do have the best infrastructure, the best services, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since I started the campaign with the local community on the Tiaro Bypass. What was proposed for the Tiaro Bypass was flood immunity and a two-lane road, brand new nearly 9-kilometre two-lane road. Now the community and I recognised that as not being in any way adequate for what we really need here in Maryborough, in Wide Bay. And that’s where this push started. So after many discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister, and obviously there’s been engagement with the state who have to this point not supported a four-lane proposal, I’ve had many conversations with the Deputy Prime Minister and today we’re announcing that the Commonwealth will increase its contribution to this project – it’s 80 per cent contribution – from $85 million to a headline head figure of $268 million. So that is a big, substantial increase in this project.

I want to say this, though – this doesn’t mean this road is going to be built. And for all of those people who have fought hard to see this today, we need to keep fighting. We need to keep fighting. Because the Commonwealth does not build roads; we provide funding to assist the state who builds roads. And the state has said to me, the state local member said, “Well, you need to provide the money”. Well, I’m not going to play politics. I’m happy to solve the problems. That’s what I’m here for. I’m putting Maryborough first. I’m putting Tiaro first. Now the Labor state member, Bruce Saunders, says he puts Maryborough first, but he’s fighting for substandard infrastructure. That’s not putting Maryborough first.

Putting Maryborough, Tiaro and the users of the Bruce Highway first is building infrastructure to the same standard that we see around Gympie, on the way into Gympie. So that the Bruce Highway Cooroy to Curra bypass four lanes divided by a physical barrier. That is the infrastructure that Queenslanders deserve. That is what we deserve here. Michael McCormack assisted greatly in the fight to get the billion dollars to ensure that we had world-class infrastructure around Gympie. Michael McCormack has now assisted me in getting the money to ensure that the Commonwealth is chipping in to get world-class life-saving infrastructure in the Maryborough area.

I say to Bruce Saunders: you are the person who can make this happen and you are the person who can kill this off. It is now your responsibility to pay the 20 per cent that’s needed to plan this through the state department and to deliver it as quickly as possible. Because only recently we’ve seen a young lady die just up the road from here near Maryborough in what’s described to me as a fatal head-on accident. I’ve been to many head-on accidents. We need to engineer roads that stop that. And that’s what we’re proposing, that’s what we’re announcing here today as our commitment towards that.

I’d also say to Mark Bailey: Mark, you’ve got a survey asking the people what they want on the Bruce Highway. We’ve had nearly 3,000 local people here, including my council colleagues, get in behind this. We’ve had 3,000 people sign a petition. What more do you need, Mark Bailey? You need to build this road. You need to build this road. There are no more excuses. There are no more excuses from this Labor Government, this state Labor Government. The Coalition Government has committed an extra $180 million to see this happen. That’s how much we care about this local area. That’s how much we’re listening to the constituents of Wide Bay. Bruce Saunders, you’re not putting Maryborough first if you don’t build a four-lane Tiaro Bypass.

So with that, I’ll pass over to Michael McCormack.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, thank you, Llew. $268.6 million. That’s the funding envelope that the Commonwealth will provide this project. Up to $183 million extra dollars for the Tiaro Bypass. They’re big numbers. Big figures. What price do you put on a life? Now Llew O’Brien, the Member for Wide Bay, has been fighting hard for this, and today he has delivered on behalf of the Liberal Nationals Government in Canberra. He cares. He understands better than anyone how important this is. And having been a police officer for many, many years, having investigated many accidents, indeed, turned up and been the first responder at many fatal crashes, he understands better than anyone just how important this funding announcement is today.

We stand ready and committed to deliver the Tiaro Bypass. Seven hundred and fifty-eight people live in Tiaro – that was at least the figure in the 2016 census. Seven hundred and fifty-eight people deserve better. Indeed, 758 people deserve the best. Today the Commonwealth is going to deliver that funding for this important bypass. It’s only about 9 kilometres, but it is going to save lives. It’s going to avoid tragedy. And all too often – all too often – on our regional roads we see the trauma, we see the tragedy and we want to as much as possible avoid that heartache for Australian families. And particularly for regional families, because all too often regional people are over-represented in the road toll statistics.

Llew O’Brien has been such a campaigner for this. And we’ve had, as he said, many, many discussions about this over a number of months, indeed, years. He has been tireless in this advocacy for a better Bruce Highway. Now what we’re going to be seeing from this Commonwealth funding commitment, once the state comes on board as well, is upgrades to the [indistinct] and Wilson roads intersections. We want people, of course, to still come and see the delights of Tiaro, to come and have that hamburger, to come visit the community, to see this wonderful little township. But we also want it for those people who are just going straight through to have the best Bruce that they can possibly have and the safest Bruce to get where they need to be sooner and safer.

And what this will also provide, not only the safety outcomes but, indeed, it will provide the flood immunity. What it will also provide is that logistical freight task, better efficiencies as far as that’s concerned. Because we want trucks and those delivery companies going up and down the Bruce to have better outcomes as far as that’s concerned. But safety is number one. Safety is paramount and that’s what we are delivering today.

And I want to also commend Mel and Linda Harris, Dennis Chapman, all tireless fighters. There have been so many more right throughout this community, right throughout this region who’ve absolutely got behind Llew O’Brien and fought for what we’re delivering today. And, of course, the work isn’t finished. They’ll go on campaigning, they’ll go on lobbying the state Government to also stump up the 20 per cent that is now required by the state Labor Government to provide this absolutely necessary piece of infrastructure, a piece of infrastructure which will provide many, many jobs over the construction phase, a piece of infrastructure which will save lives.

Now, are there any questions? Dennis, do you want to say something?

DENNIS CHAPMAN

Yes, I’d love to. What a day we have here. The Deputy Prime Minister and Llew O’Brien, the Member for Wide Bay, to deliver this $286.6 million project. The state Government have got to step up now and say that this is a project that this community wants. We’ve got a petition going out there at the moment. It’s nearly 3,000 people and everyone I speak to just say it’s a common-sense project.

What is a life really worth? You have to look at people driving on these roads these days and there’s an accident and two parents get killed and left the children with two – their grandparents or someone like that. That is what I do not want to see. And I really commend these two gentlemen behind me here for the efforts that’s gone into this. But it’s not only that; it’s the community. This region is lacking in infrastructure. We have been lacking in infrastructure for a long time. And this infrastructure is much needed. After this is completed we have only got another 43.9 kilometres of four-lane highway between Maryborough and Coolangatta or Curra. From Curra to Coolangatta is already completed. This 9 kilometres, once it’s completed, we’ve only got another 43.9 kilometres. And that is the fight that we must do for our community for the Fraser Coast.

Our development in this region is growing. We are seeing so much industry looking at coming to the region. And for the logistics to get freight from Maryborough back to Brisbane, this road is much needed. Because we’ve got people travelling on the roads. Tiaro will not die. Communities have been bypassed and done well, they do not die. They grow. And it is a lot safer. I’ve been at Tiaro here at 9.30 at night after a meeting and all you hear going through Tiaro is semitrailer after semitrailer. That will be moved out on to this safer highway with a barrier.

And like we said there the other day, there was a fatal accident in Maryborough. With a separation barrier in between you take the accident fatality out of the whole system. So today from the council we moved a motion last week to write to the state Government asking for better four-lane roads between Maryborough and Coolangatta, which was passed by council. So on behalf of the council I would like to thank these two gentlemen – Llew O’Brien, the Member for Wide Bay, and especially our Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, for being here today to deliver this money, because this is a push that the state Government now have to put this project up as a four-lane project. Let’s get it built and let’s move on. Thank you very much.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Any questions?

JOURNALIST

Yes, I was wondering why is this money being, you know, put up to the table now?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Because now it’s time. In fact, it’s probably over time. So now the Commonwealth has decided as part of our $10 billion Bruce upgrades to make sure that we deliver this funding. And Llew O’Brien has fought so hard for this. And, of course, right up and down the Bruce but right along our national corridors of roadways, whether they’re major highways, whether they’re byways, they’re getting built. $110 billion of infrastructure supporting 100,000 jobs. Indeed, in the Budget there was an additional $15.2 billion to major projects around the nation. And some not so major projects around the nation, but providing work for an additional 30,000 people. And that’s what we’re doing. As the Liberal Nationals Government we’re making sure that we deliver the infrastructure that Australians want, need, deserve, expect, demand and, indeed, infrastructure that is saving lives.

JOURNALIST

2024 was the expected or possible completion time. What sort of time lines are you working on now?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we’ll work with the Queensland Government to ensure that they find the 20 per cent that they need to support this four-lane project. We’ll work with the Queensland Government in good faith to make sure that we get this delivered. And the sooner we do it the better off everybody will be.

JOURNALIST

Twenty per cent of what?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we’re providing an additional up to $183 million for this project. Now you can work out the 20 per cent of that, but the costings, the full costings, will be done hopefully by the end of this year. Of course, it’s now up to the Queensland Government to make sure that they provide their 20 per cent. But we’ll work through the engineering. We’ll work through everything that needs to be sorted out as far as this project is concerned. But we’ve provided an additional up to $183 million. That’s a significant contribution by the Federal Government. We know that it’s necessary. We know that it’s needed. And we’re providing it.

JOURNALIST

And reassurances to those businesses in Tiaro that might look at this and obviously acknowledge the safety benefits but wonder will the traffic be just moving by even quicker now and not stopping in this little town?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

These little towns always provide, you know, that vital rest stop, that ability to get people off the road, off the major highways. And even in New South Wales, I know that this sort of concern was raised when they bypassed Goulburn all those years ago when the Hume Freeway was put through. In more recent times Holbrook, they’re just two communities I can think of off top of my head, and yet those communities are not only thriving – not only surviving, they’re thriving. They’re absolutely thriving now because of the bypasses that were put in place, 80 per cent of which was provided – 80 per cent of the funding of which was provided by Federal Governments. That’s what we do. We sump up the money. And these little communities, you know, there’s a great little hamburger shop. There’s Rees’, there’s arts and craft shops and all the like for people to turn off the highway if they need that rest stop, if they just want to pull up and get a bite to eat. But for the same token, for those people who just want to continue on their journey, it’s going to provide safer outcomes for them. They’re going to be able to use that bypass and it’s going to save lives. And, at the end of the day, that’s the important thing – that four-lane bypass will save lives.

JOURNALIST

And today’s commitment coupled with the fact that I think the region’s road toll was doubled this time last year, should that be all the incentive the state Government needs to play its part?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

In short, yes. Absolutely. I was very disappointed with the road toll last year considering that COVID actually kept a lot of people at home. Kept a lot of people working from home, restricted travel in so many ways. I mean, we had border lockdowns which prevented people from travelling interstate and yet the road toll was way too high. One death on the road is one too many. And, of course, not only to mention the 1,100 or 1,200 or so people who lose their lives on our roads each year, it’s the 30, 40,000 people who are injured. And they carry those injuries, that trauma, that physical distress, that mental anguish for the rest of their lives.

Llew O’Brien, he’s attended way too many crashes – way too many. And he used to tell me often about some of the incidents and accidents that he attended. And I know it also brings it home now to me with my own son being a police officer. We’ve got Pat Conaghan in our party also who is a police officer. And so when you take the evidence, when you take those personal anecdotes from people such as Pat Conaghan, the Member for Cowper, Llew O’Brien, you know that this funding is worthwhile. You know this funding is necessary. And you know this funding is going to save lives. And that’s what it’s all about.

Thank you very much.

PAUL TRUSCOTT

So as a councillor but also as a husband, as a father, I am super grateful to our federal member, Llew, and Deputy Prime Minister for having the cheque book for increasing this funding. Last week I had the unfortunate opportunity of being first on the scene at the fatal accident on the Bruce Highway just down from here. And I had my son with me and it was a very horrific head-on fatality. And having seen that and attending at the scene until first responders arrived, it just really hit home how four lanes, we should stop at nothing short of that for the whole Bruce as much as possible. Because I can’t help but think having considered that accident since then that had we have had four lanes maybe that wouldn’t have happened. Maybe that lady would still be alive. And it’s terribly sad. But, again, as a parent and as a husband, I can only think four lanes is completely about safety. And I’m super grateful that this opportunity has now come up. And I just want to expend my sincere thanks too, because it’s a terrible tragedy that we have these accidents on our roads, and we should do everything we can to avoid it. Today is Thank a First Responder Day as well, so to Llew, having been a first responder, to Mr McCormack, your son, and to all our police officers, the fire brigade, the paramedics, the medical officers that attend on these things and just coincidentally happens to be today, so thank you to the first responders that do it terrific job. This is about safety and reducing those accidents out on the highway.

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