In light of the fact that we are all about to go on a summer holiday from this place, I suggest we take a little tour—two tours, in fact: one on paper and one in a motor car. I will start with the last one first. I would like to invite the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport to come on a little tour with me. We will call it a magical mystery tour. In fact, I can even put that outstanding Beatles album of the same name in the six-stacker for their listening pleasure.
I challenge these people to come for a drive with me from Rockhampton to Townsville. It will be a lovely little tour along a scenic track that we in Queensland like to call the Bruce Highway. But it is probably better known to this government as 'Penny Lane'—which I think is track No. 9 on the Magical Mystery Tour album—because a penny is about what this government wants to spend on the Bruce Highway in this region. They love to tax this region. They will happily bleed all the revenue out of this part of Queensland, but they do not want to stand for anything but returning the barest of minimums.
By the end of the tour they will see what I mean. The drive from Rockhampton to Townsville is approximately 725 kilometres—almost half of the total length of the Bruce Highway, which connects Brisbane in the south-east corner to Cairns in the Far North of Queensland. I chose this specific piece of highway for our little summer holiday drive for a couple of reasons. Firstly, for 400 kilometres of the trip we will be driving the length of my electorate of Dawson, but I have also included 325 kilometres to the south, in the electorate of Capricornia. The second reason I want them to enjoy the scenic drive from Rockhampton is that this stretch of the highway services the absolute powerhouse of the national economy. This stretch of highway is crucial for the service of the coalmining industry that these three guys are so keen to tax the hell out of. This stretch of the highway runs through that part of Queensland that generates billions and billions of dollars in revenue to state and federal governments every year. But it is off the radar for real investment. That is a shame, because, without the vital investment to support the resources boom, the resources boom will cease to exist. That should make the Greens happy. Maybe we could put a dog trailer on the back so Bob can trail along—or maybe he would be in the front and someone else would be in the dog trailer.
I would like to begin this trip at the beginning of February—enough time to enjoy a Queensland summer before parliament kicks off again. We can head out from Rockhampton at the start of February and see how far we get. You see, there could be a few obstacles to overcome. Firstly, in Rockhampton, at the notorious Yeppen crossing, it can be a little damp at this time of year. I am sure the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport have experienced delays getting home in their own electorates. You know the drill—peak-hour traffic, traffic jams and maybe even an accident closing one lane. Dinner might be cold by the time they get home. Well, their dinner might go mouldy if they were waiting for the Bruce Highway to open at Yeppen during flood time. Earlier this year it was closed for 10 days straight—and that is the main artery for the entire state of Queensland. This is the artery that seven million tonnes of freight goes along each year to North Queensland, including luxury items—like food.
When the highway at Rockhampton is closed, Mackay is on rations. During the closure earlier this year, we saw fisticuffs over the last loaf of bread at supermarkets in Mackay and fast food chains rationing chickens at one per family. If the Bruce Highway is open at Rockhampton and we make it through to Mackay unscathed, we can actually fight the traffic, battling with Datsuns and dump trucks alike—as the Mackay ring road is about as close to reality as a Labor surplus. Despite the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport skiting in question time today about funding for the Mackay ring road, it is still very much a pipedream. This government has made a commitment to make a plan, to fund a study on how to plan the ring road. This government will be a distant memory before tar is ever laid on that project.
If we get through Mackay without being run over by the dump trucks, then there is Goorganga Plains to negotiate in the Whitsundays. It is not too bad if it is dry, but then again February is the wet season. The problem with Goorganga Plains is that when it floods it not only stops traffic on the state's main artery, once again, but also stops traffic from the Whitsunday Coast airport from getting through to the Whitsunday Coast. As you can imagine, that is a problem for the Whitsundays, which is absolutely 100 per cent dependent on tourism for its survival.
If we can get past the Whitsundays and make it up to Bowen then there is the rather tricky Sandy Gully that we have to worry about. Again, it is not bad if it is dry but, as a constituent said to me this year in not-so-polite language, 'It only takes a cane toad to whiz on the side of the road to close the highway at Sandy Gully.' Again, that not only stops traffic on the state's major artery but also stops workers who live in Bowen and further south from getting to the job site at Abbot Point—a multi-billion-dollar facility being constructed at Abbot Point—all dependent on the integrity of a cane toad's bladder!
If we can keep the cane toads away from the bar for a week, then this magical mystery tour takes us further up north where we only have a few obstacles left, apart from the ever-present potholes and patchy road repairs. Yellow Gin Creek is another spot that is not bad when it is dry but I have to tell you that it is a great place to camp for a long time if it is raining. And the Haughton River bridge is a test to be taken only by the most strong willed and bravest of drivers. If you have the misfortune to be heading north across the Haughton River bridge at the same time as a truck is heading south you will have a very strong urge to hold your breath and think skinny thoughts: 'If we can make Brisbane to Townsville in one piece and without having to camp by the roadside it will be a miracle.' The Bruce Highway is a joke, and the locals know it, so you would think that this government would be doing something about it.
Let us now take a trip along the Bruce Highway a different way—on paper. The state government has put out a paper called the Bruce Highway Upgrade Strategy, and it is clear that the Labor Party in Queensland shares the lack of care about this region—my region—as the federal government does. This strategy lays out a plan for upgrading the highway over 20 years. It points out on page 5 that this strategy builds on a previous paper called the 2007 Brisbane to Cairns Corridor Strategy. So what has been done in recent years? According to the new strategy:
Over recent years, a number of projects have either commenced or have been completed to improve safety, capacity and flood immunity. Projects funded or jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland governments …
Let us look at them in three sections. In the first section, everywhere south of our magical mystery tour saw major progress on a 12-kilometre realignment of the highway south of Gympie; the completion of $305 million in widening works and the provision of six lanes at Caboolture; the completion of a $71 million duplication at Gympie; and the completion of a two-lane motorway. Every single one of these projects is either starting, continuing or finishing real projects—improvements you can drive on today.
Now let us look to the north on our magical mystery tour. We saw the start of a $115 million realignment at Cardwell Range; flood immunity and safety work between Townsville and Cairns, at a cost of $347 million; the start of the duplication of the Douglas Arterial, at a cost of $110 million; and the completion of the two-lane motorway of the Townsville ring road, stages 2 and 3, at a cost of $119 million. Again, every single one is starting or finishing real projects—improvements you can drive on today.
Now let us look at what has happened on our magical mystery tour stretch, which is almost one-half of the Bruce Highway: the completion of a $4 million urban congestion study; the completion of planning for a highway duplication; the commencement of a $5 million Fitzroy River flood plain study—two studies started and a plan completed. The shovel did not even make it out of the shed. Will this region ever get taken seriously? Will the obstacles our magical mystery tour face ever be addressed? Here is when things are planned in the study: the Mackay ring road is to commence in 10 years; Goorganga Plains planning is to commence in up to 10 years; the Sandy Gully is to be built higher in up to 10 years; Yellow Gin Creek will be up to 10 years; and the Haughton River bridge will be up to 10 years. There is a decade to wait. That is a shameful plan for the region, which these Labor governments want to bleed dry. It is a plan that the good people of Central Queensland and North Queensland will not ever forget. I have to tell you, if the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport want to come on this tour with me, it will be one that they will not forget either.