Jul 10, 2012

Making sure the boom is enjoyed by the many, not just the few – Opinion – The North West Star Mount Isa

Over the past decade, mining has made a substantial contribution to our economy. This boom is not predicted to end any day soon. In fact a new report produced by the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics forecasts our resource exports will more than double by 2025.

This is great news for Australians. The challenge now is to make sure that the benefits  flowing from this boom are enjoyed by everyone. Earlier this year, the Australian Parliament voted to help share the rewards of this boom via the Mineral Resource Rent Tax. And one of the biggest beneficiaries of the money raised through this process is regional Australia.

In particular, funding will be returned to communities at the heart of the resources boom with investment in road, rail and port infrastructure. Today I am announcing $1.7 million to fund the coordination and implementation of a 50 year plan for the Mount Isa to Townsville Economic Zone, which stretches 1,000 kilometres and is home to a quarter of a million Australians.

This is the first ever comprehensive freight infrastructure plan for the zone. It has been created with widespread community input and aims to make sure this important region of Australia, which last year contributed $15 billion to the national economy, can fulfil its economic potential. I am launching this 50-year plan in Mt Isa alongside mayors of the seven councils whose regions form part of the zone.

I am also announcing today $1.5 million in funding to plan for growth further south in the State – the Central Queensland zone. This vast region covers one-third of Queensland, stretching from Gladstone to Mackay and to the Northern Territory and South Australian borders. It includes both the Galilee and Bowen Basins and the ports of Gladstone and Abbott Point. Again the extraction of minerals is contributing billions of dollars to the economy and the region’s population is expected to grow by at least 200,000 over the next two decades.

Both plans are great examples of the forward thinking that is necessary if we are to overcome the hurdles and blockages to transport supply lines that act as a brake on our national productivity. Importantly, such plans are precisely what we have been seeking to achieve across the nation with our National Ports Strategy and our draft National Freight Strategy which set out to create a seamless economy, free of the bottlenecks that inhibit growth.

The Federal investment comes from the $6 billion Regional Infrastructure Fund, created with revenue collected from the Mineral Resources Rent Tax. Already, half a billion dollars from the fund has been committed to roads improvements across Queensland. Some of these are the Peak Downs Highway, the Townsville Ring Road,  the Gladstone Port Access Road, Blacksoils Interchange, upgrading the intersection of the Bruce and Capricornia Highways and the Mackay Ring Road study. These upgrades will not only improve the flow of goods and resources, they will also make the roads safer for the thousands of Australians that travel along them each day.

Such improvements to our infrastructure are necessary and timely. Better roads and rail links that improve the flow of freight to our cities, towns and ports are critical to improve the supply lines that our economic growth depends on. Above all, they will help create jobs and opportunities for regional Australians so that the benefits of the boom are shared by the many, not just the few.