Subject: Bruce Highway Upgrade
JOURNALIST: On line is the federal Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese. Minister, thanks very much for your time.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good afternoon Mark.
JOURNALIST: I think it’s fair to say that we’d love to upgrade the Bruce Highway but is it possible? Is it feasible at the moment that we can do something about this road that continues to take lives?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The first thing to say is this is an unspeakable tragedy. Five lives lost is five too many. And we have seen far too many accidents on the highway. I was there just last week for the opening of a section between Cooroy to Curra, an upgrade where the Commonwealth Government has put in a total of $388 million.
We’ve put in $2.8 billion over six years. That’s more than doubled the funding of our predecessors in less than half the time. So we have made substantial contributions but there does need to be more.
There’s nine major projects currently underway on the Bruce Highway as we speak, employing directly and indirectly about 3,000 people. And there are three projects ready to start between now and the end of the year.
In addition, we’re putting in another $170 million this year for safety measures. What that does is things like overtaking lanes – in this case there’s 52 – fixing up 101 separate dangerous black spots and building 25 new rest areas for heavy vehicles – and of course, this tragedy on the weekend did involve a heavy vehicle. As well as that we’re upgrading 11 existing rest areas, really trying to make sure that the facilities are there that encourage heavy vehicle drivers to take appropriate rest.
JOURNALIST: Because we’re a little bit blinkered here. It’s a Queensland highway, the Bruce, but other states would also be asking for money as well.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: They all are of course. But the Bruce Highway is an absolute priority. That’s why, I reckon, I’ve been there over 30 times since I became the Minister. I’ve was there in just the last month.
Also we had the opening of the Port Access Road in Townsville. I was just outside Gladstone for the commencement of work on the Calliope Crossroads project. That’s a $150 million project at the intersection between the Bruce and Dawson Highways.
So there’s work going on right up and down the Highway.
Infrastructure is one of the three components to improving road safety. We do need better infrastructure. But we also need proper regulation, and we’re doing that through the establishment of a tribunal for heavy vehicles so that if there are unsafe practices, safe rates will be enforced. I think will make a difference over a period of time.
And of course the third element is driver behaviour, education about safe driving, not speeding. Those sorts of measures are undertaken not just by every level of government but of course by the community as well.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.