Transcript: ABC North Queensland - Breakfast with Michael Clarke

Subjects: Townsville Ring Road

E&OE

MICHAEL CLARKE:

Well if you're in Townsville and you drive along the Ring Road, two things you will notice today. One, there's a bit more of it, and two, you'll see a fair swag of politicians of all persuasions standing near it. In about an hour's time, the final link of the section, Townsville Ring Road section four will be officially opened. It's the final link of the project, and it's finished six months ahead of schedule. As I mentioned, lots of representatives on hand for the official opening, including the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, the Federal Minister for Northern Australia Senator Matt Canavan, who's with us now.

Senator, thanks for your time.

MINISTER CANAVAN:   

Morning Michael, how are you?

MICHAEL CLARKE:

Good, thanks. Who gets the credit for this?

MINISTER CANAVAN:   

Oh look, it's a joint project, and I promise your listeners, Michael, we won't be on the road for too long, we'll get out of the way quickly so the cars can start driving on it. That is the good news. It is the culmination of a long period of work; of course this is stage four in the Ring Road, which started more than ten years ago, people like Peter Lindsay I remember pushing very hard for this over time, and so he deserves a lot of credit. But it's gone through different levels of government, different political parties. This latest stage is a $200 million project, so $160 million from the Federal Government and $40 million from the state. So we should work together on roads, obviously, and these are very important roads. It shows the maturity of the town of the Townsville, that its ring road is complete now, and it's going to free up the city region from freight and save time for all involved.

MICHAEL CLARKE:

Well what do you think it will mean for commuters particularly?

MINISTER CANAVAN:   

Well my understanding is this will take freight particularly out of the northern part of the suburbs of Townsville, and that will of course for commuters mean reduced travel times, but more importantly it will help Townsville develop over the future as well. I know it's been a tough couple of years for Townsville, but I think the future's very bright. We’ve got a very strong agenda here for the North, and Townsville is the biggest city in the North, and due to grow to probably 250,000 people over the next decade. So we need investments like this to help spur that growth, to create that opportunity and space for the city to grow.

MICHAEL CLARKE:

Will a section of a road really contribute to that? I mean, I know there's been a lot of talk this year, and particularly just last week with the signing of the City Deal about getting Townsville moving and the impacts on all that. Does this section of the road really do that?

MINISTER CANAVAN:   

Well it's all part of the plan, Michael. I mean, if you're going to be a major city over time, and as I say, Townsville's going to grow to quarter of a million people over the next ten years. You can't have B-doubles running through the middle of your town; you've got to have those pushed out to proper transport routes. All cities go through this process; Toowoomba as well is having a bypass put through. I'm from Rockhampton myself, and we're having a big debate at the moment about a bypass route around Rocky. But you know, at times it's difficult to do this sort of thing, because it does take traffic out of your city, but that's obviously largely done in Townsville, this is the final link and it's the final step to show the maturity of Townsville.

It's not the biggest project in the world of course, Michael, but it's part of a chain of events we're doing in this region to help bring economic growth to Townsville. Part of the plan we've got to upgrade the port as well, the Townsville football stadium, the urban renewal associated with that, and of course for our very first City Deal, we signed on Friday, in the country was for Townsville, and all of these projects are part of that.

MICHAEL CLARKE:

Minister, this is obviously welcome for people who travel along that section of the highway, and particularly as you mentioned for Townsville, but looking beyond Townsville, we've heard a lot about Townsville and resources and projects recently, but where else on the Bruce Highway should there be work occurring? Where will we see those future upgrades for the Federal Government? Where are your priorities?

MINISTER CANAVAN:   

Well we've got a $10 billion program at the moment that is rolling out projects across the Bruce Highway. There is work going down at the Haughton River as well, as your listeners probably would know, and my family is from there, I know how dangerous that little overpass there at Haughton River is. There's work occurring there, there's flood proofing work further south, down where I am at Rockhampton which will ensure that the road is not cut in two, so that our state is not cut in two during a major flooding event.

But of course there's more to go right across the Bruce. As I say, there's plans for a Mackay ring road and also for a Rocky ring road longer down the track. But you know, if we create a freight corridor right down from the North to the South, that will help all our regions, because people get produce down south and get produce back up this way as well. I should say, it's not just about the Bruce though, we also a few months ago announced that we would seal the Hann Highway, which is the missing link for inland routes from Cairns to Melbourne, and that too will help flood proof our region and give a permanent freight route through North Queensland to the south even in times of heavy rainfall.

MICHAEL CLARKE:

When will that work on the Hann Highway begin, Minister?

MINISTER CANAVAN:   

I think some contracts might be signed very soon on that. We announced it in May and we're hoping that work will start very early next year after the wet season. Hopefully we get a wet season. Well, it's raining today, so that's a good start.

MICHAEL CLARKE:

We're talking to Matt Canavan, the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, who is in town for the opening of the fourth section of the Townsville Ring Road. Minister, we thank you very much for your time today.

MINISTER CANAVAN:   

Thanks, Michael. Have a good day.

MICHAEL CLARKE:

That's Senator Matt Canavan. He's in Townsville today.

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