Over the last few years things have been looking up for Central Queensland. Some of our nation's biggest infrastructure projects are happening here.
Rookwood weir was the first major water infrastructure to be built for a generation. The Adani mine helped open the first coal basin in more than 50 years. The Shoalwater Bay training facility is going through a $1 billion upgrade. These projects have helped lower unemployment in Central Queensland and have been a boom for local businesses.
And, things were not slowing down. The biggest road project in regional Queensland was about to start with the building of a third bridge over the Fitzroy River. The Urannah Dam was funded and due to start in the next few years too.
Labor's budget this week has pulled the rug out from under our booming Central Queensland economy. The Government announced that it would defer the Ring Road project - to who knows when - and funding for the Urannah Dam has been scrapped too.
Anyone that has to drop kids off at school knows how bad Rockhampton's traffic is getting. The Ring Road promised to be our saviour, moving the big trucks out of our city, and also making it easier for us to move around. The Ring Road would connect Yeppoon, the university, the airport, the city and Gracemere altogether while cutting back on the red lights we face.
There are 18 traffic lights between the "bull" and the university. The Ring Road would mean traffic on the Bruce Highway would avoid all of them. This would save truck drivers more than 30 minutes in busy times and that would cut the cost of living for all Queenslanders given how important the Bruce is for the delivery of all types of goods.
The Ring Road has such clear benefits that it has had bipartisan support for years. The former Coalition Government announced funding for the project in late 2018. And Labor jumped on board in early 2019. At that time, the now Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, issued a press release titled "Rockhampton Ring Road a Certainty Under Labor."
Based on this strong support many local businesses had been gearing up for what would be the biggest road project in regional Queensland. A tender for the project is already out and people have spent thousands of dollars bidding for the work.
I have fielded many calls since the Budget from these businesses ropeable about the broken promise from the Prime Minister. How can we trust a word the Prime Minister says if one day he calls something a "certainty" and then the next he walks away?
The Government is blaming cost blowouts. But cost blowouts are affecting everything right now and why is it that it is the projects in regional areas that face the chop instead of big city ones like the Cross River Rail in Brisbane? When challenged about this on the local ABC, Rockhampton member Barry O'Rourke, could not point to a single project in Brisbane that has been deferred in the manner that the Rocky Ring Road has.
The gap between the supine Labor members and Michelle Landry is huge. When the Rookwood weir faced somewhat inexplicable cost blowouts a few years ago, Michelle did not throw her hands in the air and say there is nothing I can do. She got stuck in and fought for extra funding. She won the debate and now Rookwood weir is nearly complete.
That is what Michelle and I will do again. We will support the local businesses that are furious with the Prime Minister's breach of trust. Some are already talking of a convoy to Canberra which ironically will need to traverse the inadequate roads of the Bruce. But we will keep fighting because we have so much opportunity here in Central Queensland if we could just have a government that would back us like they back the major cities.