More than 60 per cent of Australians live in our largest 5 cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. In comparison, less than 10 per cent of Americans live in their largest 5 cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Phoenix.
The concentration of our population in such a small number of places over a vast continent creates congestion, pushes up house prices and makes it harder to deliver basic infrastructure. Despite having more land per person than any continent outside of Antarctica, we have some of the highest property prices in the world.
It is time Australia grows up and builds bigger cities away from its major capitals. While we have been in government, the LNP has built the Rookwood weir, funded the Rockhampton Hospital car park and backed the Adani project. Central Queensland is a great place to live but we also must provide people a livelihood too, and all of these projects help to create jobs.
We need to keep building though. That is why we are backing the building of the "missing link" of rail line from Miles to Banana. This will link the Gladstone Port all the way to Melbourne and create thousands of transport and related jobs in Central Queensland.
A fortnight ago the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, announced $10 million to kickstart the planning to extend our Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail project to Gladstone. Our study is not about whether we should do this project but how we should do it. A recent study by AEC Group found that the benefits of extending the inland rail to Gladstone are 50 per cent greater than its costs.
This week I joined the current Member for Flynn, Ken O'Dowd and the LNP's Candidate for Flynn, Colin Boyce, at the Gladstone port to promote our vision. Our plan is to make Gladstone a container terminal that rivals the ports of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on the east coast.
Gladstone is already a major port that exports coal, bauxite, alumina, grain and cotton. Many of these exports will continue to grow as the dams we are building create more farm produce, and Australian coal has never been in higher demand with record prices being set this week.
There is a strong case to grow the Gladstone port to handle more container traffic. Container numbers are expected to double in eastern Australian ports over the next decade and triple over the next 30 years. If all of this were to go through existing ports, our already congested capital cities would groan under the strain. Do a drive from Acacia Ridge (where many containers are broken down into smaller packages) to the Brisbane port, there are already huge delays.
In contrast, Gladstone has almost no limits on its ability to expand to tackle increased traffic. Investors predict that Gladstone could handle up to 2 million containers a year, making it similar to Brisbane in container capacity. When combined with the existing bulk exports from the port, this would make Gladstone the 12th largest port in the world.
While the business case relies mainly on this container freight, building the inland rail to Gladstone would also help open up and expand new coal mines in the Surat basin. At the moment these mines have to export through the Brisbane port where capacity constraints restrict export and political constraints limit growth.
While Ken, Colin and I were at the Port, a 100,000 tonne coal ship was being loaded. At current prices it would earn around $50 million for Australia. We need more of that to pay back the enormous debt to us left by COVID.
This is an exciting time to live in Central Queensland. Our natural assets give us the opportunity to build bigger cities, create more jobs and provide better services to all. We just need governments to back us. The Federal Liberal-National Government has been backing the jobs and industries that make CQ great, and with projects like the inland rail on the books, we will help create a better Australia for all.