Minister dodges question on road upgrade
THE State Labor Government has refused to commit to upgrading a flood-prone section of the Bruce Highway after a pointed question from Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto in parliament last week.
Mr Dametto used his Question Without Notice to ask Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey whether he would commit to using $40 million in Federal funding to improve the Gairloch Washaway in order to reduce the “time and severity of road closures”.
Mr Bailey responded with a broad statement on the $12.6 billion State-Federal Bruce Highway Upgrade Program across Queensland and listed several projects in North Queensland.
The Minister referenced $48 million in “planning and consultation work” between Ingham and Cardwell but neglected to mention funding for that project was for the unpopular Ingham bypass. No mention of Gairloch Washway was made.
“Unfortunately, from the Minister’s answer, it is unclear whether or not the State will commit to this vital upgrade at Gairloch that is necessary to reduce the amount of times and frequency the Bruce Highway is cut just north of Ingham,” Mr Dametto said.
The Katter’s Australian Party MP then followed up his push to repair Gairloch with an adjournment speech in parliament later that week.
“We’ve got a situation where heavy vehicles are trapped from going up and down the highway. We’ve got farmers who can’t get their produce south from Tully, Innisfail and Cardwell,” he said.
“We can’t have the highway being cut numerous times every year. During the wet season this year, it’s been cut three times already.”
Mr Dametto said Kennedy MP Bob Katter was “furious” that Federal funding he helped secure 10 years ago for the washaway was still left unspent by the State.
“Unfortunately, the State Government is hellbent on progressing the Ingham bypass as an option for flood mitigation of the Bruce Highway,” Mr Dametto said.
“The highway running through Ingham is the lifeblood for this town. It ensures that every small business has the opportunity to capitalise on the drive-through traffic that comes through. Advancing the bypass will be the death knell for this town if it’s able to go ahead.
“The funding is there for the washaway and while it is still part of the national highway, let’s upgrade it. I urge the Minister once again to have a conservation with me and engage with the Member for Kennedy to find a solution for the Gairloch Washaway.”