FEDERAL POLITICS Shorten vows to extend highway
THE proposed highway extension to Cairns Airport would begin “straight away” if the ALP was elected in the next federal election, opposition leader Bill Shorten said yesterday.
Mr Shorten arrived in Cairns to promise an $80 million federal highway extension from Comport and Draper streets through to Airport Ave.
“If I’m elected … and we have Elida Faith as our member, we want to get on with it straight away,” he said.
“It is contingent on striking an arrangement with the Queensland Government.”
Mr Shorten’s plan hinges on a 50-50 funding split between the state and federal governments.
However, all previous upgrades to the Bruce Highway have been built with Canberra footing 80 per cent of the bill.
“He has no idea what the cost will be because Main Roads has done no costing,” Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said.
“I’m no engineer but when you look at the work to be done, I suggest the $80 million won’t go very far at all. I think this is a roast that has been prepared without any meat.”
Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads would not speculate on whether they could match Mr Shorten’s dollar-for-dollar offer.
“I welcome this commitment by Federal Labor to invest in Far North Queensland and extend the national highway,” Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said.
Peak body Advance Cairns wants the ALP to commit to the project “as a statement of intent to the region” whether or not Elida Faith wins Leichhardt.
“Contingencies if candidates are elected as a caveat don’t wash,” Advance Cairns chief executive Nick Trompf said. “A ring road has been a priority of Advance Cairns for several years.”
Mr Trompf said he would engage in ongoing talks with the Department of Main Roads tomorrow to discuss the redesignation of state roads to federal highway.
He said the progress on roads with federal money in southern Cairns stood in stark contrast to those north of the airport.
“North of Cairns the road network is nothing short of a nightmare at certain times of the day,” Mr Trompf said.
“It is far faster getting into the city from Gordonvale than from Clifton Beach.”
PROMISING ACTION: Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten with Labor candidate for Leichardt Elida Faith.