Mr ENTSCH: I don’t often find myself agreeing with the Member for Kennedy on much of anything, but recently something strange has occurred.
I’ve found myself agreeing with him on an issue that he has recently shone light on.
Since November last year, the Barron River Bridge at Kuranda has been reduced to one lane and has had significant load limits imposed.
At the time, there was much speculation as to why this occurred overnight, without forewarning, given there weren’t any works planned in the area.
As time wore on, questions rightfully started getting asked, but, as is usual with this Queensland Labor government, no answers were forthcoming.
It turns out Main Roads engineers were franticly checking the structure’s safety and stability.
As a result, a multi-million dollar investigation was launched, with the Queensland government promising to release the report once it was finalised.
You don’t need me to stand here and tell you what happened—or, in this case, what didn’t happen.
In fact, once the report was completed, the Queensland government had the hide to say it wouldn’t release it because it would be too technical for people to understand.
Meanwhile, engineers are hard at work checking more than a thousand individual welds and repairing them as they ensure the structure’s safety.
It took a right of information request by local media organisations to finally reveal the gravity of the situation.
The document revealed that six years ago the engineers recommended replacing nuts and bolts on fixed and rocker bearings, as well as jacking up the structure to replace entire expansion joint bearings.
The documents also revealed a recommendation to repair or replace corroded parts in a time frame no later than two years.
More shockingly, the documents revealed that the retrofitted Macalloy bars used on the structure had been compromised through both pitting corrosion and the wear of the stressing bars vibrating against the girders.
Not only were the Queensland government aware of the gravity of the situation for more than five years, shockingly, they did absolutely nothing to address it.
Instead, they put the safety of hundreds of thousands of motorists who used the bridge during this time at risk, and placed the economic viability of the entire region in jeopardy.
I absolutely shudder when I think about what would have happened if the bridge had been closed permanently, given it is along a major freight route connecting the Tablelands, the Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York with Cairns.
It’s now time to explore and invest in alternative routes to connect Cairns with the tablelands, such as the Bridle Track proposal.
This time the Queensland Government can’t blame anyone else for their own incompetence and negligence.
This is on them.
The Queensland Government need to cough up the cash to replace the bridge, and reassure an already nervous community that the current bridge won’t collapse into the Barron River.
This brings me to the Kuranda Range, a major route in my electorate.
I understand the newly formed Kuranda Range bypass committee has already held a few public forums on this important issue.
I’ve always been a big supporter of finding a solution to the issue regarding the Kuranda Range.
I have, on numerous occasions, approached the Queensland Government on this issue.
I’ve written on several occasions to the Queensland Transport and Main Roads minister, Mark Bailey, urging him to consider solutions for the Kuranda Range.
In fact, I have asked him to include the Kuranda Range as a road of strategic importance given its vital role in connecting the Tablelands with Cairns.
To date these approaches have fallen on deaf ears.
I understand the Queensland Government is currently working on delivering an updated Kuranda Range business case as the last one was undertaken more than two decades ago.
This is long overdue.
Pressure needs to be put firmly on the Queensland Government to complete and release the business case in its entirety—sooner rather than later.
It can’t be allowed to sit on the minister’s desk or on a shelf in Brisbane collecting dust.
Once this business case is completed and made public, then together, as a community, we can have an informed discussion and work towards delivering a solution on the Kuranda Range once and for all.
It’s great to see that my good friend Scott Buchholz is here.
He is the minister responsible for infrastructure in this area.
I’m glad that you’re here to listen to my contribution.
It’s something that desperately needs to be addressed.
It’s well and truly overdue. I’m confident the federal government will step up— (Time expired)