Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will hold a town-hall meeting at Brother’s Leagues Club this afternoon. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will hold a town-hall meeting at Brother’s Leagues Club this afternoon. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

ALP promises millions for Bruce Highway

BILL SHORTEN will today unveil an $80 million plan to creep closer to ending the city's status as a national highway dead end.

The Opposition Leader will announce a $40 million commitment to extend the Bruce Hwy from the intersection of Comport and Draper Sts to the Cairns Airport if Labor wins the next federal election.

The plan hinges on the State Government making up the $40 million deficit and falls short of Cairns Regional Council's calls for an extension through to the Captain Cook Hwy and Kennedy Hwy intersections at Smithfield.

Nevertheless, it is the only concrete commitment so far.

"The Bruce Hwy is Queensland's most important piece of road infrastructure and is central to the movement of freight and people up and down its coast," Mr Shorten said.

"The funding will provide much needed upgrades of key intersections along the route, ensuring that large trucks, including B-doubles carrying aviation fuel, don't need to mix with local traffic and high pedestrian activity areas in the Cairns CBD."

Advance Cairns has long been calling for state and federal governments to back the full highway extension, without hint of success until now.

A year ago, Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said he had spoken to Coalition ministers about the ring-road proposal and it was "at the top of the list of priorities for our region".

He has been calling for a scaled-up version of the project but the government is yet to make a commitment.

"We need to make it a federal highway the whole way through, completing the loop so we don't have a highway feeding into an urban area and then stopping," Mr Entsch said in April last year.

Opposition transport spokesman Anthony Albanese flagged support for the project during a visit to Cairns in July.

He suggested the Bruce Hwy could eventually be extended even further than Smithfield, up to Ellis Beach.

"The first stage immediately should be to the airport, but also I think further to the Northern Beaches is where the pressure is on," he said.

Mr Shorten said projects like the highway extension could be funded because "we aren't giving new tax handouts to multinationals and millionaires".

He said it was a sound investment.

"The extension will ease the pressure placed on local roads and infrastructure that the almost three million international and domestic tourists bring to the city and surrounding region each year," he said.

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