Surat Basin news Op-Ed – “Connecting the Surat Basin with the World”

16 August 2015

It seems like a pretty simple equation – government increases its investments in modern infrastructure to lay the foundations for future economic development, growth and prosperity will follow.

Government invests the capital required to build the roads, bridges and power transmission lines and this will help society increase its wealth and our collective standards of living.

We know and appreciate that efficient infrastructure will underpin the future economic strength in the Surat Basin. We know government has a central role to play in this process.

This has been a strong focus of the Federal Government and its “infrastructure” Prime Minister.

After all, the Federal Government’s $1.285 billion funding commitment to the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing is the largest single contribution to a Queensland road project since Federation.

But government cannot, and should not, fund all infrastructure projects that our nation requires to be competitive in the global marketplace.

And therefore, finding the right balance between government and private sector contributions in major infrastructure projects is a challenge we must confront in the coming years.

Perhaps I am biased as a proudly Toowoomba-based Senator, but I believe the recent opening of the Wellcamp Airport by the Wagner family is a visionary example of private sector initiated infrastructure that has wide reaching benefits to the surrounding community and businesses.

As Sydney continues to debate and disagree about the placement of a second airport, the Wagner family has efficiently and effectively constructed a world-class airport on the Darling Downs.

This progressive family was not going to die wondering.

And in time, their efforts will reposition Toowoomba as a major logistics hub.

Recent modelling by KPMG suggests delivery of major infrastructure such as the Wellcamp Airport, the Second Range Crossing and Inland Rail across our region will eventually establish a critical mass, making it more attractive to operators and investors alike.

It is predicted these projects will provide advantages not yet been conceived in current modelling.

In particular, these infrastructure enhancements are likely to reduce transport operating costs which is likely to make Toowoomba more attractive for regional level warehousing activities.

The Wellcamp Airport is a turning point for our region as we begin to rely less on Brisbane to export our goods and instead focus on new initiatives such as this new airport and the Inland Rail to Melbourne.

Wellcamp sets a crucial example of the benefits that can be derived when government, in the right circumstances, gets out of the way and allows the private sector do what it does best.

Government must ensure that supportive regulations, transparent procurement procedures, and careful consideration of environmental and social impacts propel regional infrastructure are in place to private enterprise to take the wheel and steer our region’s future direction.