THE Parliamentary Friends of the Outback Way have met for the first time since the federal election in August. The morning tea was hosted by Friends of the Outback Way co-chairs Queensland LNP Senator Ian Macdonald, and Northern Territory Labor MP Warren Snowden.
The event was attended by 20 parliamentarians from the Liberal, National, Labor and One Nation parties from the three states traversed by ‘Australia’s Longest Shortcut’ - Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
Senator Macdonald said the meeting demonstrated the widespread support for the iconic road.
“Everyone understands that developing a viable, sealed, transcontinental road through the centre of Australia will drive development, trade and tourism,’ Senator McDonald said.
“It will help communities along the way, many of which are indigenous, as well as the burgeoning mining industry, and cattle production which has underpinned the north for decades.”
The Outback Way connects to Cairns through Hughenden from its start at Winton, then travels through Boulia, Alice Springs and Warburton to Laverton in Western Australia, where it connects to Perth through Kalgoorlie.
“A completed Outback Way will be a critical supply chain for agricultural interests – particularly beef cattle - across the country, and will provide defence and emergency services with greater mobility in remote areas, as well as breathing new life into historic central Australian towns,” Senator Macdonald said.
Senator Macdonald said thanks to $175m in funding commitments from the federal government since 2013, progress on upgrading the road has been steady.
Friends of the Outback Way chief executive officer Helen Lewis told said the economic benefits of sealing the road were already being felt, and that Friends of the Outback Way were aiming for sealing to be completed by 2025.
The meeting was also addressed by Laverton Mayor Patrick Hill, who is also the chair of the Friends of the Outback Way, and Boulia Shire Council Mayor Rick Britton.