Australia commits to paving crucial outback highway network

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday that his government will invest A$678 million ($486 million) to upgrade the crucial outback road network if re-elected in this year’s general elections.

The Outback Way is a 2,700-km network of desert roads that connects Laverton in south central Western Australia (WA) to Winton in central Queensland via the Northern Territory (NT), passing by iconic landmarks such as Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, reports Xinhua news agency.

Despite being the main route connecting WA to central Australia and Queensland, large parts of the Outback Way are unsealed gravel and dirt roads, making trucking freight logistically difficult.

“Our investment locks in a pipeline of works that will drive investment in regional Australia and boost economies from Winton in Queensland to Laverton in Western Australia, helping regional and remote communities and those who call them home to grow and prosper,” Morrison said in a statement.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who is also the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, said the project would employ hundreds of people for its duration and deliver major economic benefits for the Outback.

“These upgrades will spark new opportunities for industries along the route, including the critical earth precincts north of Alice Springs, the gold precincts around Laverton and the massive beef industry, while ensuring communities and people on the corridor have better access to supplies,” Joyce said.

The announcement was made a day after Anthony Albanese, the leader of the Opposition Labor Party, promised to spend A$200 million upgrading remote territory roads if elected Prime Minister.

“You are 11 times more likely to have a fatality on a remote community road as you do in a capital city. That’s why this announcement of a A$200 million Northern Territory strategic roads package is so important,” Albanese said.

The NT is shaping as a major battleground in the general election, which is due to be held by May.

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