It may be a road far from the corridors of power but on Monday the Outback Way was the subject of discussion in Canberra.
The Parliamentary Friends of the Outback Way was re-convened for the first time in the 45th parliament of Australia with a morning tea 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.
“Today’s meeting demonstrated the widespread support for this iconic road,” Senator Macdonald said.
“Everyone understands that developing a viable, sealed, transcontinental road through the centre of Australia will drive development, trade and tourism.”
Senator Macdonald said a fully sealed road would help communities along the Way.
“Many of these communities are indigenous,” he said.
“It would also help the burgeoning mining industry, and cattle production which underpins the north.”
The Outback Way connects Cairns to Perth through Hughenden. It starts at Winton then travels through Boulia, Alice Springs and Warburton to Laverton in Western Australia, where it connects to Perth through Kalgoorlie.
Most of its central sections are dirt roads.
Senator Macdonald said a completed Outback Way would be a critical supply chain for agricultural interests, particularly beef cattle, across the country.
“It would also provide Defence and emergency services with greater mobility in remote areas, as well as breathing new life into historic central Australian towns,” he said.
Senator Macdonald said thanks to $175m in funding commitments from the Federal government since 2013, progress on upgrading the road has been steady.
CEO of the Friends of the Outback Way, Helen Lewis, told the assembled parliamentarians that 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 Cr Patrick Hill, the Chair of the Friends of the Outback Way and Mayor of Laverton, and Cr Rick Britton, Mayor of Boulia Shire Council.