Local Infrastructure

August 02, 2022

I want to share this really great story about koalas in my electorate. My electorate takes in Toohey Forest, an ecological island in suburbia, just 10 km from the Brisbane CBD, surrounded by residences and industrial estates. The 260-hectare Toohey Forest is home to koalas, short-beaked echidnas, lace monitors, bearded dragons, squirrel gliders, wallabies, an array of birdlife and over 400 species of native wildlife and plant species. Many locals use the many walking trails and riding trails and enjoy seeing koalas and other fauna in their natural habitat.

The forest merges into Griffith University's Nathan and Mt Gravatt campuses. A few years ago one of the koalas got into the habit of repeatedly crossing Ring Road, which runs around the Nathan campus. For some reason this very determined koala decided to cross the road at about the same time in the same place every afternoon. To prevent anything from happening to their beloved koala, a campus security guard was assigned to guide the koala across the road each afternoon. For several days the guard stood next to the tree around the time the koala took its journey. When the animal came down to ground level the guard watched and stopped traffic so that the koala didn't get hurt. Now, that is Griffith University service! No wonder that university actually has the numbers in the Labor executive government at the moment. It's quite amazing.

Where the koalas in Toohey Forest come from is a bit of a mystery, but according to Griffith University researchers they started reappearing a decade or so ago. The koalas appear to be thriving, and their numbers in the 260-hectare forest have become clear only recently, mainly thanks to the work of a great local, Brad Lambert, who is also a senior teacher with Toohey Forest Environmental Education Centre. Brad has recorded all the wildlife that he's found in Toohey Forest on the Atlas of Living Australia website. He's also started a Toohey Forest wildlife Facebook page to engage with the community, with the vision statement 'Inspiring conservation by connecting communities to nature'.

This fauna-rich habitat is intersected by a very busy Toohey Road. Koalas and other small animals are at risk from the speeding traffic. I'm pleased that an Albanese Labor government is investing in a fauna crossing under Toohey Road that will let our koalas and other small animals move between the eastern and western sides of their urban habitat. This crossing will hopefully protect our local koalas in the same way that the Griffith University security guard protected that road-crossing koala—but without paying the overtime!

Koalas are an endangered species, sadly. Australians need to take their protection seriously. The fauna crossing will ensure that the koala colony living in our precious urban forest will be protected. I also want to commend the Palaszczuk government for their announcement today on securing more land to protect the koalas in the Coomera Connector corridor.

My office is located in Sunnybank. People travel to this suburb from all over Brisbane to enjoy the rich cultural, food and shopping experience of this vibrant and bustling precinct. The thriving Sunnybank Plaza and Sunny Park shopping centres are separated by Mains Road, and the bus stops on either side of Mains Road are used by commuters and students travelling into the city. More than 5,000 people use this pedestrian bridge, spanning Mains Road, every day.

This bridge has needed an upgrade for quite a few years. I repeatedly brought this important issue to the attention of Brisbane City Council Lord Mayor Schrinner, but my letters since 2019 asking for an upgrade to the pedestrian bridge have been ignored. So I'm pleased to announce that the Albanese Labor government will step up and provide $2 million to get this pedestrian crossing sorted. The upgrade will include elevators on both sides to improve accessibility for seniors, people with disability and those with small children, as well as new security cameras that will provide improved safety for the more than 5,000 pedestrians crossing over Mains Road each day.

The 'Dragon Bridge' upgrade will celebrate the rich cultural melting pot that is Sunnybank. The dragon is a significant symbol for my Asian communities. Many people were attracted to this part of the south side of the Brisbane River because, if you look at it from the air, it appears to be the heart of an enormous dragon that curls from the bay in and then snakes around Brisbane's CBD. One feng shui interpretation is that Sunnybank is a place of good fortune and good luck—the dragon's heart. After two years of a pandemic and counting, the local businesses connected by the dragon bridge could do with a bit of luck. The bridge will hopefully be a very distinctive landmark, right in the heart of Brisbane's vibrant Asian diaspora communities. The upgraded bridge will provide easier passage between the shops, restaurants, schools, aged-care facilities et cetera on either side of the very busy Mains Road. The upgrade will be delivered in consultation with local government, state government, local business groups and the local community.

I'm also very excited that an Albanese Labor government will supercharge the benefits of household solar by delivering a community battery for Moorooka. Around 1,400 households in the Moorooka area have rooftop solar, but the high price of household batteries means that families are still struggling to realise the full potential of rooftop panels, and it's putting more pressure on our electricity grid. Local households who might be unable to install solar, like renters and people living in apartments, will also be able to draw from excess energy stored in this community battery. This is a local and practical example of how, with a good Labor government, we can reduce emissions, boost renewable energy and make sure people's electricity bills are lower.

Labor's commitment to invest in funds to remove the Coopers Plains level crossing will mean that we are moving closer to finally removing one of Brisbane's worst rail crossings. This level crossing has been identified by RACQ as one of Queensland's worst and most dangerous. The Coopers Plains level crossing traverses three separate rail tracks on the Beenleigh and Gold Coast lines. The boom gates are lowered 138 times each day, causing frustration for motorists and pedestrians who have to wait for the trains to pass. With as many as 1,000 cars and trucks passing the level crossing each hour, there have been numerous accidents, including over 28 cases of cars hitting the boom gates over the past seven years. That's too many close calls. We know that the number of passenger and freight trains using these lines will increase in coming years, particularly as Cross River Rail kicks off. This project will be delivered in partnership with the Palaszczuk state government, and I thank Mark Bailey for his contribution, and Peter Russo—my state colleagues—and the Brisbane City Council, with some great advocacy from Moorooka Ward Labor councillor Steve Griffiths. But there's more work to be done.

Residents of Coopers Plains have already been consulted on the two options that the Department of Transport and Main Roads released earlier this year. The Palaszczuk Labor government and the Albanese Labor government have both committed a third each—around $133 million—to fix the crossing; however, the Brisbane City Council has only committed one-tenth of the cost. Brisbane City Council is only going to stump up $40 million. So I'm calling on the LNP Brisbane City Council to pay their fair share. The LNP Brisbane City Council has committed 50 per cent in the past to build two level crossings on the north side of the river. So all I am asking is for the council to commit one-third of the project cost, not half, and the Coopers Plains level crossing would then be fully funded. Infrastructure investments like this deliver a better life for locals across Brisbane, and the Moreton community deserve the infrastructure that those on the north side of the river get. By removing this dangerous crossing, not only will an Albanese Labor government allow locals to spend more time at home and less time on the congested roads; it will deliver safer roads to the local drivers, pedestrians and kids going to Coopers Plains State School and, obviously, will make life easier for the train drivers on this busy corridor. The Albanese Labor government will help unblock congestion and deliver more jobs and a better future for local families.

It was actually the former federal Labor government, the Rudd-Gillard governments, that fully funded the $280 million upgrade of the intersection between Mains Road and Kessels Road, also a notorious choke point. That project was completed in mid-2014. It was kicked off by me and the Rudd-Gillard governments. This project has greatly improved safety and reduced congestion along the corridor that connects the busy Ipswich, Pacific and Gateway motorways.

Federal Labor has a strong record of delivering for Brisbane's south side. I'm very pleased to be a part of the federal Labor government, which will deliver some much-needed infrastructure in my electorate.