Outback Highway commitment: seal could start 2016/17


The Outback Highway Development Council says the election commitment of $11m a year for three years from the Coalition would bring the $512m project on track for the start of full sealing in 2016/17, according general manager Helen Lewis.
The new funds would allow the road to stay open all year, take out corrugations and lift it from where it is currently below ground.
The increased traffic will help to further assess the case for the sealing, demonstrating the route’s value for mining, the cattle industry, communities along the way and tourism, plus its role as a feeder route to the Ghan north-south railway.
At the moment Queensland spends around $1m a year, and WA and NT Government, $2m each, on maintenance. Road construction in WA and Queensland is a joint state and local government function, in the NT it belongs to the Territory Government.
The Howard government, defeated in 2007, had contributed $10m over three years, matched by WA, Queensland and the NT, so that a total of $40m was available for that three year period.
The road, dubbed the country’s “longest shortcut,” links Winton in Queensland with Laverton in WA, via Alice Springs.
Ms Lewis says the current worst sections are in the NT – the Plenty Highway and the Docker River Road – and it’s likely that much of the promised new funding will be spent there.
Ms Lewis says 1700 kilometres is unsealed. She says the shires in WA and Queensland can build and seal a road at the cost of $250,000 per kilometer. In the NT the cost is $500,000.
UPDATE 1:30 pm
Alice Springs Mayor Damien Ryan, who is the deputy chair of the Outback Highway Development Council,  says the huge difference in construction cost could be an argument in favour of re-introducing road construction into local government works departments.
He says in his youth, governments were building roads in the Territory, but this has now been handed over to private contractors.
Mayor Ryan says shire and council road gangs could be an important source of employment while the tax- and ratepayer would save money.


  1. Good luck to all of our NT candidates today.
    Thanks to Alice Springs News Online and other commentators for fostering debate, analysis of ideas / policies and performance etc.

  2. A question: Why does it cost twice as much to build and seal a road in the NT as it does in either WA or Qld?
    And thanks for the map. Looking at the entire picture re-confirms my thinking that this is an important piece of national infrastructure.
    The $33 million might be only one third of the projected cost to seal the 200 Km between the Rock and Docker, but it will serve to keep the ball in play.

  3. Yeh. I’m with you on that question Hal, and if those figures prove to be factual I think we need to be asking ourselves some very direct questions. If we can’t come up with an acceptable answer then I would be proposing that the road works be undertaken by Queenslanders and Western Australians, even inside the Territory!

  4. Settle down you blokes, like kids in a toy shop. Opportunity cost? What are you giving away to get this done? Relative cost-benefit analysis with other projects? Government isn’t a magic pudding (despite what Clive the Twerker thinks).

  5. That’s good coming from a Labor man Ian! Labor whose only form of government could almost certainly be described as “Magic Pudding” called Socialism and involves taking money out of the pockets of those who do something and giving it to those that don’t!
    The inevitable result of this being that the nation’s economy also ends up doing nothing and living off borrowed money.
    The alternative to that, the Liberal National way, is to “invest” in projects such as the Outback Way.
    Projects like this will in time grow business, increase national productivity and eventually pay the nation back with much greater earnings for everybody.
    To bring these projects to fruition takes vision and guts, these are things that Socialists find very difficult to support as they are blinded by envy and to busy putting their hands into productive peoples pockets.
    Today is a wonderful day for Australia, Labor has been put where it belongs, out in the cold, and not just because of disunity as they would have us believe, but mostly because of sheer bloody incompetence driven by the politics of envy.

  6. Perhaps the past offers us a pointer on how to get things done.
    The Stuart and Barkly Highways were built in short order early in World War II, and upgraded by the end of the war.
    It took a world war and threat of invasion to get these major pieces of infrastructure completed whereas previously it wasn’t considered necessary and no doubt was regarded as uneconomic in this remote part of the world.
    The construction of the highways was undertaken by the Allied Works Council headquartered in Alice Springs, which was effectively the military capital of the NT during the war (and also the civil administrative capital).
    There is likely to have been no other town of its size (Alice Springs civilian population was less than 1000 at war’s beginning) that exercised more influence and change over such an enormous area of any other place in the world. An aspect of the NT’s history largely overlooked by ourselves, let alone anyone else.
    The construction of the highways was a cooperative effort, with detachments of workers provided by other state administrations – they were not built by the Americans, as so often inaccurately claimed. However, the Southwest Pacific Command did demand the construction of the Barkly Highway – initially it was intended only the Stuart Highway would be built.
    In more recent times it’s important to note that when major transport infrastructure projects proceeded (the sealing of the south Stuart Highway in the mid 1980s, the construction of the railway to Darwin in the early 2000s), they happened when there were confluences of state / territory and federal politics.
    For example, Labor was in power in South Australia and nationally (and the NT had a Labor member in John Reeves) when sealing of the south Stuart Highway was negotiated.
    Similarly the CLP was in power in the NT, the Liberals in power in South Australia, and the Federal Coalition in power nationally, when agreement was reached to proceed with the construction of the railway from Alice Springs to Darwin.
    That’s the “realpolitics” behind major infrastructure projects in remote and northern Australia. We’ve now got a confluence of conservative governments in WA, Qld, NT and (as of today) nationally, and (regardless of who wins) Lingiari is now a marginal seat, so perhaps now is the time to really take advantage of the situation to progress major infrastructure projects such as the sealing of the Outback Way AND the Tanami Road.

  7. Haha Steve. Good to see you enjoying the victory.
    Gloat while you can, we will bounce back and the Abbott team will have to face the reality of government, all sorts of constraints … political, economic and personal.
    Wish them well for the sake of the nation, but they will be challenged by events like all governments. As for socialism, long dead, only lives on in your mind Steve.
    It was a Labor govt that floated the dollar, freed up markets, sold off GBEs etc and replaced the Deakinite compact with an open economy.
    Meanwhile, back to the Outback Way, we need to have a better case for it than you and Hal looking at a map and getting excited.
    The nation might actually be better off by upgrading eastern seaboard rail and getting trucks off the Hume Highway, than sealing the OW.
    Here in the NT it might make more sense to seal the Tanami first, let’s see comparative cost benefit analyses. That’s not socialism, it’s just rational.

  8. @ Steve Brown. September 8. 9:36am.
    I’m a policy voter, but as for your comment that “Socialism” or Labor “involves taking money out of the pockets of those who do something and giving it to those that don’t”, the CLP give seven-day-per-week take-away alcohol licenses to pubs and roadhouses which continue the “core culture of drinking”, while taking from the taxpayer to support the cost of alcohol abuse, including the multi-million dollar mandatory rehab (AMP) which incarcerates welfare recipients.
    The licencees and the alcohol industry make a good deal of profit from the rivers of grog, both of whom then give back to the political parties in campaign donations and on it goes, as it has for the past forty years in the NT.
    Liberal alcohol policy will bankrupt the NT as many professionals have advised, but this advice was rejected as being a vision too far.
    I awoke in Camooweal recently and it was so good to not be surrounded by grog containers. NT Tourism will continue to occupy the hole it’s in as alcohol containers spread further afield, sullying the bush.
    The “core culture of drinking” is Adam Giles’ way of saying “thank you” to those who support taking money out of taxpayers pockets and putting it into a Liberal fantasy.
    It’s a pity you’re so anti-Labor Steve, because you can’t see the mulga for the beer cans.
    You spent ratepayers money for the Port Augusta report and it’s not clear what we got out of it, so enough sinking the ideological slipper. Let’s debate policy.

  9. Interesting story in today’s NT News re the Roper Highway. This single lane bitumen road needs an upgrade given the increased grey nomad / caravan traffic and road trains from the new mine.
    Scarce resources need to be allocated rationally to get the best use from them for society overall.
    I think this road would have a higher priority than the Outback Way, but we need comparative cost-benefit analyses to help us decide.

  10. Well this can only be good and I would presume that the access costs and registration to use, at the moment controlled by a dysfunctional element will finally be handed back to the people of Australia, to use at their will or need. Permission to access like any other major Australian road or highway, part of Australia.

  11. Outback Highway could be joined from Tennant Creek to Halls Creek, linking Townsville with Broome, where roads already exist.
    It is not such a huge distance.
    The WA, NT and Queensland State Governments could assist the Federal Government. Hurry up and bring it on as we pussy foot around. So much for Great Ideas.


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