Abbott commits to Warrego Hwy during whistlestop visit
PRIME Minister Tony Abbott now has first-hand experience about the issues affecting Western Downs residents following an unannounced visit to Tara on Saturday.
Mr Abbott made the whistlestop trip to keep a very public promise - made on shock jock Alan Jones' radio show earlier this year - to meet with Tara resident Debbi Orr and discuss her concerns about coal seam gas.
Following the meeting, Mr Abbott sat down with Western Downs Regional Council mayor Ray Brown and discussed the key issues impacting the area, including infrastructure, drought, flood recovery, the booming resources sector and how the carbon tax affected the two council-owned aged care facilities in the region.
The council owns both the Carinya Aged Persons Hostel in Miles and the Tarcoola Retirement Hostel in Tara, and Cr Brown said the carbon tax had burdened ratepayers with additional costs, a point he said he hammered home to the Prime Minister.
"The aged care facilities certainly do struggle financially because they are not massive, but it's crucial to maintain them," he told the Dalby Herald.
"Our electricity bill to run the facilities has jumped from $100,000 to $127,000 a year.
"Yes, we do get subsidy from the Federal Government, but that doesn't cover it all."
After landing in Oakey, Mr Abbott and his minders drove to Tara, before he committed to maintaining funding for crucial upgrades of the notorious Warrego Hwy.
Cr Brown said he believed the commitment was a good result for the community.
"He commented that he would maintain the funding for the Warrego Hwy (and) that's what I wanted to hear," he said.
"I was certainly very impressed about that commitment.
"He experienced the same roads you and I, and our families, have to drive on ... and acknowledged we have issues with enormous growth (because of the resources sector)."
Federal Member for Maranoa Bruce Scott hailed Mr Abbott's visit as "a win for Maranoa and the Warrego Hwy".
"He took the time to drive the road and it was great to see him taking the time to … experience the Warrego and Moonie Highways…and also see how important small aged care facilities are to small communities," Mr Scott said.