Tony Abbott has sold out regional centres like the Gold Coast, Newcastle, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton by scrapping Commonwealth support for a high-speed rail link down the nation’s eastern coast.
Despite the Government having publicly backed high-speed rail before and since the election, last month’s federal Budget scrapped a $52 million allocation to establish a planning authority for the project, which would link Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.
The authority would have included representatives of all affected states and territories as well as railway experts and would have started the process of securing the corridor for the 1748km project before it is built out by urban sprawl.
Mr Abbott’s withdrawal of Government support for high-speed rail, confirmed in recent Senate Budget Estimates Committee hearings, will throw into doubt a project with potential to revolutionise interstate travel in Australia.
It will also deny dozens of cities and towns along the route the economic benefit of the project.
A feasibility study into high-speed rail commissioned by the former Labor Government found that for every dollar spent on HSR on the first section between Sydney and Melbourne, the project would return $2.15 in economic benefit to surrounding communities
Mr Abbott is simply unable to think ahead.
Creation of the authority had been recommended by the previous Labor Government’s High-Speed Rail Advisory Group, which included former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer and Business Council of Australia head Jennifer Westacott.
Members of this group could see the game-changing potential of high-speed rail, particularly for residents of communities along its route.
Mr Abbott appears to oppose rail investment in any form.
His Budget has also stripped billions’ of dollars’ worth of funding for urban rail projects, which would have reduced urban traffic congestion.
The Government has also reneged on its election promise to speed up funding of inland freight rail project between Brisbane and Melbourne.
The Budget did not add an extra dollar to the $300 million set aside by the previous Labor Government.