Jun 23, 2014

Abbott threatens High-speed rail

Tony Abbott’s lack of imagination risks killing off the visionary high-speed rail project linking Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

Today there was further debate in the Parliament on my Private Member’s Bill, which seeks to rescue the proposal.

The Bill would establish a planning authority including representatives of the Queensland, NSW, ACT and Victorian governments along with representatives from local government and the railway industry.

The authority would begin the detailed planning of the project and, in particular, would move toward securing the corridor for the project to prevent it being absorbed by urban sprawl.

The former Labor Government allocated $52 million in the Budget for the authority to advance planning and to begin to purchase the land corridor.

But this funding was cut in the 2014 Abbott Budget.

In office Labor carefully investigated the possibility of high-speed rail, completing feasibility studies that showed the $114 billion project would provide $2.15 of economic benefit for every $1 invested on the Sydney-Melbourne sector.

The project would deliver three-hour journeys between Brisbane and Sydney and Sydney and Melbourne.

It would also reinvigorate dozens of regional communities along its route including the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

The new authority proposed in the Bill was initially a recommendation of the previous Labor Government’s High-Speed Rail Advisory Group, which included which included former Nationals Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fisher as well as the Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott.

In an indication of his chronic inability to think ahead, Mr Abbott abolished that advisory group soon after taking office.