Mar 2, 2016

Constituency statements – Rail Infrastructure

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:33): I rise to support high-speed rail down the east coast of Australia. In government as the infrastructure minister, I commissioned a $20-million study into the economic opportunities that would be presented by high-speed rail. There is no doubt that it would be a game-changer. The study found that—just as in Europe and in Asia, high-speed rail is being rolled out—in Australia, particularly down the east coast on a route between Brisbane and Melbourne via great regional centres like Newcastle, and here in Canberra, it would be a game-changer. In relation to the capital city routes between Sydney and Brisbane and between Sydney and Melbourne, which consistently rank in the top 10 of the most travelled air routes in the world—indeed, at one stage last year, Sydney to Melbourne was the busiest air route in the world—it would put those great cities under three hours away from each other. Given the convenience of rail travel compared with other modes, be it the motor vehicle or air travel, it would be taken up by Australians as well as by visitors to Australia. This is truly a nation-building project. It was found that, between Sydney and Melbourne, there would be a $2.15 benefit for every dollar invested.

That is why it was very disappointing that, as part of its draconian 2014 budget, the government cut all of the funding for the high-speed rail authority that had been recommended by an advisory group made up of eminent Australians, including the former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, Jennifer Westacott from the Business Council of Australia and other representatives. They recommended that that authority was required because of the intergovernmental nature of a route that will go through three states as well as the Australian Capital Territory. They recommended that we need to start preserving the corridor now so that construction could commence in an efficient way in the future.

So I call upon the government to adopt my private member’s bill that is before the parliament to establish such an authority. Andrew Robb has now come out in support of it; it is a pity he sat in the cabinet that cut the funding for it. We need to get on with this project in the interests of jobs and our economy.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Claydon ): In accordance with standing order 193, the time for members’ constituency statements has concluded.