Oct 12, 2015

Labor reintroduces High Speed Rail Planning Authority Bill

Today I introduced to the House of Representatives Private Members Bill to establish an authority to progress delivery of a High Speed Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

The High Speed Rail Planning Authority Bill would allow for detailed planning of the visionary project and would begin to secure the corridor for the line before it is built out by urban sprawl.

I introduced an identical Private Member’s Bill in 2013 but it lapsed because former Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to facilitate its debate in line with his irrational bias against railway projects.

With his successor Malcolm Turnbull more open to Commonwealth investment in rail, I have reintroduced the Bill and urge the new Prime Minister to get behind this important project in the national interest.

High Speed Rail down Australia’s east coast would revolutionise interstate travel and turbo charge economic growth in the regional towns and cities along its path.

The former Labor Government conducted a comprehensive study into the proposal which identified a 1748km corridor and declared the project was viable.

For instance, every dollar invested in the Melbourne-to-Sydney leg, which would be the first constructed, would return $2.15 in public benefit.

The former Government also appointed a High Speed Rail Advisory Group that included former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fisher and Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott and the head of the Australasian Railways Association, Bryan Nye.

The panel recommended the establishment of a planning authority including representatives from the Queensland, NSW, Victoria and ACT Governments, as well as representatives of local government and railway experts.

My Bill reflects those recommendations.

The planning authority would consider land use planning; safety issues and environmental impact. It would also facilitate public consultation.

As our nation experiences the effects of a growing population, increasing demand for travel and the shift toward carbon-constrained economies, High Speed Rail will become increasingly attractive over coming years.

We need to start planning now to make the project a reality.

We need to keep in mind that the project would not only make it easier to travel, but would also drive economic development and jobs growth in regional centres along its route, including the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.