Mar 23, 2011

Question without notice – Investment in interstate rail network

Ms SAFFIN (Member of Page) – My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. How is the government’s investment in freight rail progressing? How is this helping the nation move into a low-carbon economy?

Mr ALBANESE – I thank Member for Page for her question. Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, who just said we have moved off carbon, she understands that transport and infrastructure is a part of dealing with reducing our carbon emissions, which is precisely what the question was about. We on this side, because we are not sceptics and deniers, believe in action, and we believe in action across government.

We know that one tonne of freight carried on rail only generates one-third of the carbon emissions generated by freight carried on road.

We have invested $3.4 billion in the interstate rail network over six years, part of our whole-of-government approach to reducing carbon emissions. Compared to our predecessors, that is twice as much investment in half the time.

Each 1,500-metre train equals 100 trucks—that is, 100 trucks off the road, resulting in less congestion on our roads and fewer carbon emissions in the air.

Last week on the North Coast of NSW we saw another major milestone in this most extensive upgrade to the nation’s freight rail network in almost a century. We began work at Casino on straightening the main north-south line between Newcastle and the Queensland border. This project will take eight months. It will reduce the severity of the curves at some 58 separate locations by realigning the existing track, and this move alone will cut rail transit times across the seaboard by an hour.

Under the Howard government, the proportion of freight carried by rail between Sydney and Brisbane actually fell from 24 per cent to 19 per cent. We are determined to reverse that decline.

That is why we have a draft national freight strategy out there. That is why we have a national ports strategy integrating land transport with our port system. This is investment in critical economic infrastructure. It will strengthen our economy and help secure our future and, in the meantime, it has created 2,000 construction jobs in the sector as well as supporting jobs in manufacturing at factories including those at Grafton in the electorate of the honourable Member for Page.

This is good for business, good for productivity and good for reducing our emissions.