Subjects: High Speed Rail, NSW election.
ALBANESE: I’m here today with Ross Jackson, Labor’s candidate for Albury at the state election and I am here today to call upon the Federal Government and the New South Wales Government to support my High Speed Rail Planning Authority Bill.
We spent, when we were last in government, $20 million on the plan for High Speed Rail – a line some 1750km long from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney, Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Albury Wodonga and Shepparton. What that study showed was that there was particular economic benefit for the Sydney to Melbourne section, particular benefit because of the economic activity and jobs that would be created right here in Albury.
A High Speed Rail line taking people from this region to Melbourne in just over an hour and into Sydney in just over two hours would transform economic opportunity here.
The Federal Government has backed away from support for this project. They say they support it but they have walked away from the creation of this planning authority. They cut the $52 million that had been allocated in the Budget for this authority and they are using as their excuse a lack of support from state government, in particular from the NSW Government. This is important for regional economic development and I can’t think of any other single project that could create jobs here in this region other than a High Speed Rail line.
REPORTER: If Labor were in power how would you make it happen though?
ALBANESE: What we’d be doing is establishing the authority. That was upon recommendation of the advisory group that included people like Tim Fisher, Jennifer Westcott from the Business Council of Australia, Bryan Nye from the Australasian Rail Association. A unanimous recommendation that said that you need an authority in order to drive that change, in order to preserve the corridor, in order to proceed with the environmental approvals that will be necessary in order to turn this vision into a reality.
We know with an economic return of $2.15 for every dollar invested it’s a smart investment. It’s an investment in our future. It’s an investment in nation building and it’s the sort of vision that Ross Jackson has for Albury and that Australians and people in this region are crying out for.
REPORTER: Does Australia have the critical mass to make it viable though?
ALBANESE: We certainly do. We are a vast continent but we are concentrated along the corridor of this High Speed Rail line. That’s what makes it viable – a three-hour journey from Sydney to Melbourne, capital city to capital city, CBD to CBD. That’s very competitive.
I caught a plane to and from Melbourne from Sydney last Thursday. It took me more than three hours door to door. If a High Speed Rail line could deliver that, it would transform capital city transport.
But more importantly here, a rail line that went through this region could transform the region, take pressure off our capital cities. That’s why it’s vital for this region of Albury-Wodonga that this rail line proceed. All it requires is political will.
We know also that foreign investors are queueing up, people are queueing up to provide advice on how such a High Speed Rail line would work. We know that it’s occurring throughout the region – not just Japan that created a high speed rail line some 50 years ago – but also in China, in other parts of South East Asia and throughout Europe.
Anyone who travels to Europe will know that if you are going from Rome to Milan or London to Paris or Madrid to Barcelona, you do it by High Speed Rail. It has transformed those regional cities. That will take pressure off the big capitals. We need to grow our regional centres and there’s nowhere better to grow than right here in Albury-Wodonga that is well positioned to take advantage of such a line.
REPORTER: Do you reckon Ross Jackson has any chance of winning when Greg Aplin holds the seat by 27 per cent?
ALBANESE: I went and campaigned in Queensland in seats with a two in front in terms of the margin. What I know and in this region, you just have to look a little way to the south to see the sort of outcomes that happened at Shepparton in the last Victorian state election to know that you can have big turnarounds.
What we know is that the Liberals have taken this region for granted. The Nats have abandoned the field and the Liberals are essentially run from the northern beaches of Sydney. Mike Baird and his best mate Tony Abbott don’t care about this region. Ross Jackson does and Ross Jackson will stand up for Albury.
REPORTER: Would a High Speed Rail not be in jeopardy of just passing through and taking tourists away from Albury?
ALBANESE: Not at all. We did the study and the study showed that in order to be viable you need two sorts of train journeys. One is the three-hour direct journey. But what really lifts up the value of the High Speed Rail line is those regional journeys. Stations that have been identified if you look at the study – the work has been done: a stop in Shepparton, a stop in Albury-Wodonga, a stop in Wagga Wagga, a stop in Canberra, a stop in the Southern Highlands.
That is what transforms the value. Why wouldn’t you want to live in a great regional centre such as Albury-Wodonga if you were one hour from the capital city of Melbourne and two hours from the capital city of Sydney and an hour from Canberra? It would really transform this region. That’s what makes it viable is those regional express trains on a High Speed Rail line making sure that those regional centres are lifted up economically.
This at the end of the day is about jobs. A High Speed Rail line is good for the economy, it’s good for employment, it’s good for the environment.
It’s also a much more pleasant experience. I’ll be today to travelling from Albury to get to Canberra where Parliament is sitting. I’ll be flying to Sydney. I’ll be waiting at the airport. I’ll be hustling on to a plane. I won’t have time to do any work on that plane. I’ll then get off. I’ll then wait for another plane. I’ll then be sitting on the journey to Canberra – won’t get any work done.
A High Speed Rail journey is a great experience. That is why people internationally have voted with their feet for High Speed Rail by travelling on High Speed Rail journeys. That’s why every on single line that has been built internationally – the actual number of travellers has exceeded the forecast. Every single one.
If it’s good enough for France and Spain and China and Italy and Japan, it’s good enough right here in Australia and because of the pattern of settlement we have down the east coast, that is what makes it viable.
REPORTER: What kind of state government commitment would it require of the project was to go ahead?
ALBANESE: The state government needs to do the planning. The state government needs to do the environmental studies, needs to help with the preservation of the corridor, which is why you need an authority to co-ordinate planning in terms of the southern journey across Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT. That’s why that state government input and support is so critical.
When I raised this with ministers in the Baird Government when I was the federal minister who had commissioned this study, we didn’t ask them for money. We didn’t ask them for anything other than support. What we got was just cynicism. We’ll, that’s not vision. That doesn’t help the people of Albury and that is what Ross Jackson would bring as the Member for Albury.
REPORTER: Has NSW Labor made a commitment to this?
ALBANESE: Well I am here today. We’re not asking for funding. I’ve discussed the issue with Luke Foley. He’s supportive of High Speed Rail. We have here a candidate that would take to Macquarie Street passionate advocacy for this project because Ross knows what it would do for jobs here in Albury.
REPORTER: Last Friday the Victorian Government announced a sum of money as part of a rail development that side of the river. We’ve got one about 13km that way. Is that duplication or a waste of taxpayers’ money?
ALBANESE: Certainly what we need to do is have co-ordination on across the jurisdictions in terms of NSW and Victoria. That’s one of the reasons for going back to the vision of Tom Uren, one of my mentors in politics – he had a vision for this region of Albury-Wodonga – making sure that it worked together. Certainly we need to make sure that there is co-operation between NSW and Victoria.
REPORTER: So clearly that hasn’t happened here.
ALBANESE: Well I’m not going to comment on the specifics, but NSW and Victoria need to have a co-operative relationship, particularly in the border areas. One of the issues of Federation is that you do have a need for co-operation across our state boundaries. That’s one of
the reasons why today I am talking about the creation of an authority – an authority that would ensure that you had that co-operation across the different jurisdictions.
REPORTER: I’ll take that as a yes.
REPORTER: Ross, from a local perspective what would a High Speed Rail do?
JACKSON: Well, effectively it you put Melbourne an hour and a half away the potential for this economy changes drastically. There’s a lot of support for High Speed Rail in the country. We have to look at this as the next Snowy Mountains scheme. It’s the next great nation building project that we have to push forth and ensure that it is there for future generations.
REPORTER: The Coalition said over the weekend that they will put in a new XPT train fleet. You sort of can’t beat that really can you?
JACKSON: The main thing to remember is that replacing the XPT is just replacing classic rail. We have a problem with classic rail and we are just upgrading the problem we have. If that $1 billion was actually put towards fast rail, what sort of outcome would we have towards the future? The press release itself – I’m a railway worker – there’s a lot of issues in that press release. There’s a lot of holes in that press release and there’s a lot of things I would like to see clarified in it
REPORTER: Such as?
JACKSON: It says that there will be a reduction of 25 minutes of services between Albury and Melbourne. Either they are paying for a signalling system increase in Victoria to take speeds past 130km/hr or they are removing stops on the line.
REPORTER: So you are saying it’s sort of a follow promise.
JACKSON: There’s holes. They should have thought it thorough a bit more.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.