Subject: High Speed Rail
JOSH ZEPPS: Anthony Albanese is Federal Labor’s spokesperson on infrastructure and transport. Anthony, g’day.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
ZEPPS: What do you make of this report?
ALBANESE: It’s a very sensible contribution to the debate. We set aside, when we were in government in the 2013 Budget $54 million to start creating the High Speed Rail Authority.
That was a recommendation of a group of experts including Tim Fischer, the former Deputy PM and Jennifer Westacott, the head of the Business Council.
They recommended that what you needed to do was to have an Authority that was able to coordinate the planning of the line and begin the process for preservation of the corridor.
ZEPPS: It’s just gone twenty past seven, I’m Josh Zepps with you on ABC Radio Sydney.
I’m speaking with Anthony Albanese, Federal Labor’s spokesperson on infrastructure investment about this new report that’s about to be published by Infrastructure Australia.
It says that the governments of New South Wales and Victoria really need to get in early and buy land along any proposed rail corridor for a High Speed Rail link between Sydney and Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane otherwise the costs are going to grow maybe four-fold as those areas get developed.
But Anthony, you just said you earmarked $54 million in the 2013 Budget but these guys are talking about $720 million now or $3.5 billion later. It’s a drop in the bucket.
ALBANESE: Yeah, and that would make sense. The $54 million was just the start of course, but it does make sense.
In general, Infrastructure Australia’s role was to provide that long term advice at arm’s length of government. One of the issues that we’ve suffered from in Sydney and indeed throughout our cities is a lack of planning.
That last mile that can create a big issue with regard to cost blowouts if you don’t preserve infrastructure corridors for the long term. Now, that’s got to be the first step.
The review that we did showed that for Sydney to Melbourne, it would produce for every dollar of investment a $2.15 benefit. So there is a great deal of benefit for High Speed Rail.
One of the things that’s happened is because it’s being rolled out in Europe, in Asia, in North America, is that the cost of High Speed Rail is coming down. The technology’s getting better and better.
But if we don’t preserve the corridor what will happen is at a future time when a decision is made, oh, let’s get on with construction, the costs will be prohibitive.
So that’s why that first step but you need the Planning Authority. I’ve got a Private Member’s Bill before the Parliament to do that because you do need to coordinate across four jurisdictions; Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT.
ZEPPS: If you were a betting man, Anthony, do you reckon we’re going to have a High Speed Rail Link in 20 years?
ALBANESE: I think we will. I think it will happen.
Increasingly what’s happening is that people who travel from Paris to London or from Beijing to Shanghai or for many years of course in Japan come back to Australia and go, why don’t we do it here?
It certainly does make sense including for the shorter journeys, Sydney to Canberra or Sydney to Newcastle, which become essentially journeys of under an hour.
That changes if we want to address issues like regional economic development, if we want to address issues including housing affordability.
Why wouldn’t you want to live outside of Sydney if you could get into the CBD in a lot less time than it takes now?
For people even in middle range suburbs who now drive into the CBD, it’s a transformative project.
It’s not something that will happen in the next couple of years.
You can’t make a decision today and then get on a train tomorrow. What you can do though, is plan today for tomorrow.
ZEPPS: Anthony Albanese, good to talk to you. Thanks for calling in.
ALBANESE: Thank you.