House debates

Wednesday, 28 September 2022


High Speed Rail Authority Bill 2022; Second Reading

5:51 pm

Photo of Michelle Ananda-RajahMichelle Ananda-Rajah (Higgins, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

When it comes to transport, Australians want options. It's all about alleviating congestion, boosting convenience and protecting the climate. The relatively small size of Higgins, at 39-square kilometres, means that my constituents face the irritations of road congestion on a daily basis. The people of Higgins welcome measures that take cars off the road and they also care deeply about the environment.

Transport in Australia is the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 18 per cent of our total burden. Emissions from transport have been increasing every year since 1990, with the exception of 2020 during the early phase of the pandemic.

Road transport makes up the bulk of our transport emissions, indicating that any intervention that reduces our dependency on cars is going to have an impact on overall emissions. Australia is a wide brown land with horizons stretching as far as the eye can see. Distances are vast. As a result we have become over-reliant on planes for intercity travel. Aviation accounts for nine per cent of our transport emissions, far less than road vehicles but nevertheless significant.

At this election Higgins voted for progress to end the gridlock on climate action. The passage of our historic Climate Change Bill a few weeks ago is a signpost in a forked road that course corrects our country. Higgins had a key role in that outcome. My constituents, like many Australians, want transport options from EVs to alternatives to aviation. Frankly, we are not all enamoured with the airport experience either. I must confess that I feel guilty flying from Melbourne to Canberra as often as I do. There must be a better way, and there is.

High-speed rail is a gift for a country as vast as ours and on the frontline of climate change. With Australia's population projected to increase to over 35 million by 2050, it's time to begin long-term planning, especially as we race to net zero. Globally, several advanced economies operate high-speed rail. Japan's Shinkansen, in 1964, was the first but high-speed rail now exists in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the Netherlands. China started relatively late, in 2003, but now has the world's largest network, stretching a whopping 38,000 kilometres, with plans to double by 2035.

I am proud to be part of an Albanese Labor government that is establishing a high-speed rail authority to oversee and plan the construction of high-speed rail down the east coast from Melbourne to Brisbane. As a statutory agency the authority will provide independent and impartial advice to the government. This has been a passion project of our Prime Minister who has been championing it for over a decade, initially from government and then from opposition. Our Prime Minister never gave up on the vision, tabling a high-speed rail bill five times between 2013 and 2018. In 2013 the coalition abolished the High Speed Rail Advisory Group, killing off the dream—until 2022, when Higgins and a slew of seats around the country voted for change.

An Albanese Labor government will provide $500 million to start work on the connection between Sydney and Newcastle as a matter of priority. This link was identified in a feasibility study commissioned by our Prime Minister in 2010, when he was the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. The funds will go towards corridor acquisition, planning and early works. But we are not stopping there; Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane are in scope.

We will have trains made with Aussie know-how and Aussie green steel and powered by our sunshine. Through Labor's National Rail Manufacturing Plan we will ensure that we build capacity in onshore manufacturing and local jobs that upskill our people. My only desire is that 250 kilometres an hour is a floor and not a ceiling. Frictionless systems, like the maglev intercity link being built in Japan right now, offer a glimpse into the future. Labor governments turn aspiration into action. We raise, not dim, ambition. Melbourne to Sydney in 2½ to three hours? Bring it on!


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