House debates

Wednesday, 28 September 2022


High Speed Rail Authority Bill 2022; Second Reading

6:39 pm

Photo of Patrick GormanPatrick Gorman (Perth, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister) Share this | Hansard source

The High Speed Rail Authority Bill 2022 is about building renewable powered transport for the next generation and making sure that we have those great pieces of infrastructure that really do so much more than just get us around and actually bring our country together. As I reflected on this bill, I remembered the first time I got on a high-speed train, the Eurostar, which travels at 300 kilometres an hour. It was a bit like the first time you sit in an electric car and go vroom. You do not forget that first acceleration, and it's exactly the same on an electric train—indeed, on a high-speed electric train, which this bill will enable to become a reality here in Australia, something which has been talked about for decades and decades.

I remember as a child—slightly smaller technology when it came to Perth—when we transferred the Perth rail network from diesel to electric trains. That happened in 1992. I remember the Transperth officers coming to my primary school, educating us about how we needed to be safe around electric trains, which even involved a slightly naff but nevertheless memorable Maggie the Magpie who'd tell us how to properly behave around electric trains. While Perth has electric trains, I acknowledge that we won't be part of the initial high-speed rail rollout, but, nevertheless, as an Australian, I'm excited. And maybe I can have a little bit of hope in my heart that, while we have high-speed rail for the east coast of Australia connecting communities, for Western Australia and those of us who travel across the country regularly, maybe Qantas and Virgin will start to get serious about investing in the next generation of super sonic airliners that are currently being developed. The High Speed Rail Authority Bill is an example of bringing the country together, creating faster, more efficient connections for our cities and our regions, giving people more freedom about where they choose to live, where they choose to work, where they choose to holiday, and being able to more affordably stay in touch with family and friends.

I agree with the previous speaker that we should not use infrastructure as a political tool. We should use infrastructure to grow our nation. Investing in infrastructure is about investing in the future of Australia, and this is about a better future for all Australians. It gives people stronger connections, and it will open up new opportunities for business.

We also know that this does have a grounding in good economics for our country. Previous studies by the department of infrastructure have found that the benefits of a high-speed rail network go well beyond travel times—unlocking regional economies, creating jobs, creating a significant boost for the economy in the medium and the long term. A report by the University of New South Wales found that the option of a high-speed rail network across the east coast could result in $140 billion of value uplift. This will make it easier to live in our regional centres. And we know that the studies completed in 2013 on the phase 2 rail study released by the previous Labor government showed that for every dollar spent there'd be $2.30 of economic benefit. That's before you go on to all of the social and environmental benefits. As I said, this technology is about building renewable powered public transport that can give people more choices about how they get around this great country.

This is not a new idea. The idea of a high-speed rail link between Melbourne and Sydney was first proposed in 1984 by none other than the CSIRO. We know that 20 years before that, Japan introduced their high-speed rail network in 1964. We saw in the 1980s Europe begin to build their network, which now operates across France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Netherlands. China, who only started building such a network in 2008, now boasts one of the world's largest, with 37,000 kilometres of lines in operation. Needless to say, it's Australia's turn. We know that, if we get this done here, the technology is there. Yes, we have unique and beautiful geography that will be a challenge for those who seek to build this, but the preservation of the corridors has already begun. We now just need to start planning that first link that the member for Newcastle spoke about a few moments ago, the Newcastle to Sydney link.

I mentioned before that this does have unique benefits when it comes to the question of climate change. This is technology that's uniquely placed to take advantage of our 80 per cent renewable energy mix, which we will meet by 2030. The International Energy Agency tells us that rail is already the most electrified transport sector. Three-quarters of passenger rail runs on electricity worldwide. Half of rail freight operates on electricity. So, if we are going to tackle that big challenge of decarbonising the transport sector, we need to be serious about expanding the rail networks that operate in Australia.

We know that, compared to aviation, high-speed rail uses 90 per cent less energy per passenger kilometre. When we look at a country like Australia, that makes a huge difference. And we know that people want these transport alternatives. As you can probably tell, Deputy Speaker, I am someone who loves being in modern, fast versions of transport. One of the things I always appreciate about being in a train rather than an aeroplane—and I studied aviation when I was young, and I love the aviation sector—is that the windows are just a little bit bigger on a train. In a country as beautiful as Australia, to be able to sit and go from the member for Whitlam's electorate—


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