House debates

Thursday, 18 June 2020


Inland Rail

4:34 pm

Photo of John McVeighJohn McVeigh (Groom, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The nation has welcomed the announcement by the Prime Minister that, as part of our economy's post COVID-19 economic recovery, the federal and state governments have agreed on the process of fast-tracking assessments and approval processes for major infrastructure projects across the nation. I welcome the fact that at the top of the list—the first that the Prime Minister announced—was the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project. This project will mean some 16,000 jobs created in our national economy and $16 billion worth of economic boost for our nation. And I'm particularly pleased that we will see around half of those jobs and around half of that economic boost happening in Queensland.

That project is not more significant throughout the country than it is in Toowoomba and the Darling Downs region, which I represent in this chamber. We already have two private intermodal freight facilities being developed to link in with the Melbourne-to-Brisbane Inland Rail project. Interlink SQ, with the support of Seaway Intermodal, are currently located on the existing western railway line coming in from Western Queensland towards Toowoomba and Charlton, west of our city. They are, of course, close to the second range crossing that was completed with federal government support and Queensland state government support. Wagners' Wellcamp facility, supported by Pacific National, is adjacent to the new internationally-capable Wellcamp airport. That's significant for our region and that's significant for the whole eastern seaboard.

For around 100 years, our nation has talked about the dream of a standard gauge railway—the efficiencies that that would bring and the connection between our states, let alone the economic benefit to the whole nation. In 2006, we saw increased attention to the proposed Melbourne-to-Brisbane Inland Rail project, with significant works looking at potential corridors. That work has only become more intensive, particularly over the last four years. That's been through successive ministers for infrastructure and transport. In fact, it's been through successive governments since that time.

Late last year, in December last year, a little over six months ago, we finally saw an intergovernmental agreement signed between the Queensland state government and the federal government that would allow final planning and assessment to proceed. I'm of the understanding that ARTC, the Australian Rail Track Corporation, will be ready in the near future to submit environmental impact statement information to the state government so that they can fulfil their role and their responsibility of overviewing those assessments. We are close to seeing the commencement of this very exciting project.

I want to note that we should all realise that big projects are not easy. Big infrastructure projects have impacts on lands holders in particular, whether it's a freeway in a city, a tunnel in the city or, in this case, a railway line in regional Queensland. They have big impacts and potentially-affected landholders must be addressed and must be accommodated appropriately by federal and state governments and others behind such projects in terms of compensation, mitigation and other ways of managing the impact on their property. They can't be left to manage the impact or bear the cost alone for something that will bring significant benefit to the whole nation.

We need to recognise, as well, the expertise that's gone into this project by ARTC, Arup, SMEC, AECOM, and, in my part of the world, the Toowoomba Regional Council. They've been looking at the engineering, and at the flood studies in particular. I acknowledge there are some that are still not happy with the proposal, and they have every right to raise their concerns. I acknowledge that the Deputy Prime Minister, as the minister responsible, is looking at some of those issues and reviewing some information for them. But, at the end of the day, the coalition is focused on the future. It has a positive approach. I'm pleased to see the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister are leaning in on this project. They want to deal with the challenges, because the only other option would be to say, 'It's all too hard.' Our future is far more important than that; it's far more exciting than that.