Well, look it’s great to be here with my colleagues Darren Chester, who is the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, and Matthew Canavan, who is the Minister for Northern Australia but perhaps more importantly in today’s context the Minister of Resources. Darren is here to announce two timber bridges being replaced, future-proofing the rail line between here and Narromine. We are in Parkes of course, and the Mayor here, Ken Keith, has long proclaimed Parkes as being the centre of the universe, and today that is in one sense becoming true, because to future proof the line between here and Narromine in the context of the Inland Rail, the Brisbane to Melbourne line in the future, is so important.
This particular town, Parkes, is the place where the north-south and the east-west rail lines intersect in Australia. It is the hub of such a great agricultural region, such a great commerce region, and such a great local Government area - recognised last year with the awarding of the A R Bluett Award – a prestigious award recognising Parkes as the best Shire Council local Government area in New South Wales. This area produces so much. It’s a service hub, it’s very much the heart of an agricultural region, it is a place where you can in the future and certainly even now get product to market, product to port, with 80 per cent of Australia’s population encountered in just 24 hours. And that’s only going to be enhanced by today’s announcement of $1.3 million to replace two timber bridges: one at Narraweena, and the other at Tomingley West which will, as Darren Chester will in a few moments make a few remarks, future-proof the line. This is so important in the context of Inland Rail, so important for the future of Parkes and this local Government area.
I’m really pleased to also have, as I say, Senator Canavan here. We’re going to be visiting the North Parkes Mine, later today, where they’ve got a new leader but the direction is the same. That mine too, recently recognised for its safety aspects - that mine too, such an important part of the commerce, the industry, and the manufacturing, and everything else that goes on here in Parkes. As I say, Ken Keith has long proclaimed this area as the centre of the universe, and today with this important announcement of future proofing the line with the timber bridges being replaced with two new structures. That just manifests this area as a sensational area for Australia’s economy and importantly too to make sure that this enables job and growth for our nation. Now I will be having some more to say about de-centralisation, but I think it’s important and incumbent that we get as many of those ARTC representatives and staff living and working here in Parkes. I want to see that even enhanced in the future, and I would really like to see that as part of our Government’s decentralisation agenda. I think it’s so important that we have the people running the show right here where the action is.
And as I say, Parkes is very much the centre of a lot of things happening with the future of Inland Rail, with what we’re announcing today with these bridges, and certainly in the mining industry as well which is why it’s important that we’ve got two Cabinet ministers here today. I’ll hand it over Darren Chester to make some further announcements.
Well can I say it’s great to be here, and I’d particularly like to thank Linfox and the Parkes Council for hosting today’s visit. Obviously the Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail project is a major piece of infrastructure; it’s the biggest rail project in the past 100 years in Australia. And we’re a Government which is determined to get on with the job of delivering the Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail. We’re working with our state colleagues in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria on the agreements that will be required to allow us to deliver this project, we’ve already committed $894 million to Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail, which has allowed some of the geo-technical work to be done, get the environmental assessments underway, and it will assist with land acquisition but more importantly, it will allow construction to start later this year. The Prime Minister has made it very clear he wants us to get on the job of construction on Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail by the end of this year, and we will do that.
So it’s very exciting to be here today in Parkes - Parkes is going to be the heart of the Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail Project. For the first time we’re going to have a north-south link along the east coast of Australia, linking in to the East West Link, which is an important part of this whole project. So it is an historic undertaking by the Turnbull-Joyce Government, it’s one we’re very proud of and one we’re very keen to work with local communities along the route. Obviously here in Parkes, the Mayor has been an incredibly strong advocate for the Inland Rail Project and we look forward to working with him, with Michael McCormack, the local Member of Parliament and others along the route as we seek to deliver all the benefits of this project.
We need to recognise that a project like this will change lives and it will save lives. It will change lives by reducing the congestion and improve productivity. It will actually save lives by reducing road trauma and taking some of those heavy vehicles off the road and getting products on to rail. So it is an exciting project and one we’re very keen to start delivering as soon as we possibly can.
Mr Mayor, where are you?
Look to Darren and Michael and Matt, I’ll keep it informal as we are relaxed in Parkes most of the time.
My fellow councillors, ladies and gentlemen; it’s great news that the Inland Rail is starting to get the impetus that we want. In my role as chair of the Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail Alliance – representing all the councils along the route – we’ve been pushing for the Inland Rail because we see the great benefit for the nation of Australia by developing this railway line.
The announcement of funding these two bridges to future proof it – ready for the Inland Rail to be built – is another step forward and will keep the sceptics quiet. We’ve been continuing to lobby the Federal Government and we’ve been speaking to Darren Chester about the need for the Federal Government to commit more funds to the Inland Rail, so it takes no doubt out of the minds of individuals along the route, that this will go ahead. And it will encourage private enterprise, therefore, to get involved in the project as well and make some investments on the Inland rail.
Could I say, we’ve been working with ARTC, on their environmental and corridor studies along the Parkes-Narromine route, and I think they’re getting very close to having a public exhibition once it gets through all the planning processes. So, we look forward to taking our community along that journey of having a look at what that impact will be on that works around Parkes itself and we would welcome, Minister McCormack, the opportunity to host ARTC in an office in Parkes. And we hope we can encourage that to happen, as well.
But thank you for your attendance today and a big thank you to Jim Murray from Linfox for organising this site, today and the work that Linfox do in being part of our community. Thank you very much.
And I’d like to get Senator Canavan to make some comments, too.
It’s great to be here as, I suppose, the third representative of the states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. This is a nation building project and we are a Government that is focussed on building our nation. It’s great to be here in Parkes, where your namesake of your town, Sir Henry Parkes, played such a huge role in bringing us together as a nation, 116 years ago. But when we did that we didn’t really connect up as a nation. We kept a rail network in Queensland that was narrow gauge and separate from the rest of the country. And still 116 years on, we largely are separated from the rest of the country, in Queensland, with that network. So, under this Government – for the first time in more than 100 years – we are going to build a project that will connect up our country, that will connect up the great and productive agricultural and mining areas here in western New South Wales, with those in southern Queensland, the ports and airports that are being built there, as well. And we can create a corridor of commerce that connects up the centre of the universe, here in Parkes, with the rest of the world, with Asia, with all the opportunities we have as a nation; to grow food, to mine products and make lots of money and create jobs for the country.
So it’s great to be here as part of this project. It’s always one step at a time, of course. It’s a major endeavour. And it’s only because of the strong advocacy of local members like Michael McCormack that we are here today talking about this project and making these investments.
I just have a question about the speculation of a billion dollars to kick start it.
Well, I’m not in a position to comment on Budget speculation, we are only a couple of weeks away from the Treasurer making his announcements. What I can say is that $894 million is already on the table from the Turnbull-Joyce Government for that pre-construction work. And I recognise this is a critical stage in the project’s formation. There’s going to need to be significant further investments by the Commonwealth to get the work done but we can wait a couple of weeks until the Budget to confirm what may or may not be in that.
You sort of say that construction’s set to start soon, any indication of how long that might take? And even more specifically, how long it- before it starts hitting sort of our regions out here?
Well, in terms of the future proofing work on the timber bridge replacement, that’s going to start the next week or so – that will future proof the Inland Rail Project. But in terms of construction more broadly for the Melbourne Brisbane Inland Rail Project, the Prime Minister has made it very clear he expects construction to start this year and it will. It will be in New South Wales towards the second half of this year. We expect to see Melbourne Brisbane Inland Rail construction beginning in earnest. It’s going to take us many years to develop the project. We’re on track to deliver it within the decade, as we said we would. This is a major undertaking, as Matt Canavan and Michael McCormack have indicated. This is a project that our nation has waited 100 years for. We’re getting on with the job of delivering it but it will take some time.