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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13392


Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (12:48): I praise the Member for Grayndler for this initiative. I also compliment him on his tennis ability, which is improving under his new coaching.

We have bipartisan support here, but we might have a little bit of a divergence on how we should get there. I have maintained a great interest in high-speed rail, but it was not an interest that came out of trains; it come as a result of work that we did on sustainable cities and the need for connectivity. We have some considerable problems with the overdevelopment of our major cities, the cost of those cities, the congestion of those cities, the loss of productivity and the congestion issues within those cities.

We often look at high-speed rail as a way of getting from A to B, from a transport position. The study did look at that and it looked at the return on such. The concern we have is about the real purpose for high-speed rail: why do we need it? We have an extraordinary imbalance where Sydney and Melbourne are amongst the five most expensive cities in the world. This is an extraordinary thing for Australia, whose single greatest asset is real estate. The imbalance that has occurred as regional areas have declined and our major cities have grown presents a perfect storm for the creation of a strategic decentralisation to create housing supply in regions where land is less expensive. The infrastructure to achieve that is high-speed rail. This was discovered in Japan in the sixties, when Tokyo was the most expensive city in the world and amongst the most congested cities in the world. High-speed rail has seen Japan decentralise, the creation of regional cities and the pressure taken off Tokyo.

We have that same opportunity. The formation by the Prime Minister of a standing committee—and therefore a bipartisan committee—on infrastructure, transport and cities is looking at this very issue. It is looking at the partnership that must be created, which is the funding mechanism, and it is looking at value capture. It is looking at value capture very intensely because of the perfect storm that has been created by this imbalance of settlement and imbalance of cost of living between regional areas and our major cities. High-speed rail will open up housing that might be 20 or 30 minutes from our major cities. This housing currently might only be in the vicinity of $150,000 to $250,000 for a dwelling, compared to the average price of a house in Sydney, which is now over $1 million, and yet, with high-speed rail, it may be closer to the CBD in terms of time, which is the way we look at commutes. We do not look at commutes as being 15 kilometres, 30 kilometres or 100 kilometres. We look at the time it takes to get to work. Goulburn would be 30 minutes from Sydney. The Southern Highlands would be 20 minutes from Sydney. Newcastle would be 39 minutes from Sydney—and a very reasonable commute with beautiful countryside to look at.

When you look at the uplift of those property values, those property values will be competing with Sydney and Melbourne property values—the second and fifth most expensive cities in the world as far as property values go. The uplift is apparent. The value that is created is apparent, and then it is up to us to find the right mechanism of value capture to fund high-speed rail. It is an easy sum to look at if we were to move one million people into this region between Sydney and Melbourne. It should be noted, also, that the Sydney to Melbourne air corridor is the third busiest in terms of flights and fourth busiest in terms of passengers. Yes, transport between Sydney and Melbourne is required, but, when you look at the real purpose, it is to strategically decentralise—to provide a higher quality of life, to provide housing for the next generation, and to provide the opportunity for us to be a more productive, efficient society with a better quality of life and a plan for future growth. The Sydney to Melbourne corridor is just the first of a series of corridors that need to be looked at. The tools should not be put down—then we should move to the Sydney to Brisbane corridor and beyond.

This investment in infrastructure is going to allow us to grow for decades and decades to come. Anthony, I look forward to working with you for decades and decades to come on this important issue.

Debate adjourned.