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Tuesday, 23 June 1998
Page: 5128

Mr BROUGH —My question is addressed to the Minister for Transport and Regional Development. Could the minister advise the House of what action this government has taken to secure the future of Australia's rail industry.

Mr VAILE (Transport and Regional Development) —I thank the honourable member for Longman for his question. As members would know, the member for Longman has taken a great deal of interest in the actions that have been undertaken by our government to facilitate the security and extension of rail services in Australia. Members would be aware that, along with a private sector company, the Prime Minister participated in an announcement of the possibility of the private sector getting involved in the development of the inland rail bridge. I acknowledge the presence in the gallery of Mr Everald Compton of the Australian Transport and Energy Corridor group, which is one of the principal proposers of this visionary project.

Along with that, members would be aware of some of the changes that the Howard-Fischer government has undertaken with regard to underpinning the security of rail in Australia, following the pitiful experience that this country suffered under the Labor Party. For instance, in Tasmania, Tasrail has announced a profit on its rail operations—the first time there has been a profit in rail in Tasmania for 130 years. Tasrail also announced a $12.5 million investment in a new fleet of locos to haul an increasing level of freight, a 20 per cent increase since it took over in November 1997, as well as new rail wagons that are to be built in Burnie.

In South Australia, Great Southern Railways, the private owners of the interstate passenger service, have today announced the extension of the Ghan service from Alice Springs to Melbourne. That, coupled with better marketing of the Ghan, the Indian Pacific and the overland trains, means a boost to regional and outback tourism, which means more jobs in places like Broken Hill, Adelaide, Port Augusta, Kalgoorlie and Alice Springs.

It is quite clear that our government is supporting the rebirth of rail in Australia, and this means securing more jobs in other towns such as Pinnaroo and Leigh Creek in South Australia with the development and expansion of the freight services in South Australia. As well as facilitating the rebirth of rail in South Australia and Tasmania, our government is supporting rail right across Australia.

We have allocated $100 million towards the Alice Springs to Darwin rail link. We have budgeted $250 million towards the upgrade of the interstate track. We are working with the New South Wales and ACT governments on the very high speed train between Sydney and Canberra. As was announced today, we are working with facilitating the development of the inland rail bridge. Members should contrast this with the appalling legacy left by Labor when in South Australia alone the Labor Party cost 7,000 jobs in the rail industry.