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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 413


Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (12:46): Today I would like to put on the record my support for this report; I would like to acknowledge the work that has gone into the report and many of the people involved; I would like to talk about the role of planning and particularly planning for infrastructure for the future of Australia; and I would like to call on the government to act now to tell us when the high speed rail planning authority will be brought into existence and what action the government is going to take on this particular report.

I have been a member of this committee and I am absolutely delighted to say to my colleagues in the House that it is a bipartisan report. For those people who worry about government getting together and doing things, in this case we have. The unanimous agreement of that committee says: we have got the report, we have got the agreement and now we need to act. My belief is that the future of Australia lies in quality infrastructure. As the report says, quality infrastructure—in this case high-speed rail—solves problems for the cities and it solves problems for the regions.

Deputy Speaker, as you would know, our trains have laid the foundation for Australian development, beginning in the late 1800s. I acknowledge the role and the vision of those great British engineers and entrepreneurs who came to Australia and went to Canada and India and built railway lines. These railway lines provided the absolute foundation we needed to grow and develop. It enabled our freight from the country to be moved to the ports and our status as a trading nation to get underway. It enabled our people to move. I, for example—and, I know, many people from rural and regional Australia—got on the train, went to Melbourne and went to uni. We did all our socialising on the trains as well. It is not just to go to university to study; it is to go to the cities for meetings, for medicines and for all the things that we need. Our train is the preferred form of transport. In regional Victoria our trains are our lifeblood, and there is another whole conversation we need to have about effective train delivery.

Today I would like to speak particularly about high-speed rail as the key for our future and how important this report is, and in doing so I would really like to acknowledge some of the people who have done an enormous amount of work behind it. I particularly want to congratulate and thank John Alexander, the MP for Bennelong. He has been our inner-city champion, our visionary. John, you have done a fantastic job. You have put hours and hours of work into this, and I think you should be congratulated on getting to this stage.

I would also like to acknowledge the previous speaker, the member for Grayndler, Anthony Albanese. He is also our inner-city city champion. As he said, he knows this topic backwards. He introduced the private member's bill, which is before the parliament now, to set up an authority that could fund what we need to do. The member for Grayndler has been a huge champion, and I would like to acknowledge and thank him for his work. I hope that he can work with the member for Bennelong in these two wonderful Sydney electorates to be of service to us regional people.

Then, in my electorate, there are the members of the Wodonga Council. I would like to put on the record my thanks to Patience Harrington and your staff, Michael Gobel and the full team. You have been working on this topic forever. You have been really strong regional champions. To all the staff and to the councillors over the years: you have provided visionary leadership, written reports, responded to inquiries, organised conferences and put Albury—and, in my case, Wodonga—firmly on the map as being one of the key places where this high-speed rail needs to go. To Patience and your team, this report is for you.

I would also like to acknowledge the work of another individual. There have been many, but the one I would, in particular, like to acknowledge today is Tim Fischer AC, former Deputy Prime Minister and ex-member for Farrer, who is a wise elder statesman and generally known as a good bloke. He loves trains. It was Tim who first introduced me to this concept of what a high-speed train could do for our community. Tim, I would just like to take a moment in this House to honour and acknowledge and thank you for everything you have done for us all, particularly in the area of trains and transport. You have been a real champion. You have carried the flag, the heart and the fire for a really long time. I just want to take this opportunity to thank you. Dare I say how much we love you and how much we appreciate your fascination and support for trains. You really are a leading light for us in our work. Thanks, Tim.

Finally, in an interesting way I would like to acknowledge Kevin Rudd, an unlikely champion. In 2008 I was a participant at the 2020 summit. At the 2020 summit in this place there was a working group on infrastructure. I had come from my community as a community worker to talk about the future. That infrastructure team brainstormed and workshopped on what were the drivers for the future of Australia. The report that we came up with, which has really influenced my thinking, was the need for regional hubs and the infrastructure to link us. If we could put that into place, we would have a country that was really well positioned for the next century—just like the English did for us in the last century. I want to acknowledge the importance of gatherings like the summit that bring people together across disciplines and across regions to ask, 'How can we make this happen?' But that summit was a long, long time ago. Since then we have had lots of reports, lots of discussions, lots of conferences, and we are still not there.

This report is particularly important to me because it is unanimous. It has clear recommendations. It says what needs to be done. I would like to remind the parliament, and particularly the government, that we can do this. We can come together around local, state and federal governments and we can do nation-building on a really grand scale. We all know about Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. In my case it was the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation. What an amazing thing it was in the 1970s and eighties to be part of the visionary Australia that brought the tax office out of Melbourne and Sydney and invested in Albury-Wodonga. We brought manufacturing in. We built a city. I was a beneficiary of that. I know we can do visionary stuff. We can have a plan. We can have a vision. Most importantly, we can bring people with us. Bringing people with us from the city and the regions makes this country whole.

I am talking to the Prime Minister. I am talking to the government. I am talking to the minister for infrastructure. I am talking about: 'Let's do this.' We have the report. We have the recommendations. All we need now is the political will. We need the plan, as the member for Grayndler said, to get the corridor working. But what we really need is some indication from the government that they have a commitment to nation-building in rural and regional Australia, that they are prepared to do the planning, that they have the vision and that they do have the political will to do it. That is my call out of today: we have to have the political will.

In bringing my presentation and support for this particular report to a close, I would like to make a comment to three of my constituents, who are in the House today, and to acknowledge them for coming to Canberra, being part of it and learning how the process works. I would particularly like to say to the young people that, when people ask you about Canberra and how it works, you can say that in this report you have seen collaboration, you have seen people come and work together and you have seen a nation-building project at the heart of really good planning. You can say it is a report on an inquiry that has happened with the committee working well together. I am hoping in your lifetime, certainly before you are as old as I am, that you will live in Yackandandah or Wodonga or Wangaratta and you will be able to hop on this high-speed rail that has got internet and that works on time; that you can go to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Western Australia or wherever you have to go and you can still live in the country and live the lives that you need. I say to the Prime Minister: 'For these young people who live in rural and regional Australia, can you do this? Can you find the political will to build us a high-speed rail now?' I have been around a long time, and I do not want to be an old woman in a nursing home in Yackandandah and still not have it built. So my closing words are, 'Where's the plan?'

Sitting suspended from 12:56 to 16:0 2