Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Rudd promises study on high speed rail -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says high speed rail could join the east coast of Australia for less than the Coalition is planning to spend on its paid parental leave scheme.

Mr Rudd visited a childcare centre in Sydney today, in an effort to keep voters focussed on what he calls Tony Abbott's unfair and unaffordable parental leave plan.

He also committed $52 million to develop a high speed rail link between Sydney and Melbourne.

But critics say they've seen it all before.

Ashley Hall is travelling with the Prime Minister, and he filed this report.

(Sound of children singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star)

ASHLEY HALL: They say never to work with animals or children because you never know what to expect. But when Kevin Rudd arrived at this childcare centre in Mascot, he got a warm welcome, and no surprises.

Mascot is in the seat of Kingsford Smith, held by the retiring MP Peter Garrett with a margin of 5.2 per cent.

The new Labor candidate, Matt Thistlethwaite, was on hand to act as a tour guide.

MATT THISLETHWAITE: Hey kids, are these serious puzzles. Yeah, they're jigsaws.

ASHLEY HALL: In a succession of photo opportunities, Mr Rudd moved between groups of children in the playground. He sat on the ground and read to one group.

KEVIN RUDD: "Late one summer, Jessie's father invited all the family over for a barbecue." See that's the dad there with the big beard.

ASHLEY HALL: Playing with building blocks offered him the chance to share a campaign slogan.

KEVIN RUDD: We're just going to keep building up, because we've got to build things up, haven't we? Making sure we are building and building for the future.

ASHLEY HALL: Then the Prime Minister moved to the edge of the sand-pit to talk to some parents about the Opposition's parental leave policy.

KEVIN RUDD: But not too expensive so that it wasn't going to be a burden on all the taxpayers.

ASHLEY HALL: But the announcement of the day came some time later, and to most of the reporters following the Prime Minister, it seemed to have little connection with the childcare centre visit.

KEVIN RUDD: The Deputy Prime Minster and I today are proud to announce the Government's response to this important report delivered by the High Speed Rail Advisory Group, which the Deputy Prime Minister commissioned some time ago.

ASHLEY HALL: Mr Rudd was joined by the Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese, to announce the Government has set aside $52 million to cement high speed rail as part of Australia's transport future. Although it's a fraction of the $114 billion required to get it built by 2053.

Mr Rudd says a re-elected Labor government would move to preserve the nearly 1,800 kilometre corridor needed to build tracks from Brisbane to Melbourne.

It would also establish a high speed rail authority to finalise details like track alignment and station locations, and establish firm costings and a construction timetable.

The first section would be completed by 2015, and would link Sydney to Melbourne via the Southern Highlands, Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Albury and Shepparton.

KEVIN RUDD: If we do not have world class infrastructure there is no future for the Australian economy. It's as basic as that. This vast continent of ours has 23 million people in it. Unless you've got the infrastructure pumping, well frankly it's not going to work. And that is a core part of our vision for the future.

ASHLEY HALL: The Greens say Labor's plan is too little too late. They are offering $664 million for the same sort of package, with an extra $570 million for an environmental impact study.

While the Coalition Leader, Tony Abbott, has dismissed the plan. He says he'd rather spend money now to get better outcomes tomorrow, and that means spending on roads.

TONY ABBOTT: Elect a Coalition government and the gateway upgrade here in Brisbane, the WestConnex, the East-West Link in Melbourne, the Swan Bypass in Perth, the North-South Road upgrade in Adelaide, the Pacific Highway, the Bruce Highway, the Midland, the Range Crossing; all of these will be substantially underway within the first term of a Coalition government.

ASHLEY HALL: Over the decades, there's been a multitude of reports commissioned into high speed rail, and so far there's been little action.

But Mr Albanese says this time the project will get built.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We haven't tried to suggest that this can be done tomorrow or next week, but by putting in place as well $52 million in the forward estimates to make sure our commitments can be realised, that will certainly be able to deliver that.

ASHLEY HALL: So how is the Opposition's paid parental leave scheme linked to high speed rail?

We didn't have to wait long to find out.

KEVIN RUDD: If we were to build this entire 1,750 kilometre high speed rail project from Brisbane to Melbourne by 2035, it would cost less than Mr Abbott's unaffordable, unfair, paid parental leave scheme for the same period of time. Put that into context. What is more necessary for the nation's future?

MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister ending that report from Ashley Hall.