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Rail reform must proceed urgently



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D A V ID H a w k e r ยท. Federal Member for Wannon Shadow Minister for Land Transport

M e d i a R e l e a s e

RAIL REFORM MUST PROCEED URGENTLY

Reform of Australia's rail system must proceed urgently following yesterday's Special Premiers' Conference decision on the National Rail Freight Corporation (NRFC).

To have a competitive rail system in Australia will take heroic decisions on the part of all governments, if we are to see any progress in the near future.

It is imperative that agreement is reached with the railway unions before any substantial money is committed - we cannot afford to have our rail reform go the way of waterfront "reform".

It is also important that rail users are included in discussions on the NRFC.

The NRFC will require complimentary legislation from those States involved and this is likely to take many months. The Commonwealth must continue to push the States down the reform track, without giving in to vested interests.

The questions still to be answered are:

. With the level of capital investment involved, what will it mean for track and signalling systems?

. Where will the corporation get an adequate management team without the necessary legislation being in place?

. Now that the Government has claimed a "victory" on the NRFC, which accounts for only 12% of rail freight, when can we expect progress toward attacking the other 88% of rail which loses over $4 billion annually?

. Will the Government ensure that rail and road transport are treated equally - that is, both being full-cost recovery at the same time?

The Federal Coalition looks forward to seeing the detail of the proposal. Given that the July 1 starting date has already passed when will the corporation start operating properly and earning a commercial return!

ends

Contact: David Hawker (055) 72 1100

Janice Wykes (06) 277 4231 or (06) 288 3946

31 July 1991

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