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Transcript of the Prime Minister, the Hon P J Keating MP joint press conference with the Hon Bob Brown, Minister for Land Transport, Mr Ted Butcher, Chairman of National Rail Corporation and the Hon Bruce Baird, NSW State Minister for Transport Parramatta Park Royal hotel, Sydney, 6 August 1992

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My colleague Bob (Brown), Bruce Baird, Minister for Transport in NSW and the chairman of the National Rail Corporation, Ted Butcher, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

This is a very great pleasure indeed. This day is the day when we start realising the dream of a century: to give Australia one rail system, one trunk rail system from Brisbane on the North Eastern coast, to Perth on the West coast, via Melbourne and via Adelaide. For the first time the prospect of a standard single ribbon of rail running around the continent, and tied to the major ports more efficiently than

they've ever been tied to the rail system before.

In doing this, as Bob said, perhaps we will realise the ambition of being one nation as the people who sat down in this decade a century ago tried to realise that ambition in the federation conventions which saw the Commonwealth of Australia

formed in 1901. But giving it a name and giving it a reality of course, have been two different things and we've had six - state jurisdictions over the period in rail, as we've had in other things. But with the National Rail Corporation today to be

known I think from now as National Rail, we see the prospect of taking those state boundaries away and mnning an efficient national system for the first time and it will mean that as a trading country we'll be in a position to be able to move freight, both large and small items, around Australia on a rail system competitive with road and getting that proper balance back into the transport system between rail and road where we are not seeing the road system grow by default because the



transport system in rail was inadequate and not able to stand the competition or the growth or the expectations for it.

Much of the trunk route system of course was built many years ago - one hundred years ago some of it. Some has been replaced in between times, but there is an enormous job to be done in upgrading bridges, in laying new tracks and as a result of this expenditure the first we are releasing today $181 million of the $450 million of funding from the One Nation' package for rail which is in addition to the funding provided by the Commonwealth and States for the Corporation originally. That money will see 6000 jobs created directly, about 6000 indirectly, 3000 tonnes of steel being ordered for rail and a million concrete sleepers as part of the initial orders to build the system as we go from here to replace parts of the track and of course in the case of the Melbourne and Adelaide line for the first time building a new standard gauge track, smoothing out the Adelaide hills and linking Perth to Sydney via Melbourne and with Brisbane.

So it is a marvellous thing that Australia, a large continent, an island continent, will for the first time have a standard gauge national rail system and run from a small bureaucracy occupying one floor of a building in Parramatta. And when one thinks about the large bureaucracies that have managed the rail system, to get down to this level of efficiency in management will in itself speak volumes about the potential.

The other thing that I think is important is that it shows that the Commonwealth and the States can work together on big things. I mentioned briefly when I unveiled the plaque a few minutes ago at the headquarters that in the last two

weeks we've also been able to announce another big thing - and that is the development of a National Training Authority to give vocational education the change that we gave tertiary education with Commonwealth funding of universities back in the 1970s and we'll now through a co-operative arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States build for the first time this new component to our education system. Similarly today, in the same way we see this co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States building a national rail system and I think this speaks volumes for the sort of co-operation that has been about and the need for discussion and co-operation and listening to people and

finding a consensus. There's no substitute for discussion and consensus in breaking national log jam and getting things done,and in the same way in this we have now signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the ACTU, the National Rail Corporation and the major railway unions, three railway unions so that the operations of the Corporation,Nation Rail,will have but two unions and those two unions will guarantee greater levels of efficiency and of course, an

absence of demarcation problems which have plagued all of the heavy industries in the decades that have gone by.

So that co-operation and consensus has again extended to developing an agreement with the trade unions to operate this system efficiently. Now when the


Greenfields agreement is signed, the full agreement rather than the Memorandum is signed, then all of the One Nation' money will flow through the system. This is about the first twenty per cent of it, but the whole $450 million will start to flow and most of it will flow of course, in the course of 1992-93,which will give a boost to the economy at a much needed time, at a sensible time to boost public expenditure when private investment is weak. And what better way to do it than to do it on basic infrastructure? And once more basic infrastructure is there, then the rail system of Australia and the port and wharf interface which we're seeing with it in Brisbane and in Melbourne, Adelaide and in Perth.

So can I again congratulate Ted Butcher as Chairman of National Rail, to his Chief Executive Officer wish him well and the other officers of the Corporation who've now got the very big task of integrating the various rail systems of the States into one system and build a new system between Melbourne and Adelaide and see that we start as a trading national to get that balance back between road and rail so that we look like most other industrial counties that hope to present themselves as

competent and efficient trading nations, that we have a rail system of substance, of quality that is competitive, that can take its place in the system beside the road and ; other major transport in Australia.

This is a very great day for Australian transport, it's a great day for Australian rail, perhaps it's a greater day for Australian national co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States, doing things together, doing things better.

Thank you we'd be glad to take questions.

J: Prime Minister, you talked about creating 5000 indirect jobs. What areas will they be in and will they be long term jobs?

PM: Well, they'll be probably in the provision of goods and services to the corporation, that's not as a primary supplier, but in the production chain. So it's a healthy addition to employment and of course

it will continue as long as, Mr Butcher may know better, it may well wind up as the pace of the corporation and its work accelerates over the coming year.

TB: This is only the start. We're talking about $180 million today and the total One Nation is $450 million, and of course we have as a corporation got considerable investment which will be following this

investment very quickly. And we will commence that investment once the enterprise agreement has been signed, and we're looking to October for that. So we're talking well in excess of $1 billion being spent in the next two years, and of course that amounts to far more jobs than the 6000 than you see on the screen behind us.

J : Is that private investment as well as well as government?

TB: Really the investment from the National Rail Corporation, the National Rail corporation of course








J :


isn't a Government Business Enterprise, it's set up under a normal company legislation. The equity, though, in that corporation is of course coming from the Federal Government and the States. As far as we're concerned it's exactly the same sort of equity you would find in BHP or anywhere else, but it is in

fact coming from the Government.

Mr Keating, this is announcing the funding. Huw soon would the actual work begin?

Well I think the orders have been placed or are in the course of being placed this week for the steel and the sleepers, and I'm quite sure that b h p which will be the steel supplier will respond quickly, and

those who tender for the concrete sleepers will find obviously a very big and major addition to demand, and that's obviously going to be starting to create work very quickly. As well as that, I think the construction projects which are listed in here, which

run through the replacement of bridges and other public works along the way, including survey works and the rest, will obviously be happening quickly:

Because that's been a criticism of the One Nation Statement - taking so long to get things rolling.

Yes, but in this respect unfair because we never thought we would have this money ... this was for funding in the financial year 1 9 9 2 - 3 . Well it only started on July 1 . That part of One Nation which was to be funded in 1 9 9 1 -9 2 , was basically the payment to

families, which was in March. But this is now coming along and we will, I think, confidently spend that part of the One Nation money - $ 1 . 8 billion - in 1 9 9 2 - 3 . So the great bulk of the $ 2 . 3 billion will be spent this financial year.

Would you like to see that Greenfields Agreement struck through soon so that the rest of the work can begin quickly?

Well I don't think there is any problem about the flow. That is, we're doing at the moment all that we can reasonably do. So the main thing was to get the memorandum of understanding signed so that everybody

knows where they stand for the conclusion of the Greenfields Agreement. And one can expect now that that will be signed in the scheduled period.

How confident are you that the signing of that agreement will be a formality?

I think so. I'm confident of that. The negotiation of substance has already occurred, the MOU has been signed. And as such, again as I say it represents another breakthrough in cooperation and the spirit of cooperation which exists across the country, not just








between the Government end the States, but I think between the trade unions and the States and the Commonwealth, to facilitate new investment, whether it be public investment or private investment.

Why was Parramatta chosen to be the home of the Corporation?

Mr Butcher could answer that.

It's a very interesting question. And I say straight away that it has nothing whatever to do with the fact the Chief Executive lives somewhere near here. There was a lot of interest in where our headquarters would be, of course, and I think some of our friends in the

States had visions of us taking a tower block in the central business district, but that’s not in line with our philosophy of being lean and mean, which we’ve got to be if we’re going to succeed.

Parramatta is a developing area, and we find that the floor that w e ’ve got here, we ’ve only got one floor but it’s quite appropriate for our corporate headquarters. We will of course be having our marketing headquarters in Melbourne, which is where our customers are, or our principle major customers

are, and we will have our operating centre in Adelaide, which geographically is appropriate, and we do have a lot of skilled staff in that area. But eventually, in the not too distant future, in 2 or 3 years, all our offices will in fact be on our new

terminals, because we're determined our management will be where the business is taking place. So our home in Parramatta, which w e ’re very happy with at

the moment, is not a long term base, and we will be going to our new terminal in Enfield eventually.

Do you see there being much growth in employment prospects in this area?

In the immediate Parramatta area, well already of course we have employed a number of people. But the numbers are not large, no, because our total corporate staff here is of course only 30.

Mr Brown, what sort of savings would you envisage in the long term on expenditure on roads once freight is taken off the roads?

well there are two areas where the savings are going to be possible. The one that you referred to, of course, in connection with roads, but the loss that has been sustained on interstate rail freight movement on an annual basis up until this present exercise has been approaching 6400 million every year. Now the whole modelling of this exercise

involves the National Rail Corporation breaking even after 3 years, so its annual revenue will be sufficient to cover its annual operation costs, and


after 5 years it will be able to stand alone, and even to the extent of financing the balance of its total investment package. And its total Investment package will be about $1.7 billion funded from an

initial equity Injection by the Commonwealth and the States of about $415 million, so that's a very major investment, as the Prime Minister and the Chairman Ted Butcher were referring to before. The question of to what extent will it relieve the pressure on the

road system, I think it's really not so much a matter of reducing the pressure on the road system, but realising that as a result of the changes that have taken place, I think that everyone would agree that

there has been a disproportionate share of the total freight task being carried by roads. So that the pressure has been on us in the past, and of course in terms of the Prime Minister's comments, the degree of cooperation between the Commonwealth Government and our States and the Territories has been such as to make it possible for us to continue to develop and maintain that road system. And the prime Minister and I, Just a few days ago in Gladstone, announced ,

for this current financial year a total road funding package of over $2000 million, including in excess of $400 million under the One Nation Statement which again, like our commitment now to rail, represents an

enormous commitment and a record commitment for the Federal Government. So really, the Australian people expect that all of these modes of transport will continue to develop in tandem, so that we won't be

looking for any quantifiable or measurable savings from our road program. We will maintain our road program together with our State and Territory colleagues, because people expect that that road network will continue to improve, as they expect now

increasingly that the rail network will improve. And if I could just conclude with this point, the $454 million, which has been committed by the Federal Government to rail under the One Nation Statement, supplements $300 million that the Federal Government committed to rail within the National Rail Corporation context. That represents then a total

from the Federal Government of over 3/4 of a billion dollars, a record level of investment by any Federal Government in Australia’s rail network.

J: Mr Baird, how happy are you with New South Wales' share of the loot?

Baird: We think that we've got a fair share. It needs to be understood we are entirely supportive, and congratulate the Prime Minister and Mr Brown on this initiative which I think started with Vince Graham in New South Wales, he's now the Chief Executive. But we have an excellent Board in the National Rail Corporation, an excellent Chairman, an excellent Chief Executive, we are very confident in the progress we are making, and of course welcome the


investment from the Federal Government. And it is an excellent point in terms of the States and the Federal Government cooperating to the benefit of all Australians in this initiative, we may query to the

priority given to the standard gauge link between Melbourne and Adelaide for our own parochial reasons, but I think we're heading in the right direction. We have been looking at compensation for our continuing

of the maintenance of the line between Parkes and Broken Hill. But we are going to save ourselves, all rail corporations, money over the future. It will mean a continuous stream in terms of marketing of rail, it will succeed in getting freight off the

roads and onto rail, and most importantly will divert taxpayers dollars, which is going into each State rail network, into other areas which is very much needed, we would also like to continue on and look at the viability of a national passenger corporation in the same way as Amtrak in the US. Obviously that's a little harder, but having taken on this difficult task and succeeding, then I think we now need to look at the challenge of a national passenger corporation.

J : Would that use the same railway line?

Baird: Yes, and there are obviously benefits to us in terms of each dollar that is spent on improving the rail network means that passengers are better off. And if we could spend a lot more money on the link between Sydney and Melbourne or Sydney and Brisbane we could put on tilt trains with the capability of reducing the travel times by at least 40 per cent, so that it does have direct spin offs for that. And you need to bear in mind that under Mr Whitlam there was quite a

lot of money spent on rail, Mr Fraser dropped a little, but then it disappeared from '83 onwards. So we're very pleased to see the recognition of rail, of the reinvestment in this most important area of the economy which has been neglected. That is, it’s not

surprising that we've seen the shift from rail onto road. If you don't put the necessary investment in it will go elsewhere. So we're having a turnaround of that and a much needed boost to investment in rail.

J: Mr Keating, any likelihood of a rail link from Alice to Darwin?

PM: Well it's had more of its share of feasability studies, and will probably have more in the future, I suppose. If it's a commercial thing then I don't think it will have any problems in being developed, but unless there is the sort of freight potential to basically fund it and service it, then I don't see that public funds should be spent to subsidise it to develop a mode of transport which wouldn't be needed. That is, If the freight volumes are not there, the


freight links are not likely to work, then there's not much point in shifting priorities to that when the there's obvious priorities of bulk carriage in this system which we are now currently funding. The

rail systems of the States have been a very large cause of their financial management problems over the last 40 or 50 years, and many of the Government deficits of the States really begin with the rail deficits, and this is a way of starting to move into that. And therefore the priority, not just in

freight and carriage and efficiency, but also in terms of State Budgets, is in getting the rail system into shape, and that means spending money where it can be best used.

J: But if you don't have the link, you don't have the business.

PM: 2WS is barracking for an Alice Springs to Darwin railway line, so there are advocates everywhere. I'm sure the Northern Territory Government will be very pleased.

J: Just on rail links, is the proposed link between Marylands and ... going to be included in this program?

Baird: You've actually imposed on the Better Cities Program which the Prime Minister is the arbiter as to where the funds will be spent, but we have proposed it as one of the important aspects of that. We understand

from Canberra that it is being favourably received, it's important in terms of providing the appropriate links in the West and enable you to cross lines and still change trains in Granville and take you right

into Parramatta. So it's long been on the drawing board, it's on the wish list for State Rail. We didn't have the funds at the moment to enable it to

happen, and we understand that we're likely to be funded under the Better Cities Program for that link.

J: Do you have a time frame?

Baird: I think that maybe my colleague Mr Brown might be able to answer that better. But it's proposed in the current round of funding, so sometime in the next 3 years.

J : Does the route through Broken Hill have any part in the scheme?

Brown: Well.the National Rail Corporation itself will have the responsibilities it's been charged to have to make decisions concerning the routes it will use to move interstate freight across Australia, to make

those decisions on a commercial basis. All of the shareholders, of course, have endorsed that. Minister Bruce Baird just a moment ago referred to


some concerns, of course, that New South Wales has about the Impact on New South Wales about the proposed standardisation of the Melbourne/Adelaide

link. New South Wales of course, nor has anyone else in Australia suggested that that standardisation shouldn't go ahead. New South Wales, like all of the other States and Territories, rejoice in the fact that that will represent, as the Prime Minister i indicated, a magnificent rail highway from Fisherman

islands in Brisbane right across this continent to Perth. The question of where freight will move will, as i say, be determined by the National Rail Corporation on the base of its commercial Judgement. But, recently the Corporation has indicated that if

it were possible for New South Wales to consider the provision of that Parkes/Broken Hill section of rail to it under the type of contract arrangements which would exist on an avoidable cost basis, or a marginal cost basis, rather than a fully distributed cost basis, it is very likely that a National Rail Corporation will be able to use that route for the movement of freight. So, it's simply one of those questions which still needs to be resolved and will be resolved. But as I emphasise, it will be resolved on the basis on commercial Judgements as it must be if we are to continue to eliminate those rail deficits which have dogged us for so long.

TB: Perhaps if I might just add, Prime Minister, you'll see on our map here that that line is part of our network for the time being. We will take 2 years to standardise the line between Adelaide and Melbourne, and of course what happens with the passenger

services could have a bearing on the decision. But it's not a decision we have to take immediately. 1 1ve no doubt w e 're going to have some very interesting discussions between now and having to make that decision in perhaps 18 months-2 years time.

But certainly for the time being it is part of our network.

Brown: Could I supplement an answer that we gave in connection of rail projects here in Sydney. Of course, the most important single Sydney-based rail project associated with this total package is the Campbelltown to Enfield dedicated freight line that will be provided so that we don't have freight mixed

up with passenger services. And that1s at a total cost of about $71 million. And of course, as Bruce would confirm, the enormous importance here not only to Sydney but to New South wales and to the

efficiency of that interstate total freight movement.

PM: I'll just make the point, Bob, that to not have it meant that the freight train would have to move off the tracks to let passenger trains in, and move back off, move back on. And the problem is getting some

certainty about the travelling times and the


timetabling between Sydney and Melbourne without a dedicated line. So this Is quite an important component of the New South Wales element of the national system.

Baird: It's also important to recognise that reliability is one of the factors which was very much detrimental to the performance of rail freight. So this dedicated line will improve the reliability, especially with perishable goods. That's important because often the passenger trains had priority. So it will improve the on-time running of the freight trains which we will very much welcome.

J: Do you expect any long term drop in the road toll?

Brown: Of course we would expect that. Could I emphasise, though, that there is a public perception that heavy transport on the roads contributes significantly to the road toll, the road trauma. That isn't true. The majority of fatal accidents or crashes that involve heavy vehicles are caused not by the heavy vehicles themselves. Just very quickly, in 1970 we had a peak of fatalities on the Australian road network of 3,800, a few years ago it had dropped continuously to 2,800, last year it was 2,000. So in

terms of that raw score, it's coming down and it's continuing to come down. And although those reductions are quite dramatic, if you take the number of fatalities on the road network per say 100,000 vehicles registered, it is even more dramatic. It

really has been an outstanding improvement, and that represents again what the Prime Minister was referring to quite clearly the results of a joint effort between all Commonwealth, state and Territory agencies, or private agencies and so on, to bring that about. There will be clearly an improvement. The safest way for people to travel on the land is by rail. The safest way for people to travel on roads is by coach, and any improvement in the distribution of the freight task and the passenger movement task between road and rail certainly will have an effect,

a continuing beneficial effect on that declining road trauma.

PM: Can I conclude by saying, whether the moment is poignant enough I'm not sure, but you're living through a piece of history and many members of the media in years gone by would have liked to have been here on this day. And I hope you appreciate the

sense of occasion. Thank you.