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Brereton becoming 'invisible man' of Keating's ministry

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PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA: Tel 06 277 4213, Fax 06 277 2124


Laurie Brereton's present holiday at Palm Beach has merely formalised his place as the 'invisible man' of the federal ministry. Since the ANL sale debacle in late November last year, he has been nowhere to be seen. Yet now he has popped up like a 'rabbit out of a hat' to trash possible federal involvement in the proposed 'Speedrail* feasibility project Perhaps he should get back to work to give 'Speedrail* and other federal transport initiatives a fair examination.

Brereton's recent record on rail, similarly, is not startling. Six months after his announcement of the 'Track Australia' concept there has been no major statement about its formation. Australian National remains cut adrift and, now, 'Speedrail* is to be ignored by federal Labor.

In October 1993, Senator Collins, Laurie Brereton's predecessor in the Transport portfolio, told the Senate that, if viable, Speedrail could revolutionise long distance passenger transport in Australia. He saw advantage in the project to New South Wales, the ACT and Australia generally and believed it important that the principal players should act together to get the feasibility study under way. If the benefits o f the proposal could be so clear to Senator Collins then why can Laurie Brereton not see them today. Or is it merely the fact that 'Speedrail', unlike the Pacific Highway, will not run through electorates believed by Labor to be vital to possible electoral success?

Now, over two years later, Laurie Brereton has 'passed the buck' on 'Speedrail* to Bob Carr indicating that the federal government will not get directly involved in the project This apathy will certainly scuttle any prospect that 'Speedrail* could be in operation for the year 2000 Olympics when high grade transport is certain to be at a premium.

Australian rail infrastructure is urgently in need of renewal. 'Speedrail* offers the prospect of such development with private capital. The scope of what Brereton described as "...taxpayer subsidies running into some hundreds of millions o f dollars.." cannot be known in any useful detail until after the feasibility study is completed. That needs to be done to enable private investors to be identified and step forward.

It is time for Brereton to see this project through. To see the feasibility study complete so that decisions can be made by investors and governments, both state and federal, to the benefit o f all Australians.

Ends...RLl/96 3-1-96 Contact: Lachie McOmish 0414 250006