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Thursday, 8 September 2022
Page: 1

Ms CATHERINE KING (BallaratMinister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (09:01): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I rise to introduce this bill to establish a High-Speed Rail Authority as an independent body to advise on, plan and develop the high-speed rail system in Australia. There has been very little action to progress high-speed rail in Australia until now.

This government is absolutely committed to establishing this authority to oversee the construction and operation of a high-speed rail network along Australia's eastern seaboard. The High-Speed Rail Authority will reinvigorate work on this very important nation-building project, and Australians will no longer miss out on high-speed rail.

The benefits identified in the former Labor government's comprehensive two-stage rail study were significant, not just in substantially reducing travel times; but also in unlocking regional economies, providing significant employment opportunities, and supplying a remarkable economic boost in the medium and long term. The study found that, for every dollar of costs, there would be a return of $2.30 in benefits to society.

The evidence has shown that without high-speed rail, Australia is missing out on significant opportunities, which is why the authority is being established. The authority will provide expert independent advice and work with the Victorian, New South Wales (NSW), Australian Capital Territory, and Queensland governments, local government and the private sector to drive this change.

A high-speed rail network will revolutionise interstate travel in Australia, significantly reducing travel time to move between capital cities compared to other modes of travel. Imagine a high-speed train connecting capital cities from Melbourne, to Canberra, to Sydney, to Brisbane, all across our regional centres, through our semi-urban populations, straight to our international hubs with trips taking as little as three hours.

We will no longer be behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to land infrastructure and technology. Japan introduced its first bullet train in 1964, France in 1981, and China introduced in 2003. These countries have since grown their high-speed networks, increased their top train speeds, and now celebrate annual patronage in the hundreds of millions on their high-speed rail networks. Let's get on board and give the Australian public a modern efficient, and high-speed rail network.

A well-patronised high-speed rail service will assist us to meet our net zero commitment by providing lower ongoing energy and greenhouse gas emissions than interstate travel by air, and has an added benefit of reducing road traffic. Settlement patterns across Australia's east coast will be transformed, alleviating pressure on outer suburban areas and growth corridors in major cities.

The construction of high-speed rail will secure significant jobs for the economy, impacting all Australians. Through Labor's National Rail Manufacturing Plan, administered by the minister for industry, here in the chamber today, the Australian government will ensure that more trains are built here in Australia by local manufacturing, local workers, and that every dollar of federal funding spent on rail projects will go towards creating local jobs and providing a sustainable industry, and a sustainable manufacturing industry in particular.

This bill will ensure that high-speed rail is progressed in Australia, with the immediate priority of updated analysis and commencing work on an initial connection between Sydney and Newcastle. Once established we'll begin work on planning and overseeing the construction of a reliable, safe, efficient and cost-effective high-speed rail network.

As a statutory agency, the authority will provide independent and impartial advice on the policy and standards, develop business cases and secure corridors. Specific measures will be taken to prevent and reduce the environmental impact on surrounding land and the authority will coordinate and consult with state and territory governments, industry, business and communities to enhance Australia's long-term trail investment.

Faster rail will continue under the authority. Whilst the National Faster Rail Agency will be ceased, its functions will be absorbed into the authority and the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts to retain the existing capability and expertise and ensure that both faster rail and high-speed rail are delivered.

High-speed rail and faster rail will help all Australians to secure jobs, and to build a better future for our regions, and to reinvigorate manufacturing in Australia.

We know there is a very strong interest internationally and from the private sector with experience in high-speed rail. The authority will work with consortiums collaboratively and with transparency to investigate alternate funding and financing opportunities including value uplift. The authority will also commence work to secure corridors now and not waste any opportunity.

We have already as a government committed $500 million to commence early works and secure corridors for the rail connection between Sydney, the Central Coast and Newcastle. The government will continue negotiations with the New South Wales government on the allocation and other investment options to be identified between the Australian government and New South Wales government further down the line.

As a government, it's expected that we serve the Australian community and that we improve the lives of Australian people. Establishing the High-Speed Rail Authority and investing in high-speed rail will improve the lives of all Australians and transform this country. The time is now. We need to stop procrastinating and start taking action to actually deliver high-speed rail. This is a long-term project with significant benefits and it's not just about a political cycle but rather a focus on Australia's future, and particularly the focus on our regions. A high-speed rail network along the east coast of Australia will truly be a transformational project that has the ability to touch the lives of all Australians. It's a project that has the support of the regions and cities, of businesses and industries. Now is the time to complete transformational infrastructure projects that not only sets Australia up for the future but also provides jobs and opportunities immediately.

High-speed rail will be an economic game changer for the country and will improve growth, access and sustainability. It will provide countless social benefits long into the future and create broad economic benefits for our regional centres.

The bill I'm introducing today will allow all of these things to finally happen in this parliament. We must not delay the Australian public any longer. Let's give our fellow Australians the bipartisan support to pass this bill to let the authority commence its work to make high-speed rail a reality and invest in our country's future.

Debate adjourned.