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Wednesday, 12 May 2021
Page: 3939

Mr HAMILTON (Groom) (19:55): There is no doubt that Inland Rail is the next big thing in my electorate. This nation-building project will connect our rich agricultural region to interstate and global markets, delivering nearly 12,000 jobs in Queensland during the peak of construction. Many of these jobs will be filled by people from the Toowoomba region, building our local economy and upskilling our workforce. Whilst this project is billed as a port-to-port connection, I feel it's important to understand that the rail line will be used by industry as needed. This will not run like a passenger rail line. The bulk of cargo travelling on Inland Rail is likely to be delivered and distributed from regional hubs in between Melbourne and Brisbane; it's not an end-to-end train service.

Toowoomba will be the real winner in the strategic use of this track because we're situated at the intersection of major trucking highways, with access to an international airport. In fact, we're already seeing businesses recognise this opportunity and expand their supply chains. We've had a number of them contact my office and the offices of ministers here about relocating their operations to the region. Industry wants this project, and why wouldn't they? If they choose to invest, they'll also be able to take advantage of connecting projects like InterLinkSQ, the intermodal hub at Charlton. It is the only intermodal hub currently approved on the line. Interfacing works are about to begin, with construction starting in earnest later this year. That will create 2,000 jobs, 1,600 of those ongoing.

I took Minister Mark Coulton out to see this site on a trip to my patch last month, and he agreed with me that Toowoomba will be the real winner from Inland Rail—even though, as the member for Parkes, he sits across a long stretch of Inland Rail that has already done so much good. Whilst it's great to see this project finally becoming reality in my region, if there's one thing that I've seen in my 20-odd years of working as an engineer on major projects, it is that there inevitably are difficulties as we interface with affected landholders. The border-to-Gowrie and the Gowrie-to-Helidon sections of the route have already had their fair share of difficulties. That's why it's so important that we establish a social licence for pursuing this rail line and the benefits it will bring not only to the people of the Toowoomba region but to the whole of Australia. We owe it to the people living along the Inland Rail line who will be directly impacted by the work on that line to do that hard work.

Since coming to this office, I've gone out and sat across the kitchen tables from people who are affected and I've listened to their concerns. I really appreciate the help and feedback that I've had from so many of those good locals—people like Neil Owen—who've driven me along the route and provided me with a candid and frank assessment of how ARTC can improve the delivery of its project. It's important that we listen, and I hope that they'll continue to engage with me as we move beyond the EIS process and into construction. There's no doubt that these are very tough conversations to have and very tough issues to work through, but I think we can do it. I see it as my role to ensure that the Toowoomba region businesses and producers receive the full benefits that Inland Rail will bring to the Toowoomba region. If we dig deep and deliver this project to its maximum potential, we will succeed in increasing the competitiveness between road and rail in moving product to the port of Brisbane, unlocking the strategic potential of the Toowoomba region as a global hub for food and fibre. I'm here for the journey, bringing clear eyes and a cool head, to ensure that Inland Rail delivers for the Toowoomba region now and into the future.

When I stood at InterLinkSQ with Minister Coulton, we could see exactly why that site is so important. It truly is a nexus point for connectivity in that region. You can see the Queensland Rail western line running right next to where the Inland Rail will run. Across on the ridge, you can see the Warrego Highway, with trucks constantly passing along it, and the new second range crossing, funded by this government, taking truck traffic down to the port of Brisbane. Above you, in the beautiful blue skies, you can see Cathay Pacific flights taking our region's produce and sending it to the world from the excellent Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport. As John Candy would have it, it's planes, trains and automobiles—plus we have a connection to the port.

This nexus point project will be successful because of the great array of thriving industries that are built around it. Agriculture, mining, energy, manufacturing, defence and transport all have major centres within the Toowoomba region. Of course, all of these industries employ people in the Toowoomba region. These industries will benefit from intermodal hubs like InterLinkSQ, and those employers will bring those financial benefits back into our region. How we use Inland Rail is the great question facing the Toowoomba region. We must focus our attention on ensuring that every possible benefit of Inland Rail is realised.

House adjourned at 20:00