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Friday, 19 November 1993
Page: 3291

Senator BURNS —My question is directed to the Minister for Transport and Communications. I note media reports today of the ACT government's strong support of the Speedrail proposal for a fast train between Sydney and

Canberra, matching the federal government's agreement to participate in a task force to assist the development of this major infrastructure proposal. Can the minister inform the Senate what steps need to be taken to progress the appraisal of the Speedrail proposal?

Senator COLLINS —It would be good to finish question time today on a positive note. Earlier this week, I met again with representatives of the Speedrail consortium, including two representatives from GEC Alsthom headquarters in France. It is clear that, if the proposal proves to be commercially viable, a fast rail link between Sydney and Canberra would attract significant patronage, not least from the current users of the air services between Sydney and Canberra, particularly if the route included, as is proposed, the two Sydney airports.

  The consortium advised me that, once the feasibility study is under way, it will actually be in a position within six months to have some hard analysis available on the viability of the project. However, before it can do this, the consortium will, not unreasonably, have to have an indication of the support of the three governments involved: the ACT, the Commonwealth and the New South Wales governments. The Commonwealth has already indicated its willingness to participate in a government task force to facilitate the planning and environmental approvals the project has to achieve. I am pleased to say that the ACT government has also publicly expressed—

Senator Kemp —I don't think Burnsie is interested in the answer.

Senator COLLINS —Where is Senator Chapman today?

Senator Bolkus —In the kennel.

Senator COLLINS —I have spoken to the New South Wales transport minister, Mr Baird, about this because, of the three governments involved, it is clear that it is the position of the New South Wales government on this project that is most important because of the needs for land acquisition for the route of the rail system and the planning that will be required.

  I do believe that, considering the scope of this project and the advantages for New South Wales, the ACT, and, I might add, Australia generally, there is a real need for the New South Wales Premier, Mr Fahey, to be personally involved in this, to become actively involved in assessing the project and to do it fairly quickly. I would hope that Premier Fahey will meet with the Speedrail consortium as soon as possible so that the role of the governments can be resolved and the feasibility study on this important proposal can actually get under way.

Senator Robert Ray —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.