Time for action on high speed rail
Posted December 04, 2018
Cathy called on the government to commit to providing high speed rail for Indi and regional Australia.
Watch the press conference here:
Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (12:11):
I'm very pleased to second this motion. It's the right time to do the right thing. This is a nation-building activity. The parliament has had inquiries into this. For many personal reasons to do with me being the federal member for Indi, I'm very happy to support this motion.
Colleagues, in 50 years time we're going to look back upon this particular parliament and see so many lost opportunities. Many, many times I've stood in this parliament and said to my colleagues on the other side, and particularly to the National Party, 'Where's your vision for this country?' And today, with this motion, I'm calling on my colleagues, particularly from the National Party, to show us your vision, to show us that you've got a plan, to show us you really get rural and regional Australia and where we want to be in 50 years time. It's about population. It's about the drivers of economic growth. It's about being brave and letting rural and regional Australia take its place in this great nation. So this authority is just the beginning to say that the National Party in particular has a plan for the future of this country. That's the political reason, I suppose, but there are really good other reasons.
The parliament itself this year, while I've been here, has had two inquiries which basically support what we're trying to do. Probably the most important one was from the ITC, the Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities, and its report, Harnessing value, delivering infrastructure, a bipartisan report that says we've actually got to do something in a national way about what's happening in the cities and what's happening in the region. We've got to build infrastructure that connects. There were some creative ways about how we could fund that. So that report is before the parliament.
The second report I would like to refer to is Regions at the ready, which talks about a national approach to building infrastructure and developing the regions so that they can take their rightful place in the country. Both reports have been presented to this parliament and we're still waiting for the government to come back and tell us what they think about the recommendations, but they sit there.
The third reason, which is probably the most important for me, is that when I got elected as member for Indi my commitment was to put my electorate first. So I'm standing here backing a motion from the Labor Party because I look to the government and I say: 'Well, if not you, who is going to build us this high-speed rail? Who is going to preserve the corridor? And if you're not going to do it now, government, after five years, when are you going to do it? So, if not you, who?'
I say to the people in my electorate: 'Who else is standing up for you for infrastructure that's actually going to make a difference to our community? Who are the visionary people in north-east Victoria who come to this parliament and say, "I get the future and I will stand up and I will put Indi first"'?
Related to putting Indi first, to get us the infrastructure that we need, I also would like to acknowledge the work of one of my constituents, Tim Fischer. The last time I spoke to Tim Fischer we were launching his book about steam engines. I made a speech about the importance of high-speed rail and the opportunity that steam gives to us in the regions. I'm saying that high-speed rail will give us the same impetus that steam gave a couple of centuries ago. I think I saw Tim sadly shake his head. He has almost given up on it, because the National Party, the government, the coalition were his party and for five years they haven't been able to do it. So I say: 'Government, if not you, who will speak up for the regions? Who? When will we put in infrastructure that delivers long-term benefits at the centre of what we need to do?'
I say to the government that now is the right time. You're going to have the MYEFO report and, according to the member for Grayndler, there is some money there that we might be able to do something with. We're bringing the budget forward to April. Please, come out with a strategy for regional Australia. Show us how for north-east Victoria, for southern New South Wales, for Geelong and for Newcastle you're actually understanding what the regions are needing and you're putting us front and centre, because clearly the government hasn't got it. They haven't done it and I don't think they're going to do it.
I say to my community, look to the crossbench and look to those of us who stand here today and say high-speed rail is the future for the regions. We need to invest in the corridor. Do you know what we really need to do? What the government really needs to do is say to regional Australia: 'We understand what you need. For the next 100 years we're going to build the infrastructure that is going to put you at the centre of Australia's future.'