13 February 2023
Mr COULTON (Parkes—Chief Nationals Whip) (10:42): A couple of weeks ago it was my birthday. As a special treat we caught the train from Moree to Willow Tree. I had lunch at the Willow Tree Inn with my family and then caught the train back again. Why that’s significant for this chamber is that the first 100 kilometres of that trip was on the newly completed Inland Rail section from Moree back to Narrabri—a remarkable achievement.
We shared the track on that day with grain trains and, the closer we got below Narrabri, coal trains as well. It’s a vital piece of infrastructure, and I just want to give credit to the people who worked on that section during floods and high rainfall. Trying to deal with black soil and mud is not much fun for engineers, but during the flood it was the only thing above the water on that section, and so it will be a flood-free route.
There are dangers we need to be careful of, and I know Minister King is waiting for Kerry Schott’s report on inland rail. It was instigated after the election. I’m also looking forward to seeing that as I am concerned that these projects that are worthwhile are not easy. It’s a lot easier to stop something than to start it, and so we need to push through. I’ve had considerable criticism for my support of this project, but ultimately—with regard to reducing our emissions, with regard to freight efficiency, with regard to greater access for my electorate to the capital cities around Australia—it will be a great project. We have to understand that the business case is to build an intermodal track between Melbourne and Brisbane. That will be 85 per cent of the freight. I’m supportive because it will also give access to more ports for the grain that’s produced my electorate. Also, with the upgrade that was funded under the previous government, the Port of Newcastle will connect to the inland rail. So it will become much more important for grain in your electorate, Deputy Speaker. It’s the obvious choice for exporting grain out of New South Wales and, I would think, ultimately, for southern Queensland—that will be out of the Port of Newcastle. My hope is that the Schott report does not put a kibosh on this project and that the current government and Minister King keep their commitment to it, because ultimately it will be a game changer for the eastern states of Australia.