20 June 2023
Mr COULTON (Parkes—Chief Nationals Whip) (16:24): It’s now several months since Kerry Schott delivered her review to the minister on inland rail. It’s important to note that in that review Kerry Schott reinforced that the route is in the correct place and the need is there. I’m hearing that the figures around the costing and estimation might have been a little high. But it’s about time the minister now gave the people along that route, and at each end, certainty about what’s happening. At the moment there’s a great amount of unrest because people have gone and borrowed money and bought equipment—trucks, earthmoving machinery—and have been actively involved in the first completed sections, the sections between Parkes and Narromine and between Narrabri and North Star stage 1. It’s a magnificent piece of infrastructure that’s being built.
But it’s a timely reminder as to what this project is. This project takes 200,000 trucks a year off the Newell Highway. It removes 750,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. So, if you’re looking for genuine climate-saving carbon reduction projects, don’t look any further than this one. My concern is that if the minister doesn’t come out and reinforce her government’s support for this project then the momentum will be lost. Already we’re starting to see some of that happening.
Long after Minister King and I have left this place, if this project doesn’t go ahead the consequences will affect generations to come. The project could mean cheaper products on the shelves in Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as the fact that every capital city will be joined by a standard-gauged railway for the first time, with the connection giving options to other ports, such as the Port of Newcastle, the Port of Melbourne, and Brisbane, all connected, as well as over to the west and even as far as the Northern Territory.
This is a great project, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. Gilgandra Shire has invested millions of dollars building houses that will be used for workers, which are under construction. There’s a Special Activation Precinct at Moree, where about $300,000 is already at risk, as well as the Special Activation Precinct at Narrabri, with the inland port there. And the level of uncertainty is rising. Minister King has had time to look at this review. I’ve heard the Prime Minister, for the 10 years that this project has been there, at numerous conferences supporting inland rail. The minister supports inland rail. Stop the uncertainty and come out and support this now.