22 March 2023
Mr COULTON (Parkes—Chief Nationals Whip) (13:45): Last week I was at a location called Merrywinebone, in my electorate. I met with farmers, rail operators, grain traders and representatives of the Walgett Shire Council about the need to upgrade the 52-kilometre section from Merrywinebone back to Burren Junction on the Walgett line. Rail is coming back into prominence now, with the Inland Rail under construction.
The completed section between Moree and Narrabri is already in full use, as the massive grain harvest from northern New South Wales is shipped down to your electorate, Deputy Speaker Claydon, to the port of Newcastle. To get the full benefit of Inland Rail, we need to have these connections into it. It’s no good half loading a rail carriage at Merrywinebone only to have the vast majority of its journey to Newcastle in an underutilised train. So I will work with those groups.
It’s a state government issue as well, and after the state election we’ll be talking to them about building the case to upgrade this. Inland rail is a game changer. I can report that in the recent floods the only piece of infrastructure between Moree and Narrabri out of the water was the inland rail.
I do encourage the minister to get on with it. She’s sitting on the Schott report. She’s had that now for probably six weeks. There’s starting to be a level of nervousness in the community. Give them confidence and finish this life-saving world-changing project.