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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 5 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1201 ..

Speedrail Project

MR WOOD: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister. Chief Minister, after your brief and apparently barren meeting with the Prime Minister, you said that the question of Speedrail was discussed. Bearing in mind the importance which we all have attached to the project for the ACT, first, what specifically did you ask the Prime Minister to do to accelerate this program? What funding proposal did you put to him? Secondly, given that you came out of the meeting assuring the world that the meeting had been a success, what assurances did you receive from the Prime Minister - not just platitudes, but assurances of assistance from the Commonwealth - to advance that important project?

MRS CARNELL: Thank you very much. It is a great question. It was a major issue for the discussions that we had with the Prime Minister. What we needed from the Prime Minister was an undertaking that he actually supported the project and that he was willing to put together direct discussions between Bob Carr and me and him. We also needed the Prime Minister to appoint a high-profile member to the feasibility study committee. In other words, what we needed from the Prime Minister was not just a statement that yes, it is a nice program, but a statement that he supported the feasibility study going ahead - and not just that he supported it, but that he would appoint a high-profile person to head up the feasibility study.

What we have to do with the Speedrail proposal - the very fast train proposal, the high-speed rail proposal or whatever we are calling it this week - is determine once and for all whether this thing is a goer or not. We certainly believe that it is, but it has to be perceived to be such by all three governments that are involved. We have had significant problems in the past. We had an enormous amount of trouble getting Laurie Brereton to say anything positive about the high-speed rail proposal. Trying to get any sort of positive statement from the previous Government, let alone getting the previous Government to put anybody except some fairly middle management people on the feasibility study, was extraordinarily difficult.

What we needed - and we got it - was the Prime Minister not only to support, as he did, the high-speed rail link with Sydney but also to undertake to appoint an additional high-profile person to the feasibility study committee to get the thing going, and also, as I said, to convene a meeting between Bob Carr, me and the Prime Minister to show that they are very dedicated to this proposal. Hopefully, the feasibility study will suggest - we believe that it will - that the rail link is a goer. At that stage it will go out to first-stage tender. Mr Speaker, we are very hopeful that that can be achieved this year.

MR WOOD: I ask a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. Given that the greatest change occurred when the Carr Labor Government was elected in New South Wales and they became involved in the project, and bearing in mind that the former Federal Labor Government had committed $50,000, does the Chief Minister understand our disappointment now that her empty words have indicated no progress at all?

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