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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 1268 ..

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (4.10): Mr Speaker, at the outset I join with the Chief Minister in congratulating Speedrail. It is wonderful that the decision has been made and we are able to move on in the development of the very fast train proposal. Having said that, I look forward with great interest, and the same measure of excitement as everybody else in Canberra, to the potential which the VFT potentially holds for this region. I am happy to say that I do not think there is anything that the Chief Minister has just said in her speech with which I disagree. The sentiments and the potential are endorsed absolutely by the ALP. This is a major issue on which there should be genuine bipartisan support. As I think everybody in this place knows, I have sought, as Leader of the Opposition, to play a positive role in the debate and to bring parties together to present a common view and attitude to other interested and important players in this issue.

I will not go on at any great length, Mr Speaker, other than to say that the Labor Party is genuinely interested in a bipartisan and Canberra-wide approach to the VFT. We recognise absolutely and implicitly the benefits that it potentially presents for this region and for the people of Canberra in a thousand ways, not only in terms of our economic potential but also in a whole range of ways it makes us a closer part of the nation and draws us, as a nation, together. Having said that, Mr Speaker, I must say that many of us developed, I think, some emotional attachment to or support for the idea of the Maglev proposal. It presented a very exciting visionary image. I developed a significant fondness of, and, as I say, emotional attachment to, the Maglev proposal and have some genuine regret that the decision was made that that proposal not be proceeded with. That is not to say that I do not share the Chief Minister's support for Speedrail. I congratulate Speedrail on being successful in this particular stage. I genuinely look forward to the proposal proceeding.

MS TUCKER (4.13): The Greens' position has been that, while we are certainly supportive of the concept of the rail link, we are concerned at the process. On the day of the announcement I rang the Prime Minister's office and asked whether we would be able to see the project control group's report because obviously we were interested in the rationale behind the decision. I was very concerned that this was seen to be a document not available to the community, so we have no idea why this particular proponent was the preferred proponent. We do not know how vigorous the assessment of the various proponents was and we do not know what the criteria were. I was also concerned when, in estimates questions, I asked the Minister responsible for the environment about his input to the discussion, in terms of the ACT's position, on which was the preferred proponent. He answered that he had not had any input into that. I am really concerned about that because not only is this a minority government but also within the Government itself there obviously appears to have been little input from the Minister for the environment.

I want it placed on the record that, while we are supportive of the rail link and the fast train concept, we are very concerned at the process. Of course, there will be an assessment done of the preferred proponent but, once again, as so often happens, the community is left not knowing why that was the preferred proponent. We will have to make the best of that particular offer when we look at the assessment process as it occurs now. We will obviously have to look at minimising the environmental harm.

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