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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 2745 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

The high-speed train proposal has been around for a number of years. Of course, the Greens are basically supportive of rail travel, but a process is already under way with government for assessing the viability of this proposal. Whilst the Speedrail proposal has been selected by the Federal, ACT and New South Wales governments as the preferred train system, the commercial viability of the proposal has yet to be proved and considerable doubts have been raised in public forums about its viability. Also, the environmental impacts of the proposal need further examination. I am not able to support this motion at this point.

MR KAINE (5.02): Unlike Ms Tucker, I do support this motion. I have long been both a proponent of and advocate for a fast train in south-eastern Australia and, in conjunction with that, the upgrading of the Canberra Airport to international standard, recognising the difficulties that there are in the latter. I believe that they are necessary. I note that there has been some coverage in the media of the very fast train proposal over the last couple of days. The timing is interesting. I wonder whether Mr Hird generated that to coincide with this debate. The latest coverage had to do with the original notion of the fast train being a much bigger project than just between Canberra and Sydney, and inevitably it must be.

With a very high percentage of the population of Australia concentrated in the south-east corner and spreading up the east coast, I do not believe that in the national interest we can persist for much longer with the transportation system generally developed in the first half of this century. The demands of the mobile population into the next century are going to require that we have a much better surface transportation system than we have at the moment. I see, and I have always seen, the very fast train project as being essential in the national interest to deal with that increasing demand.

There is no question whatsoever in my mind that this project is essential. It is essential that it come through Canberra. It is essential in the connection of the major capital cities by a very fast train that Canberra Airport be upgraded in some fashion. Mr Hird says that it is necessary to take some pressure off Sydney. That may be a by-product. I am more interested in that development because of its contribution to this economy and that of the half a million people, approximately, either in Canberra or in the surrounding districts.

I support Mr Hird's motion. I really cannot see how anybody looking at the best interests of the country or the region can possibly object to such a motion or oppose it. But in supporting it, I do think I need to cover in some respects the matter I raised in question time today. My concern is that the time scale of this project seems to be extending, for no good reason. As I pointed out in question time, the original decision to proceed with this project was made one year ago and there was to be a six-month proving-up period for the successful contender.

The six months from August of last year ended in February of this year, but the Chief Minister has said and Mr Hird said in his speech that a submission on the final proposals will not be on the table until later this year. What does that mean? It is already September. There is some concern - I think it is genuine concern - about the fact that the timing for this project seems to be slipping and there does not seem to be any urgency being devoted to meeting deadlines and getting a final submission on the table for

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