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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 2746 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

consideration to determine whether, and this the stage we are at, Speedrail has the capacity to do what it has been said it can do. That is the first step. That is what the proving-up period was for. We are not even at that stage yet.

Along with that, there are some disquieting stories around. I do not know whether they are true, but the original Speedrail proposal was for a two-rail track between here and Sydney and the suggestion is that we are now being offered a single rail track with passing loops along the way. If that is the case, I would have to say that the other proponents who were excluded would surely have good cause to come back and say, "Hang on a bit. The goalposts have changed significantly since the proposal of the successful proponent was accepted by the Commonwealth, New South Wales and ACT governments. Had that proposal been the one that we were competing with two or three years ago, we may have been more successful than we were". If there is any validity to the claim that the nature of the project is changing, and I have not heard any public announcement about any changes, I think it is cause for some concern. I am a bit worried about this matter.

Whilst I support the concept - and always have done - and want to see a fast train operating as quickly as possible and want to see the airport upgraded in Canberra as part of all of that, I am a bit concerned that things seem to be getting away from us. We are not yet certain of its practicability. We are not yet certain that the successful "contender" can in fact do what they won the tender to do. Is the project changing? Is it being reduced in scope or dimension? Is there still the commitment - a question that I asked the Chief Minister earlier - that it will be a private sector project at no net cost to the taxpayers? In my view, changing any of those things puts the project in jeopardy and I would not want to see that happen.

We need to have some information on the table about what is happening currently behind the scenes. The sooner we get that information on the table the better. Despite all of that, as I have said, I support Mr Hird's motion.

MS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (5.08): I think Mr Kaine is totally right; it is hard to believe that anyone could not support this motion. I believe really strongly that it is an important motion for us to debate in this place. Could there be a more important project for Canberra than the upgrading of our airport and the proposed very high-speed train in terms of our capacity to change fundamentally the way that this city works from a business and a social perspective? This project now has the Bishop Austrans trial track as part of it plus, as members will see from the plans for the travelport that are being worked up by the Capital Airport Group, the coach terminal and the new international terminal. It really is a very exciting proposal.

But I have to say that none of these things ever just happens. This motion is not just about saying that we all support the international airport and very high-speed train proposals. It is also about the Assembly as a whole, maybe without Ms Tucker, pushing the approach that having an international airport in Canberra plus the high-speed train could be a great means of deferring the construction of a second Sydney airport, something that is on the agenda in Australia at this stage.

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