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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3454 ..

Very Fast Train Project

MR KAINE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister and it relates to the very fast train project. Chief Minister, the head of one of the major companies involved in the Speedrail consortium which was the successful tenderer for the so-called proving up stage of the very high speed train project has been quoted in the national media in recent days as saying that the project is unlikely to proceed without special taxation assistance, especially with respect to long-term depreciation schedules. Some supportive noises for such a course of action have come from a member of the Government, Federal Transport Minister John Anderson, on radio today. Presumably the Speedrail consortium won the preferred tender competition on the basis of financial conditions that applied to all the tenderers at the time they were considered, which specifically did not include government financial assistance. In view of these statements now emanating from members of the Speedrail consortium, apparently with some sympathy from the Government, do you support the notion that the goal posts should be moved to the benefit of only one of the original very high speed train project proponents, that is, the preferred tenderer?

MS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, the tender did not go out at no cost to government. Those were not the words that were used. It was to be at no net cost to government, and net was a very important part of that because it meant that everybody was very well aware that there would be some government contribution to the whole project. This is a major project. There will also be some very real benefits to government as well. All of the tenderers who put in their tenders that I saw knew that because that is how they put their tenders together. So it was not as if they were unaware of this particular scenario.

Mr Speaker, I will support anything within the law that gets this fast train up between Canberra and Sydney. We will be doing whatever we can to ensure that we get this train up. I have to say I am very pleased of recent days to see Bob Carr coming much more definitely on board than we have seen before. Quite a number of Federal government people are coming on board as well. I hope that Mr Kaine, similarly, will get behind this project because efforts by some of the unsuccessful tenderers to, shall we say, derail the process can only cause us all a problem.

MR KAINE: I have a supplementary question. Mr Speaker, noting that I was behind this project for five years before the Chief Minister ever came into this place, I think that that is a rather condescending comment that she just made. My supplementary question is this: Should the Commonwealth Government move the financial goal posts after the tenders have been closed to suit the Speedrail consortium's new bid for the very high speed train project; and, given that the thing was supposed to be on a level playing field, will you, Chief Minister, recommend to the Commonwealth and the New South Wales governments that the project competition should be re-opened to give all of the contenders, not just one, an opportunity to bid again on a fair and equitable basis?

MR SPEAKER: Chief Minister, just a moment, please. That is a hypothetical question.

Ms Carnell: And the answer is no, I will not.

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