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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (10 April) . . Page.. 899 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (12.03): Mr Hargreaves has appealed for the support of the ACT Liberal Party for this motion, in the spirit of bipartisanship. I can indicate to him now that he will receive it.

This motion expresses the Assembly's quite warranted concern that a decision taken in recent weeks will significantly retard the development of a very fast train project for Australia, and in particular one that would have embraced the ACT. With this decision by the federal government, the significant remaining element of continued work on the project from the point of view of government has been removed.

My words on the occasion of the federal government's announcement have already been quoted by Mr Hargreaves, so I will not repeat them. But I will say that it needs to be put on record very clearly that the Australian community expects and looks to government at a variety of levels to provide support for the development of major infrastructure around this country.

The ACT has been a conspicuous beneficiary of a policy over many decades of building up national infrastructure. The ACT itself, in many respects, is a major item of national infrastructure. It is the infrastructure of a national capital apparatus serving the federal government and its agencies and providing other important national facilities and institutions.

The ACT has also been a particular beneficiary of the decision decades ago to develop the Snowy Mountain Hydro-electric Authority, which increased Australia's hydro-electric infrastructure and transformed the nature of power supply in this country. The federal government of the day was entirely involved in providing that infrastructure and funded it exclusively. There is no doubt that successive generations of Australians have benefited from that investment.

Similarly, I believe that Australia has reached the juncture where it needs to seriously and properly consider the development of a national rail infrastructure to reflect contemporary needs. The old bone rattlers which still serve many parts of Australia, including the ACT, were adequate for their time but will not be adequate in the future.

This nation needs, and must have, a system of high-speed rail transport. The logical first place for that infrastructure to be laid down is in the corridor between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's two largest cities, and it makes sense to include the national capital in that infrastructure.

As Mr Hargreaves has mentioned, Australia is a vast country. The airline industry which services it at the moment has undergone significant upheavals in the last year. Its future has to be described fairly as uncertain. That means that other strong alternative infrastructure projects providing for transport of people and goods between major centres of Australia should be available to Australia in due course. I do not think any of us would doubt that this project would have significant benefits economically and perhaps socially for the whole of Australia.

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