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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (10 April) . . Page.. 904 ..

MRS CROSS (12.24): Mr Speaker, I would like to speak in support of Mr Hargreaves' motion. In 1981 the Institution of Engineers suggested that a network of fast trains connecting Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide would be a worthy bicentennial project. I understand the idea of a very fast train first came from Dr Paul Wild, then head of the CSIRO. He was travelling by rail between Canberra and Sydney, a service which had been recently introduced, when he noted that the journey was slower than the journey between London and Exeter in 1848, a distance of about 50 miles.

Dr Wild and some fellow CSIRO scientists developed the idea for a very fast train linking Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, and put a formal proposal to the federal Labor government in 1984. Unfortunately, the idea was summarily dismissed by that government as a pipe dream after only a very brief examination.

The idea, however, did not go away and has subsequently been revived in various forms. The latest initiative was for a fast train service travelling between Sydney and Canberra in less than one hour. The project was even considered by an Assembly committee during the years 1995 to 1997. Naturally the key factor was cost and who would pay that cost.

The project had substantial benefits for the Commonwealth, New South Wales and the ACT. A fast train would take pressure off the Sydney airport by making rail more attractive than flying for the hundreds of passengers who each day travel between Sydney and Canberra to do business and/or interact with government. There were jobs on offer with the fast train project-about 15,000 jobs both directly and indirectly during the construction phase of the project and another 2,000 jobs for Canberra once the service was operating.

The project initially had hope. The former Liberal government did its part and made a significant financial contribution towards researching options. Former Chief Minister Mrs Carnell strongly championed the fast train project and was an advocate at every opportunity. Initially, the federal government showed interest too. At one time it appeared likely that the train would be up and running in time for the 2000 Olympics, and then by 2005. Unfortunately, all federal support for the project has now gone. The federal government's final dismissal is short-sighted and shows a stubborn disregard for sensible, ecological values.

As a nation we need to embrace transport technologies that are more environmentally friendly than the cars, trucks and planes we rely on. I am grievously disappointed that the federal government has seen fit to take the easy option on this project but just as disappointed by the New South Wales Labor government for not supporting this project.

I support Mr Hargreaves' motion, and I commend it to the Assembly.

Debate interrupted in accordance with standing order 74 and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for a later hour.

Siting suspended from 12.27 to 2.30 pm.

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