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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 3651 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

frequency and speed. While the very fast train might catapult the Canberra-Sydney link into a new dimension, more moderate improvement would nonetheless make a substantial difference.

The question is really one of money. We can and will call on the New South Wales government to shift its transport thinking and commit to a long-term, ecologically sustainable transport strategy and so invest more in rail. The New South Wales public transport inquiry, which proposed substituting our rail services with buses, seems to focus only on economic sustainability and only in the context of a form of economics that fails to factor in long-term social and environmental costs.

I would like to see a more profound analysis that takes those more important benefits and costs into account. I understand the ACT government is making a submission in response to the inquiry's interim report, and I trust some of these issues will be raised then. Then we can come to the question of federal funding.

It will be interesting to see what flows from the new Alice to Darwin railway, which has just been completed. It is going to take quite a few years before the main business of the service-freight-starts to make money, although I think the first few passenger services are filling up already. It is being touted, however, as a crucial new component of the economic future of both the Northern Territory and South Australia. Of course, that rail link is the result of major federal investment.

If John Howard had not wanted to see it built, it almost certainly never would have been. In fact, the decision was made more or less at the time that the same Prime Minister decided not to lend his support to a very fast train link between Canberra and Sydney.

The recent talk about Canberra airport picking up some of the Sydney traffic simply presupposes an endlessly growing air travel industry and ignores any issues of the environmental cost of air travel and diminishing supplies of fuel. Nonetheless, if the Canberra Airport were to become the more significant national or regional hub that its owners hope it will, links to an efficient and effective rail service would make an enormous difference to its viability as well.

Perhaps, now that the north-south railway has been completed, to general enthusiasm and pride, we might be able to put the Sydney-Canberra link back on the national agenda-the national capital, linked through clean, fast, and economic transport to the major port of arrival and premiere city of Sydney. Clearly, it is all fairly challenging when the New South Wales government is backing away from its railway responsibilities. This motion calls on the ACT government to keep the pressure on New South Wales. It is important that it does so.

The Greens take the view that the railway will play an important and growing role in the future of transporting this country as its inherent environmental, social, and economic advantages become more apparent and the hidden subsidies for road and air travel are abandoned. We probably need to make a particular effort now to ensure the most basic services are maintained before the changes take effect.

The day return service is one such basic element. Constituents have contacted my office to explain how important that service is in order to access medical services, visit families

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