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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 3658 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

statistics show that every 1 per cent of freight moved from road to rail will save the lives of two Australian motorists per year and save five others from being injured.

However, despite mountains of economic, social and environmental benefits of rail services, Australian governments continue to fail to invest in rail. And the ACT is no exception, with the transport minister recently ruling out any improvement of the ACT section of the interstate rail line. However, he has said that a hugely expensive road tunnel under City Hill sounds like a great idea. I question where the benefits are of building a road under the hill versus improving our rail system. It is something that needs to be further explored.

The ACT Democrats are supportive of Mrs Dunne's motion. Mrs Dunne has already rightly pointed out the importance of the existing rail services to Canberra and our community. They are especially important to the elderly and the disabled, who are unable to utilise coaches or planes, both due to their inaccessibility and their costs.

I have no issue with the amendment put forward by Minister Stanhope today to further clarify what it is we are talking about. Paragraph (6) of Minister Stanhope's amendment notes that for the past 31/2 years the government has been engaged in negotiations to secure an SLA for the provision of rail services. Minister Stanhope has pointed out that these have been quite difficult negotiations, and there are quite a number of issues that need to be resolved. I would like to see an end point to these negotiations and see that we actually have a new SLA in place. It appears that negotiations are still ongoing on that point.

I will speak further to my amendment when we debate it, and I also note that Mrs Dunne has an amendment to Mr Stanhope's amendment that I am also supportive of in terms of putting forward to the New South Wales government the Assembly's views about the transport and train system in the territory.

MRS CROSS (6.05): I will speak to Mrs Dunne's motion and to the Stanhope amendment. I rise today in support of Mrs Dunne's motion. A Canberra to Sydney rail link is extremely important for the residents of the ACT, and for some people it is the only feasible way to get from Canberra to Sydney and back. To not have a rail link between the nation's capital and Australia's largest city, when they are less than 300 kilometres apart, is disgraceful for so many reasons. The argument that we won't have one because of staff shortages is a spurious argument at best.

Firstly, this rail link is a public service. Train linkages between all major cities are necessary for the mobility of residents. For some, such as pensioners, it is the only way to get from Canberra to Sydney. Buses do not always provide the necessary services and space that less-mobile citizens require when travelling, and not everyone has a car. To take away the option of many ACT residents to travel to Sydney is disgraceful. This Assembly represents the people of the ACT, and I am sure the people of the ACT want a rail link between Canberra and Sydney, if for no other reason than for the comfort and convenience trains offer and the extra option they provide.

Secondly, the removal of this link will have a highly negative effect on ACT tourism. Canberra has many tourist attractions, from Old Parliament House and the National Museum to Cockington Green and Summernats. Many overseas visitors decide they

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