Back in the days of his prime, Barnaby Joyce announced that the Coalition Government had allocated 9.5 billion dollars for the construction of the Inland Railway.
He had demanded this from Malcolm Turnbull as the price for National Party cooperation at the time of Turnbull’s coup to topple Abbott.
Turnbull reluctantly agreed, but insisted that it had to be funded ‘off balance sheet’, ie, not taken from general taxpayer revenue in the next Budget, but funded by loans to be taken out by the Federal Government’s own railway company, ARTC (Australian Rail Track Corporation) against its balance sheet. Future revenue would pay back the loans.
This was mentioned only in the fine print of the public announcement. Most voters think it is being funded by regular government grants.
In other words, Barnaby Joyce proceeded with the project without allocating one cent of government funds to it. This means that his in-depth commitment to it has been Nil. It was simply a vote getting stunt.
It still is a very shallow commitment by those who have followed him and it will cause future governments huge pain when, inevitably. they are forced to pick up the large tab.
Based on current planning, it will take a full decade or more to build the railway from Melbourne to Brisbane via Parkes and Toowoomba.
Interest on the ever increasing ARTC loans will rapidly multiply over those years.
Then, it will take another ten years for freight traffic on the railway to generate enough revenue to start repaying the loans, while, in the meantime, huge operating losses will add onto those loans.
The venture will bankrupt ARTC.
The facts are that the Inland Railway can only ever attain viability if it is funded totally without debt and this was known to both Turnbull and Joyce when the deal was done.
Their actions represent one of the most irresponsible decisions in Australian political history and could easily have been avoided.
It has always been possible to run freight trains from Melbourne to North Star, which is north of Moree. All that is needed is to build a 300k standard gauge railway on from there to Toowoomba which can act as a freight hub for the whole of South East Queensland without the track going any further. It can also send airfreight from Toowoomba’s International Airport.
All that is needed is three billion dollars in tax payer funding. This would make it possible for revenue generating freight trains to run from Melbourne to Toowoomba and return, many years ahead of the current plans.
All of the creation of short cuts and upgrading in NSW could then be progressively implemented in the years ahead with small but regular doses of taxpayer funding annually.
The proposed highly expensive track from Toowoomba to Brisbane will never be needed as it is a better strategy to build the Inland Railway on to Gladstone and open up a huge regional development opportunity on the Darling Downs, Maranoa and Central Queensland.
But, negotiations between the Morrison and Palaszczuk Governments have broken down over the cancellation of promised federal funding for Brisbane’s Cross River Rail by Abbott 6 years ago. It would have been built and operating by now if Abbott had not done this.
So, Palaszczuk now makes a fair comment to Morrison, ‘You restore the Cross River Rail money and we will let the Inland Railway into Queensland.’
Who can blame her? But I am sure that Albo will fix it when he becomes Infrastructure Minister in May.
In the meantime, the current Infrastructure Minister, McCormack, is spending 300 million dollars unnecessarily upgrading the rail track from Parkes to Narromine which is in his own electorate. He had earlier announced, at a sod turning ceremony beside a rail track that has been there for 150 years, that it would cost 160 million.
It will not cause even one more freight train to appear on the line to North Star and so it is an utter waste of public funds that will send that massive overdraft soaring higher.
In addition, farmers between Narromine and Narrabri are in uproar over the proposed short cut rail track which is next on McCormack’s list for the Inland Railway. Negotiations for resumption of their land have been brutal, so 300 of them abused him mightily at a recent public meeting and there is some evidence that Barnaby, who wants his old job back, helped organise the protest.
There is a similar uproar among the farmers around Millmerran in Queensland. The public relations skills of ARTC are totally missing.
The best that can be said today is that the creation of the Inland Railway, a great national development project, is in the hands of gross political and bureaucratic incompetents who have turned it into an unbelievable farce at huge cost to the nation.
When the government changes in May, I will offer my services to Anthony Albanese to help sort out this almost hopeless mess as he will inherit a terrible legacy.
I do hope that he accepts as I want a chance to revive my persistent record of working tirelessly for its creation for 23 long years.
It must not be destroyed by irresponsible vandalism.
3 thoughts on “INLAND RAILWAY- POLITICS OF DISASTER”
Thank you Everald. This is a very interesting article. My dream is to see all railway returned to the Govt and jobs, jobs, jobs created for regional towns.
Completely agree with your comments Everald. However not sure why you think that Albo will do any better or a Labor govt generally. Not since Hawke and Keating has any Labor govt achieved much with their big spending. The NBN is a disaster as is the National Disability Fund as was the education spend, halls and Gonski. All of course had good intentions but the method of spending as well as the substance just was way off beam and put our nation in the red yet again â as will happen far worse this time. Still we are intent on moving down the fashionably socialistic path that brooks no rational debate, or alternative views but just keeps progressing global warming, denial of our history and culture, debasing our education at all levels, undermining our institutions including religion, pushing social changing trends like gender morphing, denial of free speech unless it accords with the trendy green, left progressives and a whole lot more. There is absolutely nothing equitable in the likely new government because they have no idea what a level playing field looks like. Albo may be less destructive or more moderate but there ainât many like him. The Left-Green and related bunch may have fooled the social do-gooders who want to be on the side of the trendy issues drive but posterity will rate them poorly and the climb back to sanity will be long, expensive and painful. Iâm being objective now Everald because Iâm not fixed on any party or ism as my voting past would show. Unfortunately too few now question what they read, hear or see; they just follow what seems most in keeping with whatever trend theyâve been captured by.
Two examples:- polar bears are now far more numerous despite polar icing reduction; and the claims that One Nation sought funds from the NRA of America. An authentic book just published by a sound-thinking and neutral zoologist author proves the first. The second is in the process of being unravelled by objective elements of the press and so far establishing too many questionable elements to rely on the original Alkazeraâs claims. Itâs a bit like the debunking of the claims against Trump. That may not make him a better man or President but it does strike a blow for the truth â something thatâs no longer as valued in society as it should be. Why do so many continue to believe the disproven myths of people like Al Gore and Tim Flannery? I never avoid a debate as long as the factors offered are establishable beyond reasonable doubt â thatâs how we learn and sometimes change our minds. Both those crucial human qualities are fast receding because people donât listen to each other with open minds any more or at least minds prepared to change their position if presented evidence makes them think or question differently. Sorry for the rant but with you on your railway critiquing. Regards carlo
Carlo Bongarzoni Associates P/L
9 Russell Street
Clontarf NSW 2093
T/F 9948 8975; 0410 335 523
We need to keep inland rail and N-S water infrastructure on the to do list
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