BIRTH OF A RAILWAY

Shortly after John Howard was elected Prime Minister of Australia in 1996, I visited him at Parliament to outline a plan that I had to build an Inland Railway from Melbourne to Darwin via Parkes, Toowoomba, Brisbane, Gladstone, Mount Isa and Tennant Creek.

He has readily agreed to see me as I had been his honorary fund raiser for the marginal seats he had to win in order to be PM. I was not a member of the Liberal Party and had done this with no strings attached as he was an old friend, and still his.

Howard apologised and said he did not see it as a priority. He wanted to carry out all of his election promises and this was not one of them. That decision blows the theory that politicians are duty bound to repay political debts, not that I ever expected him to do so.

I decided to undertake the project privately and formed a company that I called Australian Transport and Energy Corridor Ltd which is still operating 21 years later. It is largely responsible for the decision in last Tuesday’s Budget to fund the Melbourne Brisbane section of the Inland Railway.

Let me tell you the story of two decades of persistence. Continue reading “BIRTH OF A RAILWAY”

Inland Rail: Only “red tape and political gutlessness” stopping simple project more than 100 years in making.

Feature article by Michael Madigan in The Courier-Mail  20 August 2016

IT’S a bit like our own infrastructure version of the “Yowie’’ – plenty have seen visions of it, but no-one has been able to capture this magnificent, mythical 1700km rail corridor holding the key to untold economic riches.
The Inland Rail has glittered with promise in the Australian subconscious ever since 1893 when a consortium of Victorian businessmen announced they would build it to link Melbourne to the gold fields of Normanton in far-north Queensland.
Politics, mingled with the still bewildering array of rail gauges across this nation, put an end to their dreams, but the notion of laying down a silver ribbon across Australia’s fertile, inner interior has stirred nation-building dreamers ever since. Continue reading “Inland Rail: Only “red tape and political gutlessness” stopping simple project more than 100 years in making.”

Time has come to search for Nation Builders

To find Australia’s last nation building venture we must go back two thirds of a century to the Snowy River.

We have to take our minds back the same number of years to discover a nation builder, Flynn of the Inland, the man on our twenty dollar notes, who founded the Flying Doctor Service, Pedal Radio, School of the Air and two dozen bush hospitals in very remote places.

One does not have to be a genius to come to the considered view that it is time to revive the fine traditions of the grand pioneers after 65 dormant years of fostering the good life in preference to investing in the future of a great nation.

To emphasise our passive attitude to nation building, let me tell you about an experience I had two decades ago. Continue reading “Time has come to search for Nation Builders”

Why our railways must triumph over roads.

The foundation of Australia’s growth as a nation was based on railways. They spread out like tentacles over the habitable areas of the continent from every capital city, and they were the basis on which commerce and industry were built.

Unfortunately, they had defects that downgraded their ability to serve the needs of a growing nation as they were focused on directing passengers and freight to capital cities, thereby causing unbalanced development — too much population concentrated in too few places. Continue reading “Why our railways must triumph over roads.”

Rail and Water Agenda for an Infrastructure Prime Minister

Article written for On Line Opinion “Under New Management” feature.

I greeted with enthusiasm Tony Abbott’s election comment that he wanted to be remembered in history as Australia’s Infrastructure Prime Minister. I formed the view that his words were welcomed by many who have genuine concern that our nation has an appalling record of neglected infrastructure stretching back for far more the half a century that has elapsed since the Snowy Mountains Project became a reality.

During this time, there has been a steady, but not spectacular, investment in roads and some expansion of ports, but very little spent on railways or water. If the PM can make a difference in these two areas, it will make an enormous contribution to the progress of the nation. Continue reading “Rail and Water Agenda for an Infrastructure Prime Minister”