THE VISION OF THE INLAND RAILWAY IS NOW A TRAGEDY.

EVERALD COMPTON RELATES HIS LONG AND PAINFUL JOURNEY

Soon after John Howard became Prime Minister of Australia in 1996, I met him at Parliament in Canberra to outline my plan to build an Inland Railway.

He agreed that it was a visionary project well worth a try and he gave me the green light to open negotiations with appropriate Ministers in his Cabinet.

I mentioned to him that there was a political downside for his Government. No matter what corridor we chose for the railway, many people would be hurt as we resumed properties & demolished homes as inevitably happens with every infrastructure project anywhere in the world.

We agreed that we must always work on the principle that every effort would be made to avoid unnecessary hardship and that compensation for property and loss of income would be generous.

Sadly, those who have followed him have not adhered to this principle. Continue reading “THE VISION OF THE INLAND RAILWAY IS NOW A TRAGEDY.”

INLAND RAILWAY- POLITICS OF DISASTER

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. Continue reading “INLAND RAILWAY- POLITICS OF DISASTER”

A FUTURE WITHOUT ADANI

We are led to believe that the economic future of North Queensland is utterly dependent upon the opening of the Adani Mine in the Galilee Basin. Without it, we are told that there will be massive unemployment and a general economic downturn.

Indeed, it is of such enormity that an election in Melbourne for the Seat of Batman in the Federal Parliament will be decided on the issue, even though the electorate and the mine are thousands of kilometres apart.

This nonsense, spread by politicians, free market advocates, climate change deniers and general fear mongers, badly fails the pub test.

The stark fact is that development of the North and the Inland has never been backed by either serious political will or genuine investment, nor has a well researched long term plan of sustainable development for the region ever been prepared, let alone implemented.

The Adani mine was chosen as a quick fix for years of neglect and it was based on series of appalling fabrications. Continue reading “A FUTURE WITHOUT ADANI”

THE ADANI ELECTION

Queenslanders go to the polls on Saturday, 25 November, to elect a State Government.

Ostensibly, it is a contest between Annastacia Palaszczuk and Tim Nicholls as to who will be Premier of the Queensland Parliament,

It is absolutely not.

The battle is about whether or not one of the largest coal mines in the world will be opened in the Galilee Basin of Queensland and send its coal to India via the Barrier Reef.

This creates a complicated political situation as both Palaszczuk and Nicholls strongly back the opening of the mine, as does the likely holder of the balance of power, Pauline Hanson and her competitor for that role – Robbie Katter.

One would think that this would place the Adani mine in the safest of political positions, but it does not. It is an issue that will dominate the headlines until voting day as Adani protesters turn up to disrupt every political meeting, particularly those of the Premier.

Its chief beneficiary will be the Greens who have never before prospered in Queensland.

They will gain the balance of power and deny Hanson her dream. Continue reading “THE ADANI ELECTION”

DEATH OF A PARLIAMENT

In my schooldays in the bush, the farmers around my little timber town often had the unpleasant task of putting down an animal that was in such bad shape that the most humane step was to end its existence.

Last week, I spent three days at Parliament in Canberra meeting MP’s and Senators – 33 of them in all – some for 15 minutes. others for half an hour. As usual, all were courteous and did their best to be helpful as I talked about plans to establish an Age Pension Tribunal, create Affordable Housing Communities, foster Intergenerational Partnerships and talk about finally achieving the vision that I have had for twenty years of building an Inland Railway.

My 33 meetings covered Liberals, Nationals, ALP, Greens and Independents as there are good people in all of them, but I could sense a background of unease everywhere.

There was a silent acknowledgement that the Parliament was not going well, actually heading towards a state of dysfunction.

The Coalition is divided into three camps – Turnbull, Abbott and those aligned to neither. The ALP is worried that the Polls constantly show that Bill Shorten is not popular personally and the other Parties are unsure as to whether there supporters might have become fickle.

The presence of death pervades the Parliament. It is ready to be put down. Continue reading “DEATH OF A PARLIAMENT”

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”

THE MONEY MYTH

Controversy has raged around the five million dollars in salary and bonuses paid to the Chief Executive of Australia Post and the ridiculous manner in which those who were responsible tried to hide their stupidity.

Clearly, there is something wrong when the CEO of a Government Corporation is paid nine times that which is paid to his boss, the Prime Minister. Eye brows also rise when that CEO buys a home for around twenty million dollars and then spends five million renovating it. The underpaid postmen out on the beat in hot weather were somewhat less than impressed.

But, it did give the leaders like Wayne Swan an excellent platform to relaunch their much needed drive to have inequality taken seriously by politicians, voters and economists.

The Board of Directors of Australia Post is clearly to blame, absolutely out of their depth. Their Chairman is a politician with no business experience who was given a ‘job for the boys’ when his political career abruptly ended. Quite obviously, that type of political appointment must cease as it is of absolutely no value to Australia. Continue reading “THE MONEY MYTH”

THE TRUMP TRIUMPH

Donald Trump ran the smartest, most unorthodox election campaign I have ever seen and he won an astonishing victory.

Hillary Clinton did the exact opposite. Her campaign was a stunning disaster that totally lacked political nous or any understanding of voter sensitivity.

Pollsters were discredited forever.

The sun came up yet again the next morning.

There will be another Presidential Election in four years.

In the meantime, we will survive.

So, with positive minds, let’s have a look at what happened and talk about what we do next. Continue reading “THE TRUMP TRIUMPH”

Rating Malcolm

Australia has had 29 Prime Ministers – some excellent, a few worthy of special mention, many mediocre, some shockers.

I thought that I would rate them while enjoying a wee dram of superb single malt scotch whisky – Lagavulin from the Isle of Islay – as it expands my mind to a splendid level of generosity.

The result is that I rank Malcolm Turnbull at No 19, ahead of Abbott, Rudd and McMahon who shared the wooden spoon.

My reasoning is simple. He has the capacity to become a great PM, but he is a long way short of realising his potential. Continue reading “Rating Malcolm”

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.”

TAX CUTS & POLITICAL SUICIDE

I respect Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison. They are intelligent, astute Parliamentarians. This makes it difficult for me to understand why they have made tax cuts the cornerstone of their election campaign.

They appear to believe that such cuts will stimulate economic growth and create jobs, but history proves this theory to be a fallacy.

In order to justify this statement, can I suggest to all my readers that you study research reports into tax cuts in USA and Australia over the past fifty years? You will find no economic or social justification for them.

The facts are that every tax cut has created some more billionaires, but few jobs down on Struggle Street. The trickle down effect has never ever trickled down and never will. Of even more concern is that on each occasion there has been a tax cut the national debt has risen. Continue reading “TAX CUTS & POLITICAL SUICIDE”

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.”

Infrastructure Australia must be an independent legal entity- currently no teeth, no money, no hope!

Of all the nations in G20, Australia’s record in creating modern infrastructure is the least progressive and most inefficient.

There are two main reasons for this. One is that our outdated Federal Constitution leaves responsibility for infrastructure in the hands of State Governments, with the Commonwealth being able to influence matters only by offering finance to the States. The only exception to this is infrastructure for Defence, which is totally a Federal matter.

Equally negative is that the Commonwealth does not offer sufficient funds to meet the huge challenge that modern infrastructure demands. Continue reading “Infrastructure Australia must be an independent legal entity- currently no teeth, no money, no hope!”

How we have failed to build a balanced nation – disasters & solutions

Just imagine for a moment that you are standing on Possession Island in Torres Strait with Captain James Cook on August 22, 1770, while the good captain makes his declaration that the Australian Continent is a territory of the King of England.

He calls you aside and asks you to prepare him a report on what quality of nation Australia should be 250 years hence, as he expects His Majesty to ask him about it when he gets back home.

Let us also assume for the purpose of this exercise that you are a person of extraordinary intellect who has the capacity at that time to perceive what the world will be like in the 21st century.

It will be safe for us to presume that you would not imagine an Australia that would the planning disaster it now is.

Would you have suggested that these unimaginable disasters may eventuate? Continue reading “How we have failed to build a balanced nation – disasters & solutions”

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”

Is it a sin to sell a Government Asset?

More emotion is generated by the debate on Government Asset Sales than most issues that are littered around the political playground. Most of the comments are generated by the thought that there are votes to be won by perpetuating this battle — far more so than the remote possibility that there may be deep political convictions involved.

This means it’s time to try to take the discussion out of the hands of political opportunists and elevate it to a rational plane, as the balanced development of the nation will depend heavily the creation of many more new assets. Continue reading “Is it a sin to sell a Government Asset?”

The Election of a Lifetime

Who will win power in September?

A year ago Tony Abbott was an unbackable favourite to become Prime Minister of Australia at the 2013 Federal Election. Only Black Caviar had shorter odds. Most punters reckoned that Julia Gillard would lead her party to absolute oblivion, irreparably damaging the ALP brand in the process.

Now, although the Coalition is still clearly in front, it is a genuinely contestable election that may yet provide the biggest political upset in our nation’s history. Continue reading “The Election of a Lifetime”

Is there a prosperous future for the Australian Bush?

Have we killed the legacy of John Flynn?

Out where the sun goes down, the people of the bush call him “Flynn of the Inland”. He was the man who, in the first half of the Twentieth Century, made a valiant attempt to create a “Mantle of Safety” across the remoteness of the continent by building hospitals and hostels in places like Birdsville, Innamincka, Oodnadatta and Halls Creek, creating the Pedal Radio and establishing the Flying Doctor Service so that ordinary Australians could make a new life in the Outback and feel secure.

He also enlisted a team of Padres who ministered to people in areas covering countless square miles — marrying, baptising, counseling and burying them — no matter what their faith or lack of it. By any standards, his life’s work was a notable achievement which will be honoured by historians for generations to come.

Now, sixty years after his death, we should be honest enough to admit that we have not built on the solid foundation created by his extraordinary endeavours. Continue reading “Is there a prosperous future for the Australian Bush?”

Sydney Airport

The debate about a second airport for Sydney again shows our failure to look at transport issues as a whole instead of making isolated decisions about one problem at a time. Had the Federal and New South Wales governments taken an overall view, they could have avoided the current farce.

Sydney is already an over-crowded city that should not be strangled by building another airport in its immediate vicinity that will further destroy its fading lifestyle. Australia needs to develop two regional airports that will take pressure away from Sydney. Continue reading “Sydney Airport”