How Green was my Valley?

My headline has stolen the title of a great novel that I read back in my school days. Written by Richard Llewellyn, it told the story of humble people who lived in a lovely valley in Wales where suddenly, out of nowhere, miners found lots of coal. Their quality of life descended into the depths as their landscape turned into an awful scene of squalor, grime, coal dust and unethical politics.

I was greatly moved by it and read it several times, particularly as my father was a lowly-paid manual labourer in a timber mill, located in an isolated bush community where the forests were slowly being decimated.

Now, more than 70 years later, I have a leading role in the building of a railway which will enable several new coal mines to open in the Surat Basin in Central Queensland in a much cleaner environment to Wales. This leads me to want to make a few objective comments about the emotion that surrounds the current mining boom in Australia. Continue reading “How Green was my Valley?”

Railways and Ports

There are a few positive advances that can be noted regarding the growth of railways as the main carriers of long haul freight in the years ahead, and for their expanding role in handling increased passenger traffic in areas of heavy population.

The Australian Government has taken a further step forward in its planning for high-speed passenger rail between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane by authorising additional work on its feasibility. As this railway will eventually take air traffic out of our skies and reduce congestion at our major airports, this is good news. Continue reading “Railways and Ports”

Opening up the Great Australian Food Bowl

The export of the produce of Australia has always been crippled by the tyranny of distance and the high cost of covering that distance. Our national tragedy is that we have never faced-up to this fact and created a fast, efficient and economical system of transport for our exports.

This same considerable problem will be a major issue in opening-up the Great Australian Food Bowl. Continue reading “Opening up the Great Australian Food Bowl”

We are dragging the chain on fast trains

An initial report on the cost and viability of building tracks for Very Fast Trains in eastern Australia has reached the desk of Federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese. It says that the establishment costs will be in excess of 100 billion dollars and that the operation of trains will never make a profit.

Most comments in Parliament and the Media immediately wrote it off as a white elephant that would be supported only by those who are out there with the fairies. Continue reading “We are dragging the chain on fast trains”

Give Infrastructure Australia a FREE REIN

The infrastructure revolution that Australia so desperately needs will not occur unless all governments give Infrastructure Australia the power that it needs to build national projects with a minimum of government interference.

It was originally established as an advisory body on infrastructure to Federal and State governments, but they were told in advance what projects every government wanted to push — most of which were not in the national interest. They were pork barreling projects designed to help politicians win elections, particularly in marginal seats, and bore no relationship to the long-term needs of the nation. Continue reading “Give Infrastructure Australia a FREE REIN”

The Long Running Saga of the Adelaide-Darwin Railway

For many years before Federation, the South Australian Government — having administrative responsibility the Northern Territory at that time — devoted considerable effort to planning the construction of a transcontinental railway from Adelaide to Darwin.

They found that they could not raise the capital to build it, and so they made it a condition of their joining the Commonwealth in 1901 that the legal documents of Federation must specify that the new Commonwealth Government would build and finance the railway to Darwin. Indeed, had it been omitted from the documents, it is doubtful that South Australia would have voted to join the Federation. Continue reading “The Long Running Saga of the Adelaide-Darwin Railway”

Capital for Inland Railway

Fifteen years ago, when Don McDonald and I announced our plan to build an Inland Railway through eastern Australia, we naively thought that governments would rush to back us.

None of them did for the first decade, but we finally got permission to proceed with the first two sections — the Surat Basin Railway from Toowoomba to Gladstone and the Border Railway from Toowoomba to Moree. Continue reading “Capital for Inland Railway”