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”

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”

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”

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”