The Australian Greens have expressed concern over private company CLARA’s plans to build its own high speed rail line on Australia’s east coast, saying national interest must come first when it comes to major infrastructure projects.
While the party said on July 14 it welcomed a fresh discussion about high speed rail, it said it was crucial that the infrastructure is not built simply to suit the profits of private property developers.
“Federal and state governments need to lead this cross-generational project, not just respond to the private sector,” Greens senator and spokesperson for transport Janet Rice said.
“High speed rail between Australia’s eastern mainland cities is a nation-building project that will transform how we move around the country and will be central to the shift to a clean economy.”
Rice said the Greens want to see a new Turnbull government get east coast high speed rail back on track, but “in the public interest”.
“Australia and Antarctica are the only continents that don’t have high speed rail,” she said. “Now is the time to take action before the penguins beat us to it.”
Prior to the election, the Greens were in favour of a high speed rail plan.
Shadow transport minister Anthony Albanese has proposed an authority be established to coordinate the development of such a project.
“We urgently need a High Speed Rail coordinating authority to bring governments together, plan the development transparently, complete environmental assessments, begin rail corridor reservations and determine what the best way to finance it would be,” Rice added.
“We think value capture could have a role to play, but we propose that smart use of government debt from a national infrastructure bank is likely to serve the interests of the Australian community more.
“The Greens have concerns about information absent from today’s announced CLARA proposal, apparently due to commercial in confidence considerations.
“Being asked to ‘just trust us’ is not good enough for a project of this scale.”