Friday 20th Sep, 2019

Industry disappointed by Queensland’s Inland Rail delays

As more than 400 industry leaders and politicians met in Toowoomba this week to discuss Inland Rail, the biggest talking point was perhaps who decided not to show up.

Australian Logistics Council chair Philip Davies welcomed delegates to the ALC’s 2019 Inland Rail conference in Toowoomba on August 21, which it runs with the Australasian Railway Association.

Davies, formerly the CEO of Infrastructure Australia, thanked the roughly 450 representatives from private sector, local and federal governments, and from NSW and Victorian state governments for their support.

But he said the lack of representation from Queensland – the only state yet to sign an inter-governmental deal for Inland Rail – was cause for concern.

“Despite this week being a sitting week in Queensland, it’s very disappointing to not have representation from either the Queensland government or officials,” Davies said. “We hope [the inter-governmental agreement] will be addressed in coming weeks.”

Despite not sending a representative to Toowoomba, the state government did use the event as an opportunity to reiterate its desire for more federal funding as a condition of its participation in the Inland Rail project.

Transport and main roads minister Mark Bailey on August 21 said he had written to Canberra, calling on Scott Morrison and Michael McCormack to increase and fast-track funding for projects across the state as part of an Inland Rail agreement.

Bailey wants funding to increase by $857 million, and for the Commonwealth to bring forward $650 million of existing commitments, so it can deliver a number of highway and regional road upgrades.

“We have plenty of transport infrastructure needs in Queensland that need better support from the Morrison Government,” Bailey said.

“Scott Morrison promised billions of dollars for Queensland before the election, but much of that funding won’t flow for a number of years. We’re having collaborative discussions with the Federal Government on Inland Rail, and we want to make sure other rail and road projects in Queensland are not neglected.”

Bailey also said he would work to ensure concerns raised by farmers over the impact of the rail line would be addressed by the ARTC if Queensland was to be involved with Inland Rail.

“Farmers have personally raised these concerns with me and our government for more than a year but feel they are not being listened to,” he said.

Back in Toowoomba, federal member for Groom Dr John McVeigh and federal minister for regional services, decentralisation and local government Mark Coulton said it was a positive that Queensland and the Commonwealth were negotiating a deal.

“South East Queensland is a region with endless opportunities for future growth,” Coulton told the conference. “That is why our government committed in February this year to a South East Queensland City Deal. We want to make sure that the future growth for South East Queensland means the region gets better, not just bigger.”

Shadow transport and infrastructure minister Catherine King was supportive of the Queensland government’s decision to negotiate a deal, rather than just sign up without question.

“I met with [Mark Bailey] yesterday, and I think it is incredibly important that the Queensland government is doing exactly what it should do,” King said.

“It is making sure that in the interests of this project, the interests of Queensland are coming first. As I understand, there are negotiations being undertaken between the Commonwealth and the state at the moment and the state has put a number of asks on the table …

“I am encouraged that the Commonwealth is taking a much more conciliatory approach to those negotiations, and I hope they are successful.”

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