A statement by NSW Farmers’ president James Jackson
FOLLOWING receipt of information from the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) about inland rail route selection, it is now time for the Coalition Government to take responsibility and be accountable for the selection of their preferred inland rail route between Narromine and Narrabri.
The Government must answer why the operating time demanded by transport companies trumps the right to farm. The Government brief to the ARTC reeks of preferring big business over the family farm and its people, who are the back bone of regional communities.
Upon questioning by the NSW Farmers’ Association and again, at Senate Estimates on Monday, the ARTC confirmed that they had not prepared a socio-economic analysis to underpin their selection of the route.
NSW Farmers believes that the lack of socio economic modelling conducted prior to selection of the route indicates that the Government brief to the ARTC was to simply construct a rail line with travel time between Melbourne and Brisbane of less than 24 hours, without adequate consideration to farmer interest.
As a consequence, there has been no modelling of how this $10 billion investment can drive regional and rural development, and particularly whether a line passing through a town delivers a better outcome than only passing near a town.
It is now time for the Coalition Government in Canberra to explain to farmers, landholders and rural communities why they are sacrificing the farm for the Nationals’ pet $10 billion project.
NSW Farmers has stressed that an additional 24 minutes onto the proposed sub-24 hour journey would minimise the impact of the railway line slicing through some of the state’s most productive farmland.
The added travel time still maintains a journey of less than 24 hours and, significantly, keeps it faster than the equivalent road journey.
Using existing rail corridors between Narromine and Narrabri instead of cutting farm businesses in two reflects just a 0.01 per cent increase on the current projected cost of the inland rail.
NSW Farmers has long-supported, and continues to support, inland rail. However our support has never represented a blank cheque.
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The Government must stop standing behind the ARTC to deflect attention for their poor decisions and lack of planning.
What is clear –from the information given to us by the ARTC, and in evidence given as recently as this week to Senate Estimates – is that the Government is responsible for this mess and it is the Government which much be held to account.
From our members’ perspective, it is now past time for Mark Coulton, Michael McCormack and those who claim to represent regional and rural New South Wales to stand up and be counted. They have backed this decision – they must be accountable for it.