Interview with Kristy Reading, ABC Central West NSW - Breakfast

Kristy Reading: Now the Inland Rail line has been touted as the Snowy Hydro scheme for the modern era; a nation-building infrastructure project that will bring huge benefits to the bush including right here in the region that you and I call home. The $10 billion Inland Rail line will transport freight between Melbourne and Brisbane and a sign that work is starting, a sod turning is happening in Parkes this morning. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack will be at today's event. Mr McCormack, it's been quite the effort to get to this stage. Are you happy with progress so far?

Michael McCormack: Well I am but I have to pick you up on something that you just said, I think it would be more of a mud turning than a sod turning Kristy, it started raining at about 8 o'clock here last night, with hail actually. I thought it was more going to be inland hail than Inland Rail, but it rained consistently right throughout the night whilst we don't knock back rain, I think it's going to be a little bit muddy at the …

Kristy Reading: Might have to have some buckets to shovel or something instead.

Michael McCormack: Indeed. Indeed.

Kristy Reading: Tell us a bit more about what's happening this morning in regards to this sod or mud turning as you call it.

Michael McCormack: It's kicking off the project. On 15 January the first lot of steel—Australian steel, 600 tonnes—was delivered at Peak Hill and work is actually beginning now: $300 million construction signed with INLink joint venture. What's really great about this, what's really beneficial is that Parkes-based companies are going to benefit. AusRock Quarries, they're supplying 470,000 tonnes of ballast; 295,000 tonnes of capping; Calvani Crushing are in that as well. There is a value of $17 million towards local companies, and of course concrete sleepers from Rocla; that's going to create 20 jobs in the Southern Highlands. So regional companies are benefiting from this. Now of course it's a big build—1700 kilometres. It's a $9.3 billion project. It's nation-building. It's transformational and certainly it's going to benefit regional communities.

Kristy Reading: You talked a bit there about the economic benefits particularly for our region; do you have any idea, any statistics, any figures you can tell us about our region in particular? What kind of money might be thrown our way?

Michael McCormack: Well as I just mentioned, Calvani Crushing and AusRock Quarries, local companies, Parkes-based firms: they're providing $17 million worth of capping and ballast, and that's just tremendous. So they themselves are going to create jobs. I know already they have boosted their employment numbers. For every taxpayer dollar that's being invested in Inland Rail, there is going to be a $2.62 returned to the Australian economy. We've got a one-stop shop here in Parkes, in the main street. People can drop in, can see how they can gain employment opportunities, can see how their local companies if they have one, can benefit from this project.

Kristy Reading: Okay. Of course with many projects comes some resistance I suppose, and some farmers haven't been happy with perhaps the consultation process around this line. Do you have any comments around that as this project continues?

Michael McCormack: With any project like this, of course there's always going to be those who are affected—directly affected—because the rail line's actually going through their property. I understand that. I appreciate that in some areas up around Narrabri—and I've met them recently—that with the six kilometre corridor at the moment, once it's reduced to a 60-metre alignment that is going to see the number of farmers potentially affected now in the many hundreds down to about 60. I attended a meeting yesterday near Toowoomba where there were about 30 or 40 farmers who are also concerned about the Inland Rail going through their properties. But I've attended meetings. I know the ARTC have set up a series of community consultative committees. The ARTC has held 1600 meetings with landholders already this year and hosted briefing sessions attended by at least 2500 people. So we have got out there and talked to communities but of course people are always concerned when these sorts of projects are being built over how it's going to affect them. I understand that.

Kristy Reading: So are you happy with the consultation process?

Michael McCormack: Look yes, whilst admitting that there have been times when we could have done better. I appreciate that. But this project has been going for a number of years. Yes, we could have done better but we've certainly ramped up the consultation in recent months and probably for more than a year now. But there are always, no matter what you do, there's always going to be people who this is going to affect directly and I understand that, and of course there will there adequate and generous compensation for those people for whom the rail line will go directly through their properties.

Kristy Reading: Okay, alright. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, thank you for your time today and best of luck with turning that mud.

Michael McCormack: Thank you Kristy.

Kristy Reading: Thank you. That's Deputy Prime Minister there Michael McCormack, of course an official sod turning or perhaps mud turning at Parkes today to signal the start of work for the Inland Rail project.