Speech at Southbrook Hall with Hon Dr John McVeigh
12 December 2018
Subjects: Inland rail
John McVeigh: Well, good morning everyone. Great to be here at Southbrook Hall with Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Development. Obviously our meeting today has been about Inland Rail. It's only recently that ARTC has presented a draft final alignment for Inland Rail—it's subject to further work and fine-tuning—and since that time, since we've had that draft final alignment over the last six weeks or so, I've been engaging with local landholders between Brookstead and through to Gowrie on the potential impacts. This project continues to provide significant potential for the future—benefits in fact not only for Queensland, our region, the eastern seaboard, but the whole country. It's important, though, to make sure that there are no individuals that bear the brunt of that impact that is in the benefit of the whole country.
So, I'm really pleased that Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister, has seen fit to come here to Southbrook today, to sit down and go through a detailed presentation from people who retain some concerns—significant concerns—about the impact on their communities from Inland Rail. We need to work through that and I'm confident that we'll have a good opportunity to do that, Michael, in the coming weeks, just to understand the full impact.
So thanks, Michael, for coming to Southbrook today and I look forward to working through these concerns with you.
Michael McCormack: Yeah, absolutely, John. It is good to be here with John McVeigh, the Member for Groom, and of course there were some concerns expressed in the room and of course we want to address those concerns, and we will indeed address those concerns. I gave the meeting an undertaking that I would take the issues that I had raised with me and answer it in timely fashion. I've also asked the room to send me their issues and their concerns, and I appreciate—being the son of a generational dryland farmer from New South Wales—I appreciate the fact that for them, their farmland is near and dear to them. For them, their farmland is indeed their superannuation, their investment going forward. So, I understand that there are concerns.
I also understand that this is nation building infrastructure, and certainly with every taxpayer dollar that is being invested in this 1,700-kilometre corridor of commerce, there is $2.62 returned to the nation. There is a $10 per tonne reduction in cost for those who will be using this line when it is complete. Tomorrow, I'm going to Parkes where I will turn the first sod for the Inland Rail. It is being built at the moment between Narromine and Parkes—work is underway. We want to get this piece of infrastructure built for the benefit of the nation, but whilst very much at the same time understanding that are direct impacts for these landholders and we want to work through them to minimise those.
Question: You said you were going to work to minimise this impact on the residents—what exactly does that entail for you?
Michael McCormack: I'll be looking at the report that they have given me. They've given me some quite detailed information and we heard from soil scientists. We heard from everybody, from concerned landholders right through to a soil scientist and of course people for whom their community means everything. So, I'll be taking away that information and that report and looking over it over the next days and weeks and reporting back to them in timely fashion. Of course we want to get this right, of course we want to make sure that those issues are taken on board and I will address those issues to the people who sent me those concerns directly.
Question: Does that mean that you might be in a position to alter the current route if information suggests that there are other viable options?
Michael McCormack: I'm happy to look at everything at the moment. I'll work in good faith with the local community but also the ARTC, also my Department, making sure that we take on board those concerns and we see what we can do.
Question: So is it a possibility that the route will be reworked?
Michael McCormack: Again I'll say: I've just been given the report; I've just been at this one and a half hour meeting where I've listened to concerns of local landholders. I will look at their concerns, see how it can fit into the alignment that the ARTC has settled upon, and see what we can do.
Question: There's a few questions from residents relating to whether they can get compensation now so that they can get out before the value of their land goes down. It sounds like there's not any legislative basis for that at the moment—is that correct?
Michael McCormack: Again, I can work through that with Treasury officials, et cetera, back in Canberra and I will work through that to see what processes we can enact. There will be people for whom their land will be necessarily and compulsorily acquired by the Government. This is often the case and usually the case, invariably the case, when Governments need to buy up land to ensure that pieces of infrastructure are built. But wherever that is the case, adequate compensation is there and is available and there is a legislative process that we need to go through that with, but I'll also take on board the issue that has just been raised in the last 15 minutes with me by that fellow who is, as he says, at a stage of his life where he needs to know where he's going so far as his viable future is concerned. That is very much something that is front and centre of his mind, and so I'll address him and his concerns directly.
Question: Obviously you need to go away and look at information, but these residents really clearly want an answer quickly. How soon can they expect to have the answers that they want?
Michael McCormack: They've given me quite a comprehensive pack. I now need to read it, I need to read it in conjunction with my Department and I need to read it in conjunction with the ARTC and take on board their concerns and address them directly.
Question: And how far off are we from finalising the route?
Michael McCormack: I'd like to think that the route is very close. Of course, I also want to make sure that the intergovernmental agreement with the Queensland Government is signed—New South Wales and Victoria have both signed on. Discussions with Mark Bailey, the Minister; discussions with his Department, official to official, Department to Department, and Minister to Minister—those discussions are ongoing. I look forward to talking with him. I know that my Department is talking with his Department over the next few weeks and making sure that we get that done in a timely fashion.
Question: So, what's the hold up there?
Michael McCormack: Well, we're all busy people and of course Parliament has been sitting—Queensland Parliament has been sitting, we've been sitting. I'm the Minister for not just Infrastructure and Transport but also Regional Development, so I'm getting right out and about the nation—it's a very large nation. We've got any number of projects going on at the moment, not least of which are thousands upon thousands of roads to recovery projects for which I'm responsible. We've got a $75 billion infrastructure spend at the moment and I'm busy going round the countryside looking at everything from huge nation building projects such as the Inland Rail; talking to people for whom there are still concerns about the final alignment, et cetera—everything from those big projects right down to roundabouts in capital cities. That's my whole portfolio area and I'm a busy person, I'm getting out and about and doing it, but I look forward to having a good discussion in good faith with Mark Bailey very soon.
Question: Are you confident that agreement will go ahead?
Michael McCormack: Yes.