By TILEAH DOBSON
As we head into the next election cycle, with the federal election due to be called this year, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has already made an ambitious promise.
Albanese has stated that should Labor win the upcoming federal election, an estimated $500m will go towards a high-speed rail (HSR) between Sydney and Newcastle. The down payment of $500m will be used to fund the new rail link as part of his first federal budget. While it is a potential federal government promise, the NSW state government will still be involved.
“If I’m elected prime minister, I want ours to be the first government that actually gets work underway on high-speed rail,” Albanese said.
Addressing a gathering of around 100 members of his party at Cooks Hill Surf Club last Sunday, he stated that his party aims to fulfil election promises.
“My vision is for high-speed rail that runs from Brisbane to Melbourne. Under a Labor government I lead, the High-Speed Rail Authority will make the corridor from Newcastle to Sydney, which includes stops at the Central Coast, its first priority,” Albanese said.
“Faster rail would see travel times from Newcastle to Sydney cut to just two hours, and once the high-speed rail is up and running, this journey would only take 45 minutes.
“We’ll start with a fast-rail corridor but we’ll plan and build for the move to high-speed rail.”
Labor’s main goal with the promised funds is to buy up the necessary lands in order for construction to begin, a move that was praised by Committee for Sydney CEO Gabriel Metcalf, as it offers a choice for residents to think about where they would like to work and live.
“Better connections across this region means we would effectively work like a bigger global city, with more economic gravitational pull,” Metcalf said.
“As we look to emerge from two years of disruption and lockdown, this is a project that will get people inspired about Sydney’s future and kickstart our economic recovery.”
Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) National Secretary Mark Diamond has praised the proposal, stating it would be a vital first step in connecting Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne.
“High-Speed rail would not only address Australia’s absolute reliance on [the] airline industry, it would stimulate a new era of growth in regional centres along the east coast,” Diamond said.
“The pandemic, and the associated increase in people in working from home, has increased the trend of Australians seeking to move away from the major cities.
“This should be opening up massive opportunities for regional areas to grow and prosper – but the regions are being held back by critical failures in our national infrastructure. It’s clear that Anthony Albanese understands the importance of decentralising the national economy and the role of rail in making it happen.”
Albanese didn’t miss the opportunity to take a swipe at his Liberal counterpart, Prime Minister Scott Morrison. As he addressed voters in the Central and Hunter regions, he told residents of the prime minister’s alleged failure to look after their interests.
“Through the response to the pandemic, the Hunter and Central Coast were treated with disdain by this arrogant and dismissive government,” Albanese said.
The electoral division of Hunter – which includes parts of Greater Newcastle – is set to be a key battleground for the next election, Diamond noted, with Labor barely holding onto it at the last election, and its longtime Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon stepping down.
“Australia needs a comprehensive plan to deliver faster, safer, better transport – for both people and freight,” Diamond said.
“Regional Australians are now paying the price for this lost decade under the Liberals and Nationals. The Federal Government’s transport failures are having a profound impact on productivity, jobs and the ability of people to live and work in their own communities.”
Tileah Dobson is the news editor of the Sydney Sentinel.
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