October 18th 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: ENVIRONMENT: Don't spoil a good story with the facts ...

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Reshuffling the decks

AGRICULTURE: Unrestricted water trading a danger to farmers

FEDERAL ELECTION: Deregulation, drought, the dollar and the $7.5 billion surplus

FAMILY: AFA Conference calls for strengthening of marriage law

COMMENT: Poor always the losers in a middle class game

LETTERS: WA capitulates on Competition Policy (letter)

LETTERS: Taiwan and the UN (letter)

LETTERS: First Mildura Irrigation Trust (letter)

LETTERS: Rural economy (letter)

LETTERS: The future of rail (letter)

TAIWAN: Making strides in biotech

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Flying down to Rio / Shooting stars and black holes / Digging holes and filling them up again

RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS: Dr Pell's new appointment welcomed

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The future of rail (letter)

by Kevin O'Neill

News Weekly, October 18, 2003

Pat Byrne states, "It is time governments work up to not only the economic destruction underway, but the terrible social disintegration their policies are wreaking on rural communities" (NW, September 20).

I could not agree more.

Rural Australia must have one of the most unintegrated, fragmented economies in the world.

Indeed the rural economies of the five mainland States are like five different national States with very little in common with each other.

Because of the break of rail gauge, each State's rural economy is dominated by its capital city and tied to the coastal capital by road and rail much as it was in the early days of settlement.

The road trucking industry has done wonders since the Hughes-Vale Case on road transport, but the railways have languished in disarray.

However, just as in America in the 19th century, it is the Australian railways than can integrate the economy of rural Australia and bring industrial development and job creation to the interior of the continent.

With the freight task due to double in the next fifteen years, this will need an appropriate rail strategy, together with political leadership to make the necessary changes.

The break-of-gauge is the Godfather of all that is wrong with the Australian railways, our greatest engineering project. Elimination of the break-of-gauge should be our next great developmental project.

To achieve this, there is a need for a trunk rail route of standard gauge west of the Great Dividing Range, from Melbourne to Brisbane, linking into Sydney and beyond Brisbane to Gladstone and further to Mount Isa and via the Barkley Tableland to Tennant Creek and Darwin.

This will largely eliminate the social disintegration of rural Australia, save the economy billions of dollars and greatly promote the defence profile of Australia.

Kevin O'Neil
Tocumwal, NSW

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