Australia needs infrastructure (letter)by Kevin O'NeillNews Weekly
, October 9, 2004
While I agree with Don Ford's analysis of Australia's problem of population misplacement, I cannot agree that more states are the solution (News Weekly
, September 11, 2004).
Because of voter domination of the coastal cities, rural Australia has been deprived of appropriate infrastructure. It is infrastructure that is needed more than politicians.
Transport is the motivator of development in rural Australia, and rail is the core element of land transport.
The sight of rusting rail lines overgrown with grass, and trees growing up between rotting sleepers, is a terrible put-down for rural Australia. It is an all-too-evident sign of neglect and decay. It is not helpful for attracting people to rural Australia.
Passenger rail does not pay anywhere in the world that I know of, but it is an absolute necessity for attracting people to rural Australia and away from the coastal fringe.
The risk exposure for rail passengers against private road transport is significantly less.
Australia is the only nation on earth to occupy a whole continent by itself. The generally flat terrain is ideal railway country. We should have the best rail network in the world. In fact, we have a mess of different rail gauges and a multiplicity of administering authorities.
An appropriate freight and passenger network in rural Australia would be a very significant incentive for migrant and city-dwellers to seek residence in rural Australia. The new Ghan route has already triggered greater interest in northern Australia.
A new 20-hour Brisbane-Melbourne rail-freight route across the flat plains of northern Victoria and western New South Wales with a link to Sydney is needed.
It would provide a passenger link to three capitals and provide the necessary cohesion for country towns and industries, and remove the perceived isolation of the bush. It would create in rural Australia a life of its own.
Extended through Queensland across the Barkly Tableland to the existing Ghan route, it would trigger much needed development in the best rainfall region in all of Australia.
With agricultural science, agronomy and technology from temperate Australia, together with mining, we would have an outlet for migrants and consolidate the defence of Australia.Kevin O'Neill,