Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (18:23): (1981)
My adjournment is for the Minister for Transport Infrastructure and it concerns the unfinished Murray Basin rail project.
With a Labor Party-led commonwealth government now in office, the communications and planning pathway should be clear and present a real opportunity to deliver for the north-west. So the action I seek is for the minister to seek federal funding to complete the project in full.
Having discussed this project with the minister in some detail, I know the government had its reasons for not accepting the $5 million that was on the table from the former federal Liberal-Nationals government to re-examine completion of the Murray Basin rail project and deliver stages 4 and 5 of the original plan.
I have worked very closely over the past two years with Ouyen Inc, who are well advanced in planning for the Sunraysia Mallee port link. The Sunraysia Mallee port link is an intermodal facility that is looking to put half to two-thirds of 800 000 tonnes of freight and 19 million truck kilometres each and every year off our roads and onto rail. This will deliver both economic and environmental benefits for our state. This region is in desperate need of a new intermodal facility, one that can provide five train services per week. It requires the reinstatement of the Ballarat rail corridor, which is unappealing for the government but once finished would deliver a plethora of benefits to the industry and wider economy.
The opportunities of the revised Murray Basin rail plan are far-reaching. We have the opportunity to preserve our roads, deliver more jobs and boost regional growth and harvesting potential in the north-west. It is estimated that 75 per cent of the export grain at Ouyen last year went to port on road when it could have been on rail. Completing the project should deliver substantial environmental benefits, important as we look at ways to meet a net zero emissions target.
The Minister for Transport Infrastructure cited an increase in passenger trains to Ballarat as one barrier to completing the project to its original scope. We recognise the importance of rail to Ballarat residents.
It is something my colleague Mr Grimley, as a member of the western region, is keenly aware of. Ouyen Inc wants Ballarat to retain its confidence in its rail network too. It is committed to working with the government to find a solution and a win-win that could deliver the intermodal for the region and meet the concerns of the government. Ouyen Inc and other stakeholders have submitted proposed solutions to the minister’s concerns, and these would see freight trains move through the Ballarat overlap section in under 5 minutes. I think it is worthy of consideration. This is a significant infrastructure project and one that I think the federal government could fund itself to deliver this asset for Victoria.
When the Victorian Premier announced this project in 2015, he knew it was the right thing for Victoria and said it was good for farmers, their families and our economy. The Premier most recently said his government would be making their case for additional funding on key projects. The Murray Basin rail project is a key project, and I hope the government finds a way to get our fair share of funding to deliver it.