Territory Stories

Debates Day 3 - Thursday 31 May 2001



Debates Day 3 - Thursday 31 May 2001

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Parliamentary Record 28


Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Thursday 31 May 2001 Similarly, in Katherine it will arrive early AM. and stay there for four to six hours. People will have the chance to go to Katherine Gorge, come back and get on the train or alternatively get off and catch the next train coming through. It is going to operate in a way that will extend so many opportunities for Territorians. It will, for the first time, give us a competitive freight arrangement where rail will be competing with the traditional road transport. Road transport itself will expand because it will work out laterally from the railway line rather doing the trains job of running up and down the Stuart Highway. I hope Territorians can become as enthused as I am about this project and get a real appreciation of how much benefit it will be for us all. Mr MANZIE (Asian Relations and Trade): Mr Speaker, I rise to support the statement by the Chief Minister regarding developments in relation to the AustralAsia Railway. Indeed it is an historic occasion. It is the first opportunity for members of this Parliament to make comment on the final processes that have brought this railway to a successful conclusion. In doing so, it is worth looking at the history leading to the culmination of this successful venture. It is worth commenting that the Leader of the Opposition did not think this was of enough importance to be the lead speaker for the opposition. I find that disappointing, but I think it is indicative of the attitude of the opposition to this project over many, many years. I do not say that flippantly, but I reflect on the days when we were young parliamentarians in this House and the then leader of government was one Paul Everingham. Mr Speaker, you would recall as would senior members of this House, the approach to development of this railway that Paul Everingham put in place. I can remember the work he did by having a old piece of the Birdum to Darwin railway line sliced into segments, chromed and crossing the Territory and Australian flags on it with a short message about the development of the Alice Springs to Darwin rail link. That process was one which galvanised Territorians, all Territorians from civic and political leaders right down to the man in the street. The unemployed embraced the concept of developing this rail line with enthusiasm. In the early days of the CLP government, this probably helped set the direction of future CLP governments. We looked into the future; we looked at what was required to convert the potential of this Territory into reality; we took giant steps to achieve what was considered impossible. As impossible as that dream was, we as politicians, we as members of this community all worked towards the goal of a rail link from Darwin to Adelaide; a goal of creating a land bridge for Singapore to Adelaide and Melbourne. It was a concept we believed was worth fighting for. We could see the benefits for this country and we could see the benefits for Territorians. Unfortunately, the Labor Party didnt embrace that dream. They saw it as something which was impossible; they saw it as something which was counter to the expenditure of dollars in the southeastern comer of Australia. Unfortunately, the Labor Party acted accordingly. For those of us who were here when the heady days of self-government were upon us ... Mrs Hickey: You could have built it if you had taken up Bob Hawkes offer. You could be running trains on it now. Mr MANZIE: I hear a call from the member for Barkly. I dont even know if she was in the Territory at the time. Those of us who were here will remember when the Prime Minister of the day, Malcolm Fraser, made a commitment to upgrade the railway from Adelaide to Alice Springs - which was duly carried out - and a commitment to continue that process through to Darwin. In 1983 we had the exciting times of that upgrade reaching Alice Springs, of the survey work continuing, of all the crews, the workers, the contractors, all in proceed mode. And we came up to a federal election. 1983 it was. We were full of enthusiasm in the Territory because we could see that impossible dream becoming a reality within a few short years of our campaign to get it going. I think it was five or six years of hard work which was bringing to fruition something we knew was going to change the face of the Territory. It was going to change the face of the way Australian export and import business was done. It was going to change the way that the port of Darwin would be considered not only by Australians but by people in South-East Asia. So we came along to the April 1983 election and at the time - it was a federal election - the Fraser Government of the day was making very clear that the process of continuing the railway was a total commitment. We had the then the Leader of the Labor Opposition, the honourable Robert Hawke. He gave an unequivocal commitment that indeed a Labor government would proceed with the railway. In fact his words were You can only trust Labor to complete that railway. Australians and Territorians, I presume, took him at his word and he was duly elected Prime Minister Bob Hawke. And that was the beginning of disaster for us for many years. What was the first thing that Prime Minister did? That Labor Prime Minister, the Prime Minister who led the Australian Labor Party - and members 7764