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




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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 in the middle of nowhere and yet without that port, the vision of the railway would never have reached completion. We never would have had a port to bring that product in and out of the country and our foresight in doing that is going to be well rewarded. The number of jobs in the short term the railway is going to create - and it is not just the direct jobs, it is not the jobs in building the railway and the sleeper factories and the rail factories... Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable members time has expired. Mrs HICKEY (Barkly): Mr Speaker, the last speaker spent all but one minute of his time in negative reflection on this great project. I do not intend to do the same because I believe, and always have believed, that this project will bring great benefit to Territorians, to Australia generally, and will provide untold benefits to the people who live in my constituency. For the member for Sanderson to suggest that Labor has been totally against this, and to spend all but one minute of his allotted time, 19 minutes of his 20 minute discourse, slagging off against the Labor Party on their supposed opposition to this really doesnt do any justice to his position or to Labors. Let us first of all put the record straight to some degree. For one thing, and this has been borne out by Barry Coulter in previous statements that he has made about this, had the CLP taken up the offer that Prime Minister Hawke made years and years ago, we would have had the railway built by now and we would not have a huge debt around our neck or the size of the debt that we have now notwithstanding the benefits that the rail will undoubtedly bring to us. He says that this opposition was indicative of the attitude of the Labor Party over many years. It is simply not true. There have been proponents and supporters of the railway both at a federal and a Territory level over many years. He well knows the support that was provided by Kim Beazley and would have been provided by him in government. The minister suggested that Barry Coulter had to do all the work - and great work he did, too - and that he did this in the face of Labor Partys opposition in the Territory. I would like to put a lie to that and read into the record of Hansard a letter that I received from Barry Coulter when I was Leader of the Opposition. I went to the ALP National Conference in 1998. One of my purposes in speaking at that conference was to secure the unanimous support of the conference for the Adelaide to Darwin rail link and to have that put on the record at the ALP National Conference. Lets not forget that we were facing a federal election which Labor could well have won. Certainly Labor was going to be in office at some time in the foreseeable future and it was very important to secure the support of my colleagues around the country both at a federal and at a state level. I did that. I have the letter here and I intend to read some of this into Hansard. This letter is dated 21 January 1998 and it is signed by Barry Coulter: Dear Mrs Hickey I appreciate greatly your efforts at the ALP National Conference in relation to the Adelaide to Darwin railway and the resulting unanimous conference vote supporting the project and committing Labor to the railway in federal office. Whatever our perspectives, we have continued to maintain a constructive bipartisan approach to the railway and I believe this is what Territorians would want us to do and I think that that is the key to it. Now, for the speakers on the other side of the House - who are for party-political and election purposes trying to run a wedge between us and them with regard to the railway, - to try to badge the railway as the CLPs and the CLPs alone does no justice to the project, to the efforts of people on both sides of this House over many years, nor will it cut any ice with Territorians. The CLP needs to think very carefully about the tactics they are employing because Territorians do not want to see a fight on this. They want to see support from both sides. They want to see the project go ahead and they want to get on with it. They have been expecting this railway and the Chief Minister could almost have been accused of premature exclamations about this over many, many months when things did not happen in a timely fashion as was expected. We were just as disappointed as he was about that. Suggestions made by the Treasurer and by Minister Manzie that the Labor Party attempted to derail the project recently are absolute nonsense. Absolute nonsense. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I understand, was provided with a briefing from the government on this matter. He provided a guarantee that some of the very sensitive material would not reach the public arena and that the Labor Party, despite clear misgivings - and the government had them as well about what was going on with the negotiations, with the consortia, with the threats of investors pulling out of this project - would remain silent on that issue. And we did. 7767