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 becomes profitable. So if you take it from the business plan, it would seem that there would be more than one train a week but perhaps not as many as two a day. I do not know where it is going to land; that remains to be seen. Hundreds of decisions will be made by hundreds of businesses about whether the train is the best option or whether the best option is to stay on trucks. The business plans were more or less optimistic about the viability of the train in the short term. I think all the business plans said that. Yes. If we wait long enough, the volume of freight will build up and the train sooner or later will become profitable. But I dont think anyone knows at this stage what the freight volumes are going to come. I am sure the consortium is sitting down with various companies at the moment trying to secure contracts for the carriage of their freight. I hope it will become clearer as we go along. The second thing we concentrated on was the impact of the railway at a regional level. While accepting the proposition that the railway was going to be good for the Territory as a whole, it certainly has different impacts on different regions. I am on the public record as saying that once the railway is fully operational we can expect quite a marked downturn in the transport activity of trucks in Central Australia and out of Alice Springs. Until now, Alice Springs has been a significant transport hub for the trucking industry. Trucking firms themselves are projecting 150 to 200 jobs going out of the town as an effect of the railway coming in. How many jobs will the railway give back? The estimate that Barry Coulter gave us was something like 30 jobs. Again, we will have to see what happens. It is pretty clear that we need to be looking over the next three to four years for compensating activity in Central Australia to regain some of the jobs that in net we will probably lose because of the railway. We stop being a rail head and become a stopover on a longer line. That means a lot of the carry-on activity from trucks is going to disappear out of the town. We hope we can find regional trucking activity or jobs in other industry sectors that can compensate Central Australia for any losses that we suffer as a result of the impact of the railway. That does not negate the value of the railway to the Northern Territory; it just says that there are varying impacts along the length of the line that we need to deal with region by region if we are not going to lose ground in one area to gain it an another. We have spoken a lot about the skill profile the consortium has announced for both the building and the operation of the railway and the need to have a succinct, long term training and recruitment plan for workers to come from the Territory workforce as distinct from other parts of Australia. I do not accept for a minute the member for Sandersons assertion that we have always brought workers from interstate and we can always do it again. Sure, you can do that, but we are not going to stabilise the Northern Territory population in urban centres until we start calling on our home-grown workforce for undertakings like this. We dont want to be a revolving door population as we have been in the past. For example, in a four-year parliamentary cycle we have anything up to one-third of the urban population turn over so we are actually dealing with a different population each time. That is not the basis for any sort of long term community development. We have lots of people here who are underutilised and undertrained. We have chronic skill shortages throughout our economy. There is every reason we should be making a concerted effort in the development of skills in our workforce whether they are professional skills, trade skills or other skills that are useful for not only the railway, but for the general economic development of the Territory. Most people are adopting this sort of structure in what they are saying today and it makes sense. We will see how accurate the business plan is for the railway. Really, the only way to find out is to go into the development and see what freight appears, at what rate, how many trains we are going to end up with, what sort of permanent jobs are going to be created, what sort of flow-on effects to each of our centres are going to occur. It is good to hear the member for Barkly saying that they are expecting a real boost in Tennant Creek. Tennant Creek, as we all know, has struggled in recent years because of a downturn in mining activity and other activities in the town. This will be a shot in the arm for Tennant Creek and thats great because it is certainly one of my favourite places although I am not as fanatical about it as the member for Barkly. No one else could possibly be that fanatical about it. What industries will attach to the project? We are hearing about passenger services for the first time. Will industries like horticulture swing on to the railway to ship their perishables south or will they use trucks because of timeliness of the service or more versatility in relation to destination of produce? We will find all that out as we go along. What adjustments will occur in the transport industry? Will transport companies leave and go interstate to better position somewhere else or will they simply move within the Territory? Will they find other things to do where they are? We need to 7773