According to the Nationals’ leader Warren Truss, the Rudd Labor Government has delayed funding of $65 million needed for critical rail maintenance.
The Leader of the Nationals and Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Local Government said working rail lines through NSW and Victoria would now not be upgraded in 2008 and 2009, as the Coalition had planned and claimes to have fully funded.
“… Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner claimed that the funding pushed back from this year and 2008-09 until 2009-10 related only to the ‘inland rail’ proposal,” Mr Truss said. “Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese repeated this false claim today in Parliament.
“However, Treasury papers reveal that the $65 million was to be used by the Australian Rail Track Corporation for maintenance and upgrading of a number of existing rail lines which ‘could contribute to a future inland rail corridor’.
“In other words, Rudd Labor has slashed funding for rail lines which are already operating and allowing farm and mine product to move up and down the eastern states.
“We need to make rail transport more viable right now. The inland rail development will be an enormous boon, but it is a decade away. We need to make sure it has a flying start.
The final route for the inland rail between Melbourne and Brisbane, or ‘Steel Snowy’, has yet to be determined. The Coalition believed the line could be completed by 2019.
“When Mr Rudd said before the election that the nation had to prepare for the mining boom to end, little did we know that he planned to strangle supply routes from mine to port.
“At a time when we are emerging from drought in many places, farmers will want to move more food and fibre to market, not less. Constricting trade will drive up prices for consumers and inflation, make us less competitive internationally.
“I hope Labor realises the mistake it has made here, and reinstates the $65 million immediately. Otherwise, Labor will stand condemned for letting rail lines run down and breaking election promises about fixing infrastructure bottlenecks,” Mr Truss said.