Federal member for New England Barnaby Joyce and Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton have spoken out to defend the Inland Rail project following the release of findings from an independent review led by former Commonwealth energy adviser Dr Kerry Schott.
The findings from the Schott report include massive delays and a cost blowout that has doubled in two years to more than $31.4b. The review is also scathing of the former government ministers responsible for the ARTC, the Nationals leaders Michael McCormack and then Barnaby Joyce, for board appointments that lacked the skills required and requested by the ARTC. Dr Schott was also critical of Mr Joyce for failing to approve the ARTC board’s choice for CEO of Inland Rail.
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King used the report to sharply criticise the project, and take an unvarnished swipe at the National Party whom she blamed for the ‘mess’ she has inherited.
“We still do not know how much this will cost.”
“This is what happens when you let the National Party be in charge of a national project,” the Minister said.
Inland Rail will still be delivered, King says, which will come as good news to those directly affected by the rail route in the west of the New England. The Inland Rail project has created thousands of jobs at Narrabri and Moree, with NSW State Government Special Activation Projects around both sites. Barnaby Joyce, a long champion of the project, was critical of the review.
Speaking on ABC News, Mr Joyce said the figure sounded like something that had come out from the movie Austen Powers’ Doctor Evil.
“The come up with this figure of 30 plus billion dollars, well where are the figures behind it?”
Joyce blamed multiple reviews – some 13,000 pages of reviews of reviews just on 110km of the track – for the significant delays and cost blowouts.
“And guess what they suggested now? Another review!”
“If you go on with this inordinate bureaucracy, moving paper rather than moving dirt, then every review takes time, and every delay in time has costs, and the costs of steel and everything has gone through the roof since then,” he said.
My Joyce said the big ‘Dr Evil’ number is a tactic to kick the project into the long grass, “which the Labor Party is very good at, they did it with Dungowan Dam”, and is done because they just don’t like doing anything for regional Australia.
Mark Coulton says there is no question as to the significance of and the need for the Inland Rail.
“If we are looking at reducing our global emissions, reducing the amount of trucks on the Newell Highway, and moving intermodal freight between two of our biggest capital cities, Inland Rail does that.”
“I am not dismissing Kerry Schott’s report out of hand,” Mr Coulton said.
“With regards to the cost blowout, it is in part a sign of the times. All large infrastructure projects in recent times are experiencing significant cost blowouts, however the amount reported does seem outstanding and I will need to look further into that.”
“Many of the recommendations made in this report have been directed at State Governments for slowing down approvals processes, and in a time of rising costs this will have impacted the budget,.”
Mr Coulton was also critical of the report being release the day before the Easter Holidays, and not being presented in parliament.
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