Media Releases & Transcripts


August 12, 2021



SUBJECTS: Inland Rail Report


PAUL CULLIVER, HOST: The Senate inquiry into the Inland Rail has delivered their report, Senator Anthony Chisholm, with the Labor Party, Senator for Queensland was very involved in that, Senator good morning to you.


SENATOR ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Good morning, Paul. Good to be with you.


CULLIVER: What did you find in the report?


CHISHOLM: Well, it's something that we've been working on now for a couple of years and we focus more on the Inland Rail more broadly. We found that there has been a lot of cost overruns, the oversight by the Government has not been what is required. So we have some strong recommendations in regards to strengthening the business case surrounding Inland Rail and ensuring that there's ongoing scrutiny. But I think the relevant factor for your listeners is, as you know we did have a really thorough look at the link to Gladstone that's been advocated by the Mayor of Gladstone amongst others. And we did recommend as part of this, that the business case be updated to accommodate new figures, but also as part of that that we actually have a formal look at the Gladstone link, and what that would mean for Central Queensland.


CULLIVER: So the report and just be clear about this in terms of the wording of recommendations, it's not about saying this report isn't saying yes Gladstone should absolutely be a termination for the Inland Rail it should absolutely extend up there, but just saying it should actually be looked at formally.


CHISHOLM: Absolutely, yeah that's what it's about and I suppose from our point of view there's been some good work done by the Mayors, CQROC and others in the area about advocating for Gladstone over the last 12 months, but it's never really been seriously considered by Government. So the recommendation that the Labor Senators have put forward is that as part of that business case that needs to be reviewed, given the cost of Inland Rail from when it was first proposed to where it is currently is basically tripled and so we think that needs to be looked at. We also think as part of that, they should have a thorough look at the Gladstone link and how that would work.


CULLIVER: What would it take to get that work done?


CHISHOLM: Well that would basically be, you'd have to get a commitment from the Government that they would fund something like that to look at. So, I imagine you would be talking in the Millions of dollars to do that appropriately. But I think that they've made such a good case. I think that there are compelling reasons, particularly when you compare it to the cost of going down the (Toowoomba) range and into Brisbane and the associated impacts on the local community. When you've got advocates saying that it can be done quicker, it can be done cheaper, and there's obviously enormous benefits for the Central Queensland Region. It is incumbent on the Government to actually have a look at that and I suppose the disappointing thing is that the Coalition Senators did not agree to that recommendation. So, there is some doubt about where the Government sit on this.


CULLIVER: I wonder if everyone might think this is a bit of a weak recommendation because there's all this fury and noise, all of these hearings. Obviously, there are plenty people in the Central Queensland Community and Regional Development Australia, obviously Matt Burnett, the Mayor of Gladstone. Plenty of people advocating for this to be looked at. And then in the end all it is a recommendation in a report to look at it, you know what I mean like there's nothing , there doesn't seem like it's a lot of follow through on that.


CHISHOLM: Well, I disagree with that Paul and as someone who's worked on this committee, over the last 18 months. We are Senators, we do our job to the best of our ability, but we're obviously not experts and can't decide that this is where the rail line should go for these reasons, we can hear from those experts and put that evidence in our report as we did yesterday and I suppose from our point, that Labor senators put forward our view that there is a compelling case for this to be seriously considered. And I don't think that has been seriously put forward by Federal elected representatives before. We're saying that that is the case now and I suppose the challenge that I face as a Labor Senator and Matt Burnett, who is also the Labour candidate for Flynn and Russel Robertson and others we've got to convince our Labor colleagues that this is something that we need to seriously consider between now and the election.


CULLIVER: Well yeah, that's the thing isn’t it, as you say the LNP members dissenting on that recommendation. So does that really mean this is just your roadmap for policy for the next election as opposed to something you expect this LNP Government to take up?


CHISHOLM: Well, I obviously can't talk for them Paul, but all they've done on this project is talk, they actually don't have any runs on the board on this, despite being in Government for the last eight years, but obviously that's the challenge of Labor. We've got some really strong advocates in this area and I think in particular with Mayor Matt Burnett who is someone who's been advocating this for a long time now, but also I've spoken with the Mayor of Banana Nev Ferrier who has also been a strong advocate. I think the mayors in the region, more broadly, understand the flow on benefits to their communities, and I think that's something that has really stuck to me the more I focused on the potential Gladstone link I saw those opportunities, whether it be exports, whether it be rail maintenance. I think that there are strong opportunities for Central Queensland.


CULLIVER: So, look, just a bit of crystal ball gazing here. Does that mean, I'm just going to make a prediction here and you can tell me whether it's likely or not at some point in the next few months, or perhaps in the lead up to the election, Anthony Albanese will come and visit Gladstone and he'll make an election commitment to do the business case is that what we're going to see?


CHISHOLM: Very dangerous answering hypotheticals in politics Paul as you know, but I think that we've been putting forward a strong case, we've got strong representatives in the area. Obviously having Matt Burnett as a candidate in someone who has been really passionate about this for a long time. I expect that advocacy to continue. The good thing we have with Anthony Albanese as federal Labor leader is he's someone who understands Regional Queensland. He understands Inland Rail he understands the benefits of it. So I'm hopeful that we'll be able to have some constructive conversations with him and Shadow Minister Catherine King and other members of the Queensland team as well.


CULLIVER: We'll wait and see what happens. Senator thanks for your time today.


CHISHOLM: Thanks Paul and the Cassar-Daley family are very talented I wouldn't want to choose between the two of them.


CULLIVER: No, I wouldn't either,  just being a bit cheeky this morning as I want to do. Senator Anthony Chisholm Queensland Senator, and he was in fact sitting on that Senate Inquiry into the Inland Rail, which are the report, of course, is on the parliamentary website now if you want to have a look at it and before we played a bit of Jem Cassar-Daley.