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HSR could be a game changer

Once again, we find our Prime Minister arguing the case for something he thinks is a “thoroughly bad idea.”

In an address to the Brisbane Club in March 2015, Malcolm Turnbull condemned Joe Hockey’s proposal that first-home buyers be able to dip into their superannuation.

“My own view is that would be a thoroughly bad idea,” Turnbull said, in response to questions after the address. “It’s not what the superannuation system is designed to achieve.”

Aside from greatly reducing retirement income and also the stockpile of money available for investment by superannuation funds, it seems only logical that this would drive up house prices with more first home buyers having to compete with investors for a limited stock of housing. Even if you have a deposit, the sale will still go to the highest bidder.

We are constantly told that it is a supply problem causing the housing crisis in Melbourne and Sydney and that our urban transport infrastructure cannot cope today let alone into the future. The rapidly expanding city population puts strain on local ecosystems, open spaces, clean air and clean water and concentrates the impacts of waste and garbage.

Tony Abbott is calling for a halt to immigration, completely ignoring the impact that would have on the ratio of aged people to workers in our society and consequently on productivity and growth.

Peter Dutton is saying we should make migrants go live in the country.

Why just migrants?

We now have cities struggling to house and employ their populations, alongside regional communities striving to grow and attract residents, business, skills and services. We have increasing challenges for the movement of people up and down the east coast, alongside significant pressures on transport costs – for industry and individuals alike.

Surely if we built high speed rail from Melbourne to Brisbane we would solve an enormous number of our problems.

Firstly, there would be the employment involved in its construction and then ongoing employment in operation and maintenance.

HSR would substantially improve accessibility for the regional centres it served, and provide opportunity for regional development. It would allow cities to compete with each other. While Sydney might be more attractive at the moment, it is also much more expensive, so the opportunity to save costs by moving to regional areas that had easy access could be an option for some businesses.

Melbourne to Sydney is one of the busiest air routes in the world. HSR will move millions of air and road trips on to rail. It will open up space on the existing rail network for freight, taking hundreds of heavy goods vehicles per hour off the roads. In so doing, It will also help cut carbon emissions.

Cheaper housing in regional areas is an obvious drawcard and increased regional population would provide even more jobs as schools, hospitals, child care and aged care would be needed to cater for community needs. Retail businesses and construction would gain a boost.

Improved telecommunications like teleconferencing and a national broadband network (a real one rather than the FttN crap) make this all the more feasible.

As with action on climate change, the longer we delay this crucial infrastructure, the harder the task becomes.

Malcolm tells us he’s a “nation-builder”. Well here’s his chance. Instead of just mentioning HSR in passing before an election, instead of giving $1 billion to an Indian billionaire for a railway to nowhere, instead of announcing another feasibility study on the snowy-hydro, instead of tinkering with superannuation, get started on something that could really be a game changer.


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  1. Jaquix

    Too much like hard work for Malcolm, He is a lazy politician. Just wants “the glory” and a place in history. Anthony Albanese has been plugging the high speed rail link for years. It may well have all the benefits expected, but it wont be a Coalition government who gets the ball rolling. They havent got it in them. Back to the housing crisis in Melbourne and Sydney – 50% of the loans being issued by banks at present are to investors. That tells you everything you need to know. The market (demand) is seriously distorted by government gifting of tax breaks to the “haves” (some of whom may well not have much, I grant you). So 50 % of the bidders have a big advantage. That needs to be addressed, along with many other things. Chris Bowen tried to explain this to Leigh Sales this week on 7.30. WE NEED A BIG WHITEBOARD to write down all the problems on one side, and suggested solutions on the other.

  2. Tim

    forget traditional HSR why not go for a Hyperloop system?

  3. Kaye Lee

    Tim, I wrote about HSR before and said “Something to ponder: Some commentators argue that high speed rail is 20th Century technology. Video conferencing, apps like Hailo, and Google’s driverless cars are a cheaper and more up-to-date model for doing business and getting around. Then there’s the Hyperloop scheme suggested by PayPal founder Elon Musk. He claims it could propel pressurised capsules between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 35 minutes. I doubt that these are as relevant in Australia due to our huge distances but perhaps interesting thoughts for urban or interurban application.”

  4. etnorb

    High speed rail is very definitely the way to go! But, with the vast distances here in Australia, I very much doubt that any Government will have anywhere near the billions of dollars this scheme will cost. Yes, almost all overseas countries have some form of HS rail, but in most cases the distances covered are no where near as large as would be the case here. I am all for all types of rail “improvements”, but I really cannot see any Government having the balls to allocate billion to get this up & running.

  5. Michael Faulkner

    As the Member for Wentworth for some years now, one of Australia’s wealthiest electorates, Malcolm Turnbull has done a fine job representing their interests and those around Australia like them, the plutocrats of Australia.

    Since becoming Prime Minister, he has made a very poor transition to becoming the nation’s political leader with responsibility for and accountability to the rest of the people in this country, the 95%.

    To seek to address the latter would require Turnbull and his government to privilege the interests of the majority over the interests of the minority, and indeed via just policy making, to go against wealthy people’s economic interests in his own electorate.

    No way is Turnbull is not prepared to do that.

    And that lack of political courage is making Turnbull one of our worst Prime Ministers, and helping to retard innovation and creative ideas for nation-building, so desperately needed in this country like the HSR. He has form. Look at the NBN debacle while Minister in the Abbott cabal of 2013-2015. Had Labor’s plan been implemented think of the possibilities that could have had for stimulating the decentralisation of both business and people

    And Turnbull is the most recent in a long line of Prime Ministers since Gough, all leading governments that have all barely given lip service to the social and economic benefits of good decentralisation policy.

  6. Maeve Carney

    The government should also be working on creating a decent and efficient public transport infrastructure that can cope with the volume of people in the future. If it can’t even cope now then it really should be a priority. Better to spend money on public transport than on roads for more and more cars filled with just one person. Just getting rid of half the parking buildings in the capital cities can make room for some apartment buildings making the cities a more liveable environment and reducing urban sprawl and helping the housing crisis. A lot of problems can be fixed with a well constructed and managed public transport system.

  7. Tim

    Hey Kaye thanks for the response, i must have missed the older article which covered HSR. im interested as to why your conclusions about Hyperloop where somewhat opposite in that my thinking was that Hyperloop was more practical in intercity travel and not as great in suburban and urban situations. not sure if i missed something or my thought process is just different.

    basically i thought Hyperloop would be more practical as both competition (and more environmentally friendly) to air travel while being faster than your traditional HSR. my thinking also led me to consider intercity jobs. Im from Adelaide and i looked at the distance from city centre to centre of LA and San Fran and it said about 615km while Adelaide to Melbourne centre to centre is 724km. not that huge a difference. why im mentioning this is housing. with a reasonable commute you can potentially live in one city and work in another something which i think HSR unfortunately in barely incapable of managing due to the slower speeds it delivers. Work is unfortunately the reason Adelaide isnt super popular as house prices are basically not in a bubble here. its a hell of a lot easier for a young person to get a house if they actually have work. something like hyperloop which is actually fast enough to potentially make commutes possibly shorter than even living in the edges of melbourne would shake up everything for the better.

    why i didnt consider it for suburban and urban use is simply the fact that you need to build tubes and the like all over the place, it would make sense to perhaps have a hub in the city centre and have numerous ones in more dense suburbs around the city but in effect you cant get rid of your traditional public transport simply because of the needs of hyperloop.

  8. Klaus Petrat

    Kaye, sounds fantastic but has 2 consequences. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea.

    This rail can’t be as expensive as our toll roads for Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane for our drivers. European high speed trains make it indeed possible to connect 300 km distant places in just over 1 hour.

    So, the trip Sydney – Melbourne could possibly be around 200-250 return. Is it enough to invest in such a project? I doubt this price per trip is achievable if you want to attract investment. Any more expensive, and the passenger numbers will drop.

    It could do the Sydney to Melbourne drive, with perhaps at most, a Penrith stop, Canberra, Albury/Wodonga, Melbourne Tullamarine and Melbourne City. More stops makes it unattractive.

    How many people do you need to travel, to make it viable for investors, without exorbitant prices?

    You would need restaurant cars, where they server alcohol among others, but this is a no no in Australia.

    A good idea, hard to implement.

  9. Phil

    Of course the HSR is the way to go – it’s a no brainer. I can’t see the hyper profit airlines falling in love with it. I can’t see the road transport fat cats leaping to support it. In fact I am certain they have been lobbying against HSR for at least a decade now.

    But why include Queensland given the GBR is dying and there’s little else to attract the volume of tourist business it once provided, since it will very soon become a bleached multi-thousand kilometre marine skeleton?

    Australia is in the political death grip of a perverted cabal of coal copulators bereft of sanity and on a suicide mission to take us all to hell with them.

    How I hate this government.

  10. John L

    China have HSR up the country and are now building a HSR line to Europe!

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