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Malcolm’s Very Fast Train And Labor’s Potential Response!

Scene: Inside Labor’s strategy office! Two strategists, Zoe and Joe, are discussing potential responses to the announcement from Turnbull of a very fast train.

Zoe: Have you read this? It’s rumoured that Turnbull is about to announce a Very Fast Train from Melbourne to Brisbane!
Joe: Shit! Have they really got that desperate?
Zoe: What do you mean?
Joe: Well, every time a government can’t actually think of anything to actually do, then they copy an idea from somewhere else.
Zoe: So who are they copying from?
Joe: Don’t you watch Utopia? Anyway Shorten’s already made the point that if they’re so committed to high speed rail, why did they scrap some of the funding for a high speed rail authority which Labor previously put in place.
Zoe: Well, that sort of locks Labor into supporting it, if he announces an actual intention to build it.
Joe: Does it?
Zoe: Yeah, you can’t say one thing this week and then do a complete backflip just a few days later just because of what the other side says … People’ll think we’re the Liberal Party.
Joe: Ok, so Labor supports it. How much of a problem can that be?
Zoe: That’d mean that Turnbull could go to the election suggesting that he’d actually be capable of following an idea through to its logical conclusion.
Joe: You actually think that he’d go through with it?
Zoe: No, by “logical conclusion” I meant until after the election when they’d call a feasibility study and hire a few ex-Liberal mates to meet over a few lunches and decide that the business case wasn’t economically viable because they’d spent too much on the feasibility study.
Joe: Well Labor can’t just oppose it! They’d look negative and it’d seem like they didn’t have a vision for the future.
Zoe: So what can we suggest?
Joe: Perhaps we could say that Labor’s plan is to build the very fast rail in the uninhabited areas between the cities and the fast train can use the existing rail lines when they get near the cities.
Zoe: But how will it be a very fast train then? Doesn’t a very fast train rely on having super efficient tracks? It’s not going to be much faster than our existing trains if it has to slow down every time it gets near a city.
Joe: Yes, but we can argue that in the future we don’t know what advances in track design will occur so it’s silly to lock the train in. If anyone actually needs the extra speed then they can pay for the track themselves. We can say that Labor will have the Very Fast Train built much sooner and it’ll be cheaper. We can use a slogan like Very Fast Train, Affordable, Sooner!
Zoe: That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! Who’d fall for that?
Joe: Well, it worked for Abbott and Turnbull with the NBN.
Zoe: That was different.
Joe: How?
Zoe: People don’t know much about internet speed, but they know when a train’s going super fast.
Joe: We could put projections of scenery whizzing past at breakneck speeds.
Zoe: Yes, but they wouldn’t get to their destination any faster, and, besides, the point isn’t about when the thing’s actually built. We just need to worry about managing perceptions until the election.
Joe: Perhaps we could say that it’s great that Turnbull’s proposing a train that goes faster than download speeds under the NBN and that we’re pleased that he’s at least doing something that’s got more speed than when he changes his mind and takes things off the table.
Zoe: Possibly…
Joe: Or we could say we support it because it’ll that the Liberal Party save on helicopter flights.
Zoe: Nah, that just sounds like a cheap shot. We want to be positive.
Joe: All right, what have you got in mind?
Zoe: Um… I know. We’ll announce that it’s good because it’ll reduce emissions and help save the planet.
Joe: Brilliant! That should stop it in its tracks… Oh sorry, pun not intended.
Zoe: Yep, as soon as we link it to climate change then the rest of the Liberals’ll will demand that Turnbull withdraw any support for such a lefty, greenie project!
Joe: Yeah, but what if he stands up to them?
Zoe: Gee, Joe that’s what I love about you: your droll sense of humour.
Joe: Ah. it was hard to keep a straight face when I said that one.
Zoe: Ok, let’s get to work on the speeches. Or even better, perhaps we should leak it to The Greens and hope that they steal it and announce their support before we do. That’ll kill it off even faster.
Joe: Yeah, the very fast train – it’s gone already!
Zoe: Hey that’s not bad. Perhaps we can use as one of Bill’s zingers when Turnbull kills the project.


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  1. king1394

    Duplicating the existing rail lines between Sydney and Melbourne, and Sydney and Brisbane would improve the speed of current rail transport between the cities. But it might be more effective to go through with the much needed Very Fast / Ultra High Speed / maglev / or whatever. Sooner rather than later

  2. Gangey1959

    And if it runs backwards it will arrive before it departed, but the passengers will only be able to see what they have missed out on seeing rather than enjoy the anticipation of somewhere new appearing in the distance and getting closer and closer.

  3. Peter F

    Google ‘Beyond Zero Emissions high speed rail’ for a thoroughly developed practical solution.

  4. Möbius Ecko

    Turnbull’s high speed rail shot down soon after it’s announced, just like nearly all of his other announced policies.

    I remember not long after Labor won power the constant attacks on Rudd as PM over his supposedly being all talk and no action, about his tabling committees instead of policies, and his pets pissing on the lawn.

    Here we have a government that since gaining power has tabled more committees than any other, and we now have a PM that has canned a record amount of policies announcements, sometimes the very next day. In other words truly being all talk and no action.

    Though there has been some alluding to this in the MSM it has been nowhere comparable to the level of the long and pilloried attacks on Rudd, which were mostly a beat up.

  5. helvityni

    Almost before every election the two rabbits, fast trains and the second airport, are pulled out of the proverbial hat; they are dead and I’m afraid will never be reborn.

  6. Matters Not

    Love train travel. Use trains whenever I go to ‘town’ and they are the best way to get around Europe. Quick, clean and they run on time (usually). Sadly Australia doesn’t have the population density to justify the expense of high speed train travel. What with the cost of land resumptions, tracks, sleepers and ballast not to mention the kilometres of tunneling required and the bridges that must be built. Sorry it just won’t happen. Not ‘economic’.

    But Shorten could get really clever and announce Labor could achieve this high speed travel much, much cheaper. Indeed there would be no need to resume land, lay expensive track, build bridges, tunnel through mountains or under cities. No his ‘high speed train’ would travel much cheaper and quicker than Turnbull’s. In fact, it would ‘fly’. ?

  7. townsvilleblog

    If the very fast train proposal gets up it should run from Melbourne to Cooktown to give passengers an experience of exactly how big, this big country really is.

  8. Backyard Bob


    Use trains whenever I go to ‘town’

    Without meaning to give away our location, it’s funny that we use this terminology. Not sure whether it says something about where we are, or Brisbane in general. Do folk from Ipswich or Cleveland way speak in such terms, I wonder?

    Anyway, I too enjoy that trip, but am equally at home on the %#$ bus.

  9. keerti

    It would be far better to put the money into the alternative energy industry via the CSRIO and produce some permanent jobs.

  10. jimhaz

    What a dude called Jason Murphy says:


    The planned high-speed rail network from Melbourne to Brisbane and would cost about $114 billion, or about $5000 per Australian.
    Let’s assume that the government is happy to build it and never actually pay the cost back. Let’s assume they only want enough to pay the interest on the money to build it.

    If the government borrows $114 billion, the interest cost would be about $3 billion a year. So a high-speed rail would need to make $3 billion in profit a year.

    Let’s say it makes 25 per cent profit (very generous!). The system must therefore make revenues of $12 billion. (That is $9 billion to cover costs, including staff, maintenance on trains and track, etc, and $3 billion of cream on top.) How many tickets would it need to sell?
    If it sells tickets at $1000 one way, it needs to sell 12 million tickets. That works out at 33,000 Aussies per day using the network.

    Is that plausible? Nope. At the moment, just 44,000 people fly between the three cities of Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. There might be enough demand if you could tempt three quarters of them to use the train. But at $1000 a ticket, I know I’d still choose to fly.


    What if prices were more competitive with airlines? If the ticket price was $150 each way, you’d need to sell 80 million tickets.
    That’s 219,000 people using the network every day. Australia’s population would need to be probably four times bigger before that’s ever going to happen.

    Remember, even if a fast train existed, some people would still fly. Flying would still actually be faster. Melbourne to Sydney in two hours and 44 minutes is not actually very quick. (Even Qantas Dash-8 propeller planes cruise at 500km/h, faster than a Shinkansen at 320km/h).

    Train stations are easier to get through than airports, but a terrorist attack could easily change that; or airports might make check-in faster if they were losing market share to rail.

    Lastly, let’s not forget the cost of building a giant project almost never comes in below the estimate. It almost always blows out instead.

  11. Matters Not

    Do folk from Ipswich or Cleveland way speak in such terms, I wonder?

    Don’t know. In my adolescent years, I had relatives who lived in Shorncliffe and who always spoke about ‘going up to Brisbane’. It was a statement that intrigued me at the time, given that Shorncliffe is North (as opposed to South) of Brisbane. For me at that time, the North was ‘up’ while the South was ‘down’.

    But in the early days, much of the travel from Shorncliffe to Brisbane (commercially at least) was by ‘boat’ and therefore ‘up’ the Brisbane River was probably the most apt description. Given that assumption (re river transport), it follows that the residents of Ipswich would speak in terms of ‘going down to Brisbane. (Again the Brisbane River features), And (in my limited experience) Ipswich residents they do exactly that.

    As for the those who live in Cleveland (at one time the mooted Capital until the powers that be visited at low tide and disembarked in the tidal ‘mud’), I am unsure. ?

    But what ‘meaning’ do people give to this, perhaps trivial. conversation would be of interest. (Just joking.)

  12. Backyard Bob

    Brisbane is perhaps unique, given its geographical expanse, in terms of its “satellite townships” (e.g. Sandgate). I often drink with a couple of old rusted-on Labor guys from Ipswich. I should ask what they call “the town”.

    I grew up where the new international airport runway smiles its smug smile. Ah, waffles at the Valley Coles caff. Them were the days …

  13. Rossleigh

    What happened to the feasability study on the very fast train that Malcolm announced before the election?

  14. Michael Taylor

    Rossleigh, that went off the rails.

    Though for a while I thought they were on track to finish it.

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