To Aunt Rhonda and to Lionel, I also acknowledge and recognise and pay my respects to country, acknowledging that this is Wiradjuri Country acknowledging any elders past, present and future.
And to that end, I want to acknowledge the most important people in the marquee, and they are in two groups actually. First of all, we have the wonderful little dancers—the young ones from the Parkes Public School. Well done kids.
And the second group—and you would think I would sort of say the dignitaries and the politicians—uh-uh, it’s anyone who is wearing orange because you’re the workers.
And the media—we’ve got to be nice to the media because we’ve got an election coming up—but you’re an important part of this event too because we need to get the word out there that this is a fantastic event. And of course, it’s happening right here on the east, west, north, south inter-sector. This is, as Tim Fischer would say, “The heart of rail in Australia”. He would probably go further and say, “This is the very heart of Australia. The heart of rail Australia. The heart of Australia”. And it’s happening right here on this east, west, north, south inter-sector.
I can’t wait to see this shovel. I’ve heard so much about it. John and Warren have built it up. Rick’s talked about it and I know it’s coming on the train. It’s been used by former Prime Ministers and dignitaries. And goodness gracious we’ve got this wonderful wheelbarrow—and it’s important too—which was first used, as I understand it in 1878. And I can’t wait to use it. I mean, my wife won’t let me hang a picture at home for fear of what I might do to the wall so what could possibly go wrong this morning?
Look, I do need to acknowledge and recognise my friends and colleagues, mayors. First off, I’ll start with the Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, my great friend, the Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton MP, who has been one of the staunchest advocates for this project. Thank you, Mark, for coming along this morning. Parliamentary Secretary Rick Colless MLC, from who you’ve heard, representing the New South Wales Government. And Rick does so much work in Western New South Wales and I know it’s an exciting day for him and the New South Wales Coalition Government as well.
Of course, we’ve got Mayors from just about everywhere that’s anywhere. We’ve got Ken Keith OAM, the Mayor of Parkes. Good to see you Ken; in not an Elvis costume. We’ve got Phyllis Miller from Forbes; we’ve got John Medcalf from Lachlan; Denis Todd from Warrumbungle; we’ve got Cathy Redding from Narrabri; and if any other mayors have slipped in without me seeing you, I’m sorry. I’ll acknowledge you too later, and I’ll catch up with you.
But of course, we’ve got the Inland Rail Chairman, the Honourable Warren Truss—a fantastic former Deputy Prime Minister. Somebody who has probably forgotten more about transport and infrastructure than most people will ever know and he’s a great, dear friend of mine. Chief Executive of Inland Rail, Richard Wankmuller and Australian Rail Track Corporation CEO, John Fullerton.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends, all. Look, in time, many years from now, this day would be looked back upon as a truly momentous occasion, in not just the evolution of Inland Rail in this country, but indeed in the history of this nation itself. Today is special. It’s special because the first plans for such a project were drawn up, as you’ve heard from Warren Truss, around the turn of the century—not the last one, but the one before that, and perhaps even a decade or so earlier than that. Special because it marks a milestone, a moment, the start of something really significant. And it’s special also because all you fine people, friends of Inland Rail, are all here to witness it. Nothing this large happens easily. It has not been easy to get where we are now. I acknowledge that. It will be not be easy when we get on and build it, but build it we will, and build it we are. And thanks to all you people in Orange, you’re getting on and you’re going to do the job. So, it’s the start of something really special. Thank you to those who’ve shown their faith in this and have not waivered from their belief or their resolve. It’s a project for you and for all of us.
The first 600 tonnes of steel were dropped off—I might add, Australian steel from Whyalla—were delivered at nearby Peak Hill on the 15th of January this year. 14,000 tonnes will be used for the Parkes to Narromine section alone. In all, the equivalent of many, many Sydney Harbour bridges will be used for the project. It’s nation-building; it’s transformative. Today is a huge and massive step forward in making this project indeed a reality. Today, we gather for the sod turning in what has become the freight spine of eastern Australia. It will become that very corridor of commerce from Melbourne through New South Wales and into Brisbane. Today marks the opening up of a world of opportunity, as you’ve heard from the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, for Australian farmers, for Australian small businesses, for Australians generally, Australians all.
It’s a key part of the Government’s infrastructure plan to boost efficiencies; to improve safety; to cut business costs; and open up access for domestic and export market opportunities. Our wonderful product, the very best food and fibre—we produce it better than anyone else in the world—we’re going to get it to market quicker. We’re going to get it to port, obviously, a whole lot quicker.
The Australian Government has committed more than $9.3billion to deliver inland rail. Every dollar, every single dollar, will pay its way. In fact, it will return $2.62 to the Australian economy. Inland Rail is our new freight spine but importantly it uses the massive freight resources we already have in this country. It’ll provide access into the ports of Melbourne, Pork Kembla, Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Inland Rail means opportunities for export growth for regional business, and already, many of those regional businesses are benefiting from the products that they provide, the services they provide, for this project. And we all know that cost savings mean more money back into regional communities. I fully understand that farmers and regional communities want certainty that the Inland Rail will guarantee genuine benefits to the Australian economy, and that will indeed happen.
Sir Henry Parkes, after whom the great nearby town is so named, and after whom this nation owes so much, once said, ‘In one hand, I have a dream, and in the other, I have an obstacle. Tell me, which one grabs your attention?’ Indeed. Let’s just ponder on that just for a moment, if you will. One hand I have a dream; in the other hand, I have an obstacle. Which one grabs your attention? This country was built by those who turned up; those who were prepared to dream; and who then did something to make that dream, that truly special dream, to become a reality. Their hopes and their dreams—turning them from just a dream into a reality. Inland Rail is such a dream. It’s now a reality. This country was also built by hard work and by perspiration—let the hard work and let the perspiration begin.
Thank you very much.