The Hamilton Spectator – October 29, 2015
A MAJORITY of candidates for the South-West Coast state by-election
have voiced their support for rail projects, including freight and passenger improvements, but the Coalition frontrunners have placed a greater focus on roads.
Most candidates said they would push for the State Government to honour its commitment to have the $416 million Murray Basin Rail Project completed by 2018, including restoration of the line between Ararat and Maryborough.
Independent candidate Roy Reekie, who has previously run for the Labor
Party, said he would not be a part of the government if elected “so I can’t
speak for them”.
“What I will do is lobby to ensure that project is delivered,” he said.
Mr Reekie said a Federal Government contribution would be “reasonable, as it is a national infrastructure project”.
Liberal candidate Roma Britnell said she would look at the “bigger picture” and fight for western Victoria to get a bigger share of money from the “sale” of the Port of Melbourne.
“The Government is hoping to raise $5 to $7 billion, but country Victoria
is only getting three per cent of that,” she said.
“A lot of the products of Western Victoria have been, and will be, going to the Port of Melbourne, so we need more of a share for this region.”
Nationals candidate Michael Neoh said he was “absolutely” in favour of the Murray Basin project but he was concerned that the State Government’s announcement was “not new money”.
“I think there are games being played,” he said.
“If the Federal Government won’t support it, State Government needs to fund it whole.”
Greens candidate Thomas Campbell also said he “absolutely” supported it.
“The more we do for rail freight, the more it opens up the opportunities
for passenger rail, which is good for business and tourism as well as the
community,” he said.
“Rail can do a great deal for Portland and Hamilton as well, as Hamilton is a link to north-west Victoria.” – Jim Doukas
Jim Doukas, of the Australian Country Party, wanted to see rail networks
improved to link areas both north and south of Hamilton.
“Rail can do a great deal for Portland and Hamilton as well, as Hamilton is
a link to north-west Victoria,” he said.
“Also for tourism: they are getting cruise ships in Portland and some of
them carry up to 3000 plus people.
“If you can get them up to the Grampians, there’s nothing like that in
Jennifer Gamble, of the Animal Justice Party, supported the project as
long as roads were the first priority.
Rodney Van De Hoef, independent, said “too often we want to rush things” and called for the government to “do the project but over several years; if we rush can turn out like East West Link and get canned.”
Michael McCluskey, independent, said he would support the project “on
principle, because I support major rail projects.”
“The single most important thing is to improve our rail system,” he said.
“We need to get more freight onto rail. There is a direct link between the
decline of rail freight and damage to our roads.”
Independent Pete Smith was the only candidate to declare opposition to spending money on rail projects for agricultural freight, comparing it to
spending $100,000 on a photography darkroom a few years before digital
cameras came in.
Mr Smith declared he had “a vested interest in freight issues” because
of his involvement in AgChoices but called for “new thinking” from
“Any organisation that is investing millions of dollars in saleyards should
be sued by their shareholders or ratepayers,” he said.
“Moving grain by rail is approaching a horizon. What we need is a sort of
“Agriculture by rail freight: is it the future? My answer is that it’s not.”
Swampy Marsh, independent, said the 2018 deadline could not possibly
“They haven’t given themselves
enough time. There’s so much work to do.
“If they started right now, they’d be pushing it to get done by 2025.
“All they are doing is saying ‘be nice to us and vote for us again before 2018’. Call me an old cynic, but they’re just weasel words.”