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Question: Regional Rail Funding

16 May 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:04): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of regional rail.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The federal budget this week included an announcement of $16 billion for road and rail infrastructure across the country. Western Australia received $1.7 billion for their rail projects and Queensland received $1.7 billion for a rail line to the Sunshine Coast, but South Australia received funding for road interchanges and the South Eastern Freeway, but nothing for rail.

Recommendation 3 from the Select Committee on Public and Active Transport, which I chaired, is that state government 'considers reactivation of regional rail for freight (particularly grain) and passenger services'. Recommendation 4 is that the state government 'incentivises passenger rail between Adelaide and Melbourne stopping at regional towns in South Australia'.

My question to the Minister for Regional Development therefore is: is the minister concerned about the lack of funding for regional rail in the federal budget, and what action has the minister taken to advocate for regional rail for South Australia?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:05): I thank the honourable member for his question. I think it's fair to say that there is a lot of connection, I guess, or desire to be able to utilise rail in ways that will suit both passengers and freight. In terms of that discussion, there are multiple factors that are involved, including, for example, on Eyre Peninsula. This was a discussion that came up at country cabinet in regard to freight, not in regard to passenger rail, last week.

There were discussions around the impacts on ports if regional rail was reinstated for freight, and whether a monopoly which could ensue would necessarily be in the interests of our farmers and in the interests of the region more broadly. It's certainly fair to say that all aspects of rail have multiple factors to be taken into account. In terms of what the minister in the other place may have advocated for to the federal government, that is something I can certainly ask him and bring back a response.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:07): Supplementary: has the minister herself raised this matter with the Minister for Transport or with her federal counterparts, given the importance of regional rail for development in the regions?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:07): I thank the honourable member for his supplementary question. Certainly, I have frequent conversations on many matters to do with regional areas, including transport and rail transport, with my colleague in the other place. It is obviously within his portfolio area in a direct sense.