DEPUTY Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce asserts that Inland Rail’s chosen route across the Downs has been reviewed over and over and found to be superior to the various alternatives.
But the 2017 report which he relies upon, and the others he refers to, have only ever judged the merits of various potential alignments according to Inland Rail’s criteria.
For example, whether a change of alignment would upset its commitment to a Melbourne Brisbane trip time of 24 hours.
None of those reports examined the overall impacts of the proposed alignment on the Darling Downs environment, or on the strategic cropping land and its present use.
What’s more, the Deputy PM and those advocating “let’s get on with it” all speak as though the Deputy PM has the last word on choice of the route across the Downs.
That is wrong – the Queensland Coordinator-General is the decision maker. The role of the Federal Government at this stage, through its entity Australian Rail Transport Corporation, is to give the Coordinator-General its response to the public submissions, and to submit an amended EIS if required.
Under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act the Coordinator-General has to judge whether the Draft EIS satisfactorily addresses the terms of reference, whether an environmental authority should be granted and, if so, what conditions should apply to that authority – Eg what route the line must follow.
As to timing, the Coordinator General is some four months into the task of assessing Inland Rail’s draft EIS, but it’s a very complex EIS and an amended EIS may be required. GEORGE HOUEN, Toowoomba