*Speech delivered on 8th February 2023.
Do you remember as a little kid getting on the train, having the wind on your face as it chugged down the coastline and hearing the sounds of the engine and the wheels on the track?
Tassie doesn't have many passenger trains anymore, and I think we're missing out. We need to stop tourists turning left on the Bass Highway and driving straight to Launnie and Hobart. We need them on the other side. There are a lot of great things happening on the coast, but we need something to make a splash.
The Don River Railway is sitting right there and is ready to expand. It's going to cost money. The former federal government promised $20 million during the election, but, unfortunately, those guys didn't win. Now the ball is in Labor's court. The Don River Railway wants to take passengers from Devonport to Penguin. Imagine the tourism dollars in that for the north-west coast—you beauty! To do this they need money to fix the tracks. They will build a cafe, restaurant and event facility and a shiny new visitor centre so tourists can learn about the history of the railway and about all of the steam trains, not just in Tasmania but across the world. There will be a special play area for the kids and tours of the workshops where they restore the old trains and carriages.
A passenger train will make tourists want to spend more nights on the coast. They'll spend more money in our hotels, cafes, shops and markets instead of going down south to Hobart. No offence—there is competition between the north and south—but, bugger it, we want it.
I know the team behind the project have put in a submission for the May budget. Money is tight and a lot of things need funding. Seriously, this project could be an absolute game changer for Penguin, Devonport and the surrounding towns on the north-west coast. It will become a tourist icon—although it already pretty much is—for us.
I'd like to see other Tasmanian senators show their support for this project too. We're up here to help Tasmania; that's our job. This project is a damn good idea and should receive support. I'll be the first one lining up to get back on that steam train and have another shot at it. I'd like to go further than about five kilometres—30 or 40 kilometres—and buy coffee 20 minutes away. That would be fabulous for the town of Penguin.