Mr RAMSEY (Grey–Government Whip) (10:46): I rise today to give the House an update on the government’s commitment to invest in the Adelaide-Tarcoola rail project, which falls within my electorate of Grey. As members are probably aware, it was only in April last year that Whyalla’s Arrium steel works went into administration following a very negative statement in February that the future of the company was uncertain. The Prime Minister subsequently visited Whyalla in March to announce that the Turnbull government would bring forward by five years an Australian Rail Track Corporation upgrade of the track between Adelaide and Tarcoola. Subsequently, ARTC signed a contract with Arrium for the supply of the 1,200-kilometre-long, 60-kilogram-per-metre rail-replacing the old 47-kilogram-per-metre rail-with the first order being delivered on 8 September last year.
This investment has already been of significant benefit to the region by supporting the continuation of the steelworks, which is now running near capacity and has an extra shift operating in the rolling mill. By the end of January this year, 5,790 welds had been completed at the ARTC Flashbutt Welding Depot in Port Augusta, and 125 kilometres of rail had arrived at the site ready for preparation to rail to the construction site. At the completion of the project, Arrium will have delivered over 70,000 tonnes of locally made steel to provide for 600 kilometres of completed rail upgrades. Two rails obviously make it 1,200 kilometres in total. I visited the flashbutt facility recently and was delighted to hear that, before that project, six of their 38 workers were long-term unemployed. Along with the obvious benefits the project has brought to Whyalla in supporting local manufacturing, the rail upgrade will also generate 130 direct jobs at the flashbutt facility and in laying the railway line when that project begins.
The important thing about this project is that it needed to be done in the next five years anyway. Parts of the line are over 100 years old, so the investment has just brought forward necessary work. By moving to the heavier rail, axle weights are increased by two tonnes to an eight-tonne wagon. The area that the rail services is rich in copper and iron ore, with some currently mothballed and prospective mines all likely to benefit from the investment. Taxpayers’ dollars are contributing to grow the economy, and it is a good investment. It is expected that the actual laying of the rail will begin in April and will be completed in 2019. The project demonstrates the government’s commitment to the steel industry in Whyalla and to investing heavily in the nation’s major transport infrastructure