Voice of the real Australia is a regular newsletter of ACM, which has reporters in every state and territory. register here to receive it by e-mail, or here to pass it on to a friend. Today was written by North West Star editor Derek Barry.
The floods which closed the Stuart Highway and caused food shortages in the Northern Territory have prompted new calls for a rail link to Queensland.
However, there is an enticing missing link between Mount Isa and Tennant Creek that could have connected the two states and territories.
The food shortage in Katherine has become so severe due to flooding in Central Australia that local chamber of commerce director Colin Abbott told the ABC this week he wanted to see a continuation of the line between Mount Isa and Territory.
He is not the first person to suggest this, although Mr Abbott has mentioned Alice Springs as a possible terminus when Tennant Creek is a more direct route to Mount Isa, such as that taken by the Barkly Hwy between Queensland and NT and the north 620 km long. Gas pipeline that connects gas projects in the Northern Territory to the east coast.
Indeed, there was no road worthy of the name between Queensland and the Territory until the 1940s when Australian governments finally had to seriously consider the problem of transporting soldiers, equipment and supplies to Darwin, the Japanese threat being all too real.
A railroad was too remote a transportation option for industrious Americans, but it does come back from time to time.
Feasibility studies after the 2015 North Australia White Paper found it was only economically viable if funded by the mining industry, much like the Townsville to Mount Isa Railway. was a century ago.
Yet there remains an appetite for rail extension like the Ghan to Darwin in 2004 while the Inland Rail project between Melbourne and Brisbane still appears to be on the way, albeit postponed to 2023.
There was talk of another feasibility study in 2017, but the plan drew criticism from Townsville business leaders who feared the line extension would negatively affect its economy.
Ross Muir, economic development specialist at Nexidel Consulting, said at the time that it was a nation-building exercise worth supporting.
“The connection would enable new mining and agricultural ventures, including the potential exploitation of huge phosphate deposits in the Barkly area. It would also promote tourism links across North West Queensland,” Mr Muir said. .
In 2020 there was a bold plan for a so-called “Iron Boomerang” line, proposed to link Queensland’s Bowen Basin coal resources to WA’s Pilbara region and its iron ore store by a whopping 3300 km rail across northern Australia.
Although with a proposed price tag of $100 billion, he may not be coming anytime soon to save the empty shelves of Katherine’s supermarkets.