THE Labor Party would not reinstall the heavy rail line to Newcastle Station if it was voted in at the next state election, Lake Macquarie MP Jodie Harrison says.
On Friday night the NSW Labor Party released the agenda for its state conference in February.
It includes a motion put forward by the Lambton, New Lambton and Kotara Branch which calls for the conference to support “the retention of the rail line to Newcastle Station” and notes the “disastrous public transport consequences of this decision for the City of Newcastle”.
It also includes a further element calling on the party to “formulate a plan” to extend the proposed light rail network to various areas across the Hunter, including the University and John Hunter Hospital, as well as making light rail accessible for wheelchairs and prams.
But the references to keeping the rail line into Newcastle were deleted before the motion was recommended for adoption at the conference.
That, according to Ms Harrison, who is also the shadow minister for the Hunter, is because the party had drawn “a line in the sand” on the issue of heavy rail.
In a forthright interview with the Newcastle Herald on Sunday, Ms Harrison said “the fight has been lost” to keep heavy rail into the city, and that the party was focusing its attention on making sure the state government followed through on its commitments on light rail.
“There is no point spending our time and energy on trying to achieve something that we actually can’t do,” Ms Harrison said.
“The fight is lost, the rail is gone, and we need to make sure we get the best outcome for Newcastle now.”
However, Ms Harrison argued that, assuming nothing changed at the state conference, it did not reflect a change in the party’s policy.
“At no time during the election did we say that if heavy rail was ripped up we would reinstate it,” she said.
“We opposed the truncation, but we never said that we would reinstate heavy rail.”
Ms Harrison said it would be “irresponsible” of the party to adopt a blanket policy of reintroducing heavy rail.
“We have no idea what is going to be on the corridor in four years, and we have no idea what it would cost to reinstate it,” she said.
“We opposed the legislation that went through to cut the line, but there is no point having a fight that is over.
“To have a policy to say, ‘we will point blank say we will reinstate it’ would be quite irresponsible.”
Lambton branch secretary Suska Scobie said she had not seen the recommendation regarding the motion, but said the party “may very well be being pragmatic”.
“Until we get a chance to debate it as a branch I really can’t comment on what I think about it,” she said.
“It isn’t up to me to say whether we support it.”