SUPER-rich immigrants are the wildcard in funding Australia’s very fast train, says Tim Fischer.
Yesterday the former deputy prime minister and National Party leader joined the Southern Aurora at Albury as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of its first visit to the city and paid passenger journey between Sydney and Melbourne.
Mr Fischer said while they were celebrating the past, rail was also the re-emerging transport future of the 21st century.
“We can do high-speed rail here in Australia and the sooner the better,” he said.
“In the US they are putting huge money back into freight rail, passenger (rail) too is getting its act together.
“In Europe high-speed rail is the best in the world.
“But you need to use some lateral thinking to pay for it.
“Introduce an SPQR — a rolled gold visa for the nervous Italians, Indians and many others that want to hedge their bets, want a bolt hole in Australia, able to come at a moment’s notice to their second home.
“With a Special Quota Permanent Residency visa they pay $10,000 for the admin and are also required to put $1 million into infrastructure bonds.
“It works in the USA — if you put half a million dollars into infrastructure bonds you can get a visa.
“As one ambassador said to me in Rome, ‘If the Yanks are worth half a million, Australia is worth $1 million’.”
An initial study has costed the 1600 kilometres of special track and associated work at between $61 and $108 billion.
It says 54 million people would use the rail line annually in just over 20 years.
Mr Fischer refutes the argument that Australia does not have the population to support a fast train or that air travellers wouldn’t defect to rail.
“There is a debate in Australia about whether people will migrate from air travel,” he said.
“Of course they will as long as it is under three hours, Melbourne to Sydney, and one hour for Sydney to Canberra.
“When they opened the Paris-Lyon two-hour service they shut the airline.
“The argument that we don’t have the population is also false.
“The corridor has over 12 million people and that was more than the original Paris-Lyon corridor at the time.”
A second report into the high-speed rail network is expected to be completed for the government by the end of the year.