Train questions from Cathy McGowan give Barnaby Joyce a short reprieve

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce

Cathy McGowan gifted Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce a short reprieve in question time on Thursday, briefly changing the topic from his relationship to the North-East rail line.

Mr Joyce chose not to answer the Indi MP’s question of when the $100 million worth of works to repair and improve the line would be complete.

But he did reveal he met with Victorian Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan this week and expected the Australia Rail Track Corporation to begin works by mid-2018 after plans were released for public comment.

“We are working on that line, we are spending $100 million on that line,” Mr Joyce said. 

“It is vitally important that be part of the link, not only for a commuter network, but also in what we need to do on the inland rail.”

He raised the prospect of needing to buy land for the inland rail, but said the upgrade plans should be in place first.

The scope of works has been presented to the Monash University's Institute of Railway Technology for “peer review” before the final sign off from the government.

“We look forward to a vast improvement as part of this Coalition's investment in infrastructure,” Mr Joyce said.

He “thanked the honourable member for her question”, which may have been more than just the traditional line said in Parliament, as he had spent the previous minutes defending free accommodation he received following the separation from his wife.

Just a few hours earlier, Ms McGowan had sided with Labor MPs who tried to suspend standing orders and call for Mr Joyce to be sacked.

Even with the support of Ms McGowan and other independent MPs, the vote was lost 73-70.