2011 Oration

Railways in Australia: Federation unfulfilled

The 9th Henry Parkes Oration: Associate Professor Philip Laird
Saturday 22 October 2011. School of Arts, Tenterfield NSW

One hundred and twenty two years ago, Sir Henry Parkes as the Premier of New South Wales delivered a speech that gave real direction to Federation of the Australian colonies.

In this speech, Parkes had a clear vision of an Australian Federation that included an efficient rail system to increase both the nation’s defence capability and its prosperity.

If Sir Henry were to return today to Australia, he would be impressed with advances in railway engineering along with some world class operations. However, he would be greatly disappointed and quite angry at the substandard nature of rail in New South Wales. He would also demand to know why, 110 years after Federation, the nation’s railway gauges had not been standardised; and, why successive federal governments have failed to give Australia a fit for purpose rail system.

Download the full text as a PDF.

Associate Professor Philip Laird is an Honorary Principal Fellow at the University of Wollongong and a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington, the Australian National University and the University of Calgary in Canada. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, a Companion of the Institution of Engineers Australia, and a Life Member of the Railway Technical Society of Australasia.

This oration was broadcast as part of ABC Radio National’s Big Ideas program on Tuesday 14 February 2012.

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