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Premier Ted Baillieu has reignited an old debate about the merits of building a very fast train to connect Australia's eastern cities after announcing that Victoria is set to become the regional headquarters for China South Rail, the world's largest manufacturer of electric trains.
Mr Baillieu said the state-owned company was ''certainly very interested'' in pursuing very fast train projects in future, adding that most Australians would like to see the very fast train proposal happen.
''It would be a very exciting thing to have in Australia if we could make it financial viable,'' Mr Baillieu said. ''The notion of a very fast train between Sydney and Melbourne and Sydney and Brisbane has been on the table generally for a very long time. What's prevented it from proceeding is the cost of construction and making it financially viable. If there are things we can learn from CSR … that would be a good thing.''
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High-speed rail has been under consideration in Australia since the early 1980s, although no proposal has been financially viable, mainly because of high construction costs and relatively low population densities. The latest, a $20 million planning study, was commissioned by the federal government, particularly to examine the viability of a link between Sydney and Newcastle.
The China South Rail decision to locate its headquarters in Melbourne will not involve any manufacturing, but will instead be a base to co-ordinate regional operations. Mr Baillieu said the decision meant an initial investment of $5 million, with the creation of 20 jobs.
In a further move to claim a larger share of the China boom, Mr Baillieu announced a plan to lift the growth in Chinese tourism arrivals from 9 per cent a year to 11 per cent, to bring the total number of Chinese overnight visitors to half a million by 2020, about double the current level. The plan will be underpinned by an $8 million marketing campaign over 10 years, including a $6 million advertising contract won by Ogilvy and Mather for a tourism campaign that will begin next year.
Mr Baillieu also said his government would host a ''super trade'' mission to China in the first half of next year that would involve more than 100 Victorian companies and organisations. A similar mission to India would also be held.
''In 2012, Victoria will be presenting the largest-ever trade mission from any Australian state to the economic powerhouse of China,'' Mr Baillieu said. ''This is a signal of Victoria's commitment and determination to strengthen our relationship with China.''
During his address to Chinese business figures, Mr Baillieu also slammed changes to federal migration laws blamed for leading to a sharp drop in the number of Chinese business migrants and international students.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/baillieu-raises-fast-trains-as-china-opts-for-state-base-20110923-1kpe9.html
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