THE state government has demanded that TimCrakanthorp make his position on the retention of heavy rail into Newcastle clear.
This week the Newcastle Herald reported that both Jodie Harrison, the member for Charlestown, and Luke Foley, the opposition leader, had conceded that there would be no chanceof Labor reinstating the heavy rail line if it was returned to power in 2019 because work on truncating the line would be too far advanced.
Ms Harrison told the Herald on Mondaythat the party had moved on from the issue, saying “the fight is lost, the rail is gone”.
Her comments were echoed by Mr Foley when he was in Newcastle on Tuesday, the opposition leader saying it “won’t be possible” to restore the line, and that the party would focus on “policy development to improve public transport services in this city”.
But on Thursday the government’s parliamentary secretary for the government,Scot MacDonald, called for “consistency” from the party, accusing Labor members who have campaigned on reinstating the line, like Mr Crakanthorp and the member for Maitland, Jenny Aitchison of ducking the issue.
“The local MPs, in Maitland and Newcastle in particular, are saying one thing to their community and another thing when they go down to Macquarie Street,” he said.
“We get the opposition leader come up from Sydney and he says this is the case [that heavy rail won’t be reinstated],but we’ve still got the local MP’s from Newcastle and Maitland with a very clear record of saying they will restore the rail.
“So who’s in charge?”
Ms Aitchison though hit back angrily at Mr MacDonald, saying he was “like a mosqutio thatbuzzesaround trying to make trouble”.
“We have been very clear all the way –we made a commitment that if Labor was elected we would not proceed with cutting the line, that did not happen, but even after that we fought and fought and fought,” she said.
“At the end of the day by time Labor comes back into government in 2019 the corridor will be gone, so what can we do?
“I am the most disappointed person in Maitland, believe me.
“We have to look at the reality of the situation, and in the here and now what we can do is hold the government to account on what they have promised.”
Mr Crakanthorp has been unavailable for interview on his positionthis week and hasnot responded to direct questions about whether Ms Harrison’s comments represented a shift in the party’s policy.
In a statement he said that by “the next state election in 2019 there won’t be a rail corridor to save”.
“Labor has not changed our policy, we are simply stating reality,” he said.
“The Baird Government has completely ignored the wishes of the Hunter community and is proceeding with ripping up the rail line and doing deals with developers to build on the land.
“The Liberals shouldn’t be forgiven for blatantly ignoring the region. This is just a political stunt from an arrogant government who now thinks it’s also a good idea to privatise Newcastle’s public transport network.”