Rethinking nation’s needs

by Richard Denniss in The Canberra Times
Originally published in The Canberra Times on December 8, 2012

Economic growth is a very strange thing. In 1949 when our gross domestic product was about a tenth of what it is today, Australia set out to build 145 kilometres of tunnels, 16 major dams and nine power stations as part of the Snowy Hydro scheme. But 60 years later, when GDP is $1.3 trillion bigger than that of the nation that Ben Chifley led, and with tunnel-boring technology that the builders of the Snowy scheme could have only dreamt of, it seems we couldn’t possibly build a tunnel under that most daunting of obstacles, the ”giant” Mount Ainslie. China has more than 3500 kilometres of rail line capable of speeds of more than 300km/h. Russia is planning a trans-Siberian high-speed rail line, the Mexicans are planning fast rail along the Yucatan peninsula and Turkey has begun construction of a planned 1500 kilometres of fast rail. The GDP per capita of these countries is between 9 per cent and 20 per cent of Australia’s.

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