Canberra is being left behind in the high-speed rail stakes according to the founder of the Bullet Train for Australia party. Tim Bohm and his supporters, who launched the party in 2012, deregistered it as a political party on Wednesday, saying it has served its purpose. Instead, the Bullet Train group will be a community advocacy group, campaigning much like GetUp! does.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull’s budget announcement of three business cases for fast rail connections between big cities showed the Bullet Train, as a political force, had run its course, Mr Bohm said. So the Bullet Train executive unanimously decided to deregister the party and the Australian Electoral Commission processed this request today, (Wednesday) Mr Bohm said.
Mr Bohm said other regional centres were more active than Canberra pushing for a fast train. “Shepparton is pushing hard for a Melbourne-Shepparton-Albury route, Newcastle-Central Coast-Sydney could be the second one and Brisbane- Gold Coast-Lismore could be the third. Canberra could miss out altogether.
“It is not helped by (Chief Minister) Andrew Barr jumping on a train and banging on about getting it down to three hours. He should be focussed on putting time and effort into making sure we are one of those three business cases,’’ Mr Bohm said, referring to Mr Barr’s recent rail journey to Sydney.
The Bullet Party formed in 2012 and won more than 4 percent of the vote at that ACT election. From there it grew into a national entity, fielding 17 lower house candidates and senate candidate federally in every electorate along the proposed high-speed rail route from Melbourne.
ACT members changed course in 2015 to contest the ACT election in 2016. “We deregistered the Bullet Train for Canberra Party, and ElectionsACT would not let us register another party with a similar name,” Mr Bohm said.
Broadening the focus, under the banner Like Canberra, was not a good move. As well, three disgruntled members called for an audit of the books.
“We don’t even know what their motivation was, we gave them everything they wanted and they just went off and tried to make as much noise as they could. That’s when we really thought we were a fair dinkum party, when we had our own Mark Latham/ Kevin Rudd situation,’’ Mr Bohm says.
The father-of-three and Canberra small business owner says more than half of the party’s 564 members come from outside the ACT.
Mr Bohm says the group did not need a lot of money or advertising to be effective. “We could be very powerful, without any money in the bank. We tried the other way, now we have to try something new.’’
Mr Bohm says busy air traffic routes and capital cities growth continued to build a compelling case for high-speed rail. In the coming weeks, Bullet Train for Australia new look website will come online. HSR supporters from all parties will be able to use a variety of tools to pressure and register their views on the need for high-speed rail for their communities and cities directly with their local, state and federal politicians.