Australia PM backs high-speed rail to fill mining void

 Australia PM backs high-speed rail to fill mining void
Prime Minister and leader of the Labor Party Kevin Rudd (L) speaks as the leader of the conservative opposition Tony Abbott listens during their People's Forum in Brisbane August 21, 2013.

SYDNEY - Australia's Labor government Monday pledged to press on with plans for a high-speed rail network linking major east coast cities, saying it would diversify the economy as the mining boom slows.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, battling a strong candidate in conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott in September 7 national polls, has committed to focusing on jobs in the last fortnight of the campaign.

To achieve this, he said, good infrastructure was vital.

"If we do not have world-class infrastructure there is no future for the Australian economy. It's as basic as that," he told journalists in Sydney.

"This vast continent of ours has 23 million people on it - unless you've got the infrastructure pumping, well frankly it's not going to work."

The government allocated Aus$52 million (S$60 million) to a new authority to oversee the rail project which would stretch down the east coast from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

A government study in April showed the entire project would cost US$120 billion (S$154 billion) and take more than 40 years to complete

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said as a first step the government would enact legislation this year, if re-elected, to preserve the 1,748 kilometre (1,084 mile) corridor on which the track would be laid.

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