Assurances needed SA won’t be left to foot $5.5 billion

Tuesday 20 December, 2022

Serious questions still surround the future of train operator Keolis Downer – and hundreds of South Australians jobs – as the Malinauskas Labor Government struggles to deliver one of its flagship election promises.

Despite Peter Malinauskas’ guarantee that the Keolis Downer train contract would be torn to shreds if Labor won the election, nine months down the track and outsourced train services continue to run on time and without little issue.

The Opposition has now been informed negotiations – over the 12-year contract worth $2.1 billion – recently broke down following intervention from Peter Malinauskas’ office.

Sources say Peter Malinauskas’ promise is unworkable and an impossible demand to meet without incurring a huge cost – of up to $70 million – to taxpayers.

Astonishingly, after being questioned in parliamentary Budget and Finance Committee in August, Treasury officials revealed savings totalling $118 million from outsourcing rail and train operations to Keolis Downer remain in Labor’s budget.

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Vincent Tarzia, said the Keolis Downer contract won’t ever be torn up.

“It’s taken nine months and Peter Malinauskas can’t muster up the strength to deliver on his promise to tear a piece of paper in half,” Mr Tarzia said.

“Peter Malinauskas has bitten off more than he can chew in this instance, and he knows the Keolis Downer contract can’t be cancelled without a huge cost to taxpayers.

“Peter Malinauskas was always quick to criticise Keolis Downer for its supposed poor performance, but if the train network is so bad, why is he happy for South Australians to continue to use the service?

“We haven’t heard him complain about Keolis Downer at all in the past nine months.

“The reality is the public transport system works well and trains, trams and buses run on time. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

“It also speaks volumes that Labor hasn’t bothered to remove the $118 million Keolis Downer savings from the budget.

“That suggests Labor has no intention of cancelling the contract and we know money is an issue for Peter Malinauskas, he can’t afford to see that cash disappear.”