Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria)– I understand I might be the last speaker, so it is important to go back to look at what the bill is about. It is about the tunnel that has been announced by this government, by Premier Denis Napthine and the Liberal-Nationals coalition, at a proposed cost of $8 billion. What will that mean? Essentially it will mean that every other road and public transport project in Victoria will be put on the backburner. It will also mean that local roads in Geelong and other parts of western Victoria will fall to pieces. This is being done by the Premier and this government choosing to put all their eggs in the one basket. That is $8 billion worth of eggs in one basket.
At the same time there is an infrastructure program and a tunnel that will be built for Melbourne and not for regional Victoria, which proves once again that when it comes to expenditure the focus of this government is on Melbourne, and that there is a significant concentration of money being spent in Melbourne and not in other parts of the state.
The tunnel has a particular impact on commuters who come from western Victoria. I have some statistics on Geelong commuters that go back as far as 2011, when more than 12 000 vehicles were making the daily commute from Geelong to Melbourne. People have been faced with congestion for some time. But it is not just the commuters from Geelong. It is also people from Torquay, Bannockburn, Winchelsea and the Bellarine Peninsula who do the daily commute from their homes to Melbourne, often to their permanent place of employment.
It goes even further than that. Businesspeople in Warrnambool to whom we have spoken recently at community forums are saying that the congestion on the outskirts of Melbourne is also having a dramatic impact on their businesses. It is costing them time and money and of course further business opportunities. We can talk about those from western Victoria who travel along the Geelong-Melbourne road, but there is also the congestion caused by the increased number of residents in the western suburbs.
I am sure Mr Elsbury will acknowledge that demographer Mr Bernard Salt has confirmed that each year there are approximately 10 000 more residents in Werribee alone. That means there is significant gridlock on the Geelong road.
Members all know that if you live in regional Victoria, it comes with the territory that often you have to commute. Time, distance and travel are part and parcel of our daily lives. You set the alarm to go off earlier and you go to bed earlier. It is just part and parcel of living in regional Victoria. For western Victorian commuters driving on the Geelong-Melbourne road it was once the case that the gridlock started at Laverton. Then it became the Point Cook exit and now, particularly at peak times over the past 12 months, it has been the Werribee exit. That means you have to make sure that you add another hour to the time you had calculated to get to where you need to go.
Unfortunately Mr Finn is not in the chamber at the moment, but I can tell him that members of working families do not get to see too much of each other — because many of them are on the road where they are not moving or they are standing on overcrowded trains that are often late. In the meantime, western Victorians have to keep setting their alarm clocks earlier and earlier and leaving the family home earlier and earlier. For many families a meal together, whether it be dinner or breakfast, can be had only on weekends.
Given the current congestion and massive dislocation for individuals and families, it is only fair that the government release a full business case. The government should let us have the discussion on and the scrutiny of this proposed tunnel. For goodness sake, western Victorians, stuck in gridlock every day, have time to think and to do so seriously about how their time and that of their families is tied up in congestion, with no plans from this government on how their daily grind on the road will be alleviated. Western Victorians do not see any light at the end of this tunnel. Combined with the fact that the government is not able to shed light on how $8 billion of taxpayers money will be used for this project, it gives plenty of food for thought. All that thinking is done and all that frustration is felt as western Victorians tap their steering wheels and look at their watches every morning.
I concur with previous speakers tonight — namely, Mr Tee, Ms Mikakos, Mr Melhem, Mr Leane, Mr Viney, Mr Scheffer, Ms Pulford, Ms Broad and Mr Elasmar — and call on the government to release a full business case on this massive $8 billion tunnel and explain in detail and with honesty how it will benefit the areas of Geelong, Surf Coast, Golden Plains and Bellarine and south-western Victorian commuters and taxpayers.