I am pleased to rise to speak in opposition to the motion moved by Mr Koch. As
we have been advised by a number of speakers today, over the last 10 years there
has been unprecedented growth in Victoria, particularly population growth. That
growth has come from other states and from other countries, and in recent times
we have also seen what I believe will be a growing trend: expatriates returning
to this country and this state of Victoria.
In Victoria the Bracks and now Brumby government has played a
role in making sure that we live in the most livable state and that Melbourne,
along with a number of other cities in this great state, is a very livable city.
I am pleased to stand here this afternoon and advise the house
that as recently as last week the Glenelg shire in Western Victoria Region was
deemed to be the happiest place to live in this great state.
There has also been a massive increase in demand on our
transport, brought about by, as I have just mentioned, the increase in
population from people having been drawn to this state from a variety of areas,
by the increase in oil prices in this country, and also by commuters wanting to
do their bit in relation to climate change. This increase in demand has
obviously been looked at by a whole range of people, whether they be
politicians, academics or members of the Public Transport Users Association. We
have studied this area for some time, and there was a range of open
community consultation programs with the government leading up to the transport
plan announcement in December 2008.
A number of announcements in the transport plan will make
significant differences to the economic basis of Western Victoria Region and to
people’s lives there. As has already been mentioned by my colleague Jaala
Pulford, restoration of the Maryborough passenger rail line, which was shut down
by the former Liberal government, is to take place at a cost of $50 million.
That initiative in itself will not only enable people from Maryborough to
commute more easily to Melbourne but will pave the way to ensuring that the
local economy of Maryborough is provided with a significant financial injection.
It is wonderful that the iconic Maryborough railway station will be seen by a
lot more people as a result of that great initiative.
Also 44 kilometres of stand-alone rail tracks worth $4 billion
will be installed so as to remove the bottlenecks caused when regional trains
reach Melbourne. It is worth more than that for those who have had the
misfortune of having to wait while the bottlenecks shifted.
In the Geelong area most people are aware that G21, which is an
alliance of government, local councils, local businesses and community
organisations, has always been at the forefront of determining regional
priorities. Within the family of G21 is the G21 transport pillar that meets
regularly. It is a very proactive committee, and I have had the opportunity and
the pleasure to be part of it on several occasions. It is reflective of the
general G21 composition with local government representation from the City of
Greater Geelong, Colac Otway Shire Council, Golden Plains Shire Council, the
Borough of Queenscliffe and Surf Coast Shire Council.
The Public Transport Users Association is also at the table
with community organisations that represent people with disabilities and with
The G21 newsletter stated the following as recently as 28
- Congratulations to the members of the G21 public transport advisory group,
the transport connections project steering group and the G21 transport pillar on
the considerable influence they have had on positive outcomes for the Geelong
region announced recently in the Victorian transport plan.
- A regional rail link to increase the capacity of the system by taking V/Line
trains off of the normal lines Connex uses onto a dedicated regional line
straight to Southern Cross. This will carry trains from Ballarat, Bendigo and
Geelong and allow the system to operate at its full design speed of l60
kilometres per hour. The main advantages are seen as consistency in timetabling
and additional capacity allowing a doubling of frequency.
That is obviously a big tick. There was also the announcement
of $80 million being set aside for bus improvements in the region. The main
components are the bus interchange and recurrent funding for increased frequency
of services and some new services.
I am particularly pleased that an amount of that will be
dedicated to improving bus services on the Bellarine Peninsula. Also, $30
million is to be provided for station upgrades, particularly at Marshall and
We are aware there have been congestion and car parking
problems at both stations, and these initiatives will definitely alleviate the
problems that we have been experiencing in recent times. Also included is
planning for a rail corridor to link the new growth areas of Armstrong Creek and
Torquay, and funding for more carriages and an upgrade of the signalling system
were also committed to for the region.
Transport Connections is one of this government’s best
programs. I have talked about it time and time again in this house, but it is
worth mentioning again that this is a very vital part of ensuring there is
public transport for people in smaller rural communities to connect to larger
regional centres as well as to connect regional centres within themselves,
whether they be north, south, east or west routes, such as the one I assisted in
launching at Colac before Christmas and another one that was launched in Lorne
to connect Lorne and Colac.
These few things I mention have significant money amounts
attached to them for the Geelong region, which includes the five councils I just
mentioned. The plan also includes the purchase of up to 70 new trains, 18 of
which are already on order. There is also a $1.3 billion commitment for the
Melton rail upgrade, which will increase services to that community.
As well as the Victorian transport plan, regional Victorian
public transport is constantly being improved through a range of different
initiatives including the construction of the Wendouree train station and car
park in Ballarat, making the city of Ballarat even more accessible to visitors
and locals alike. The total investment in that project is $18.7 million. Funding
has also been allocated to improving access to public transport facilities, such
as walking tracks and cycling facilities, and I was involved in announcing a
fairly substantial one in Warrnambool. A number of other bus services have been
launched right across western Victoria.
We have increased the number and frequency of services on the
regional rail link to Warrnambool, introduced Sunday services and upgraded
railway stations as well.
It is a fact that this government will deliver more trains,
trams and buses, more train track and rail stations, and more transport choices
for the people of Victoria, regardless of whether they live in metropolitan
Melbourne or regional Victoria. That is part and parcel of the transport plan. I
was very pleased to see that the plan really looked not only at the issues of
transporting people in and out of Melbourne but within their own communities.
When you look at the government’s record and then you examine
what the opposition has been saying over the last few years about transport, it
appears the opposition does not have anything proactive or positive to offer.
By and large they rely on newspaper headlines and photos and on
emotive situations to come up with some sort of story about transport, but they
do not come up with what I consider to be a concise, efficient,
well-thought-through and well-articulated plan on how public transport could be
improved in this state.
The initiatives undertaken by this government that I have
mentioned have not just been made in Western Victoria Region. As the chamber has
heard, this government has also ensured that there have been improved transport
services across a whole range of electorates in this state.
The extreme weather conditions that caused the problems that
many people experienced last week were extremely rare. Yes, January and February
are hot months but no-one would have really anticipated the extent of the hot
weather we had last week, which was reported as being a once-in-a-century event.
The power outages created delays as well, which hindered some
of the maintenance work on the trains and tracks.
Those train cancellations, though, whilst they were very
annoying were temporary. They were nothing like the permanencies the Kennett
government’s actions left us with in making those decisions to cut services —
not temporary delays when you cannot get home on a Thursday night or are delayed
in getting home or you have got to wait for a bus to turn up to get home on a
Tuesday or a Wednesday; no, none of that; for years people in Ararat had to put
up with not having a railway line. For how many years have the people of
Maryborough not had a railway line? The people of western Victoria who are now
relying on transport connections would never have thought that a government
could possibly sit down and talk to them about making sure they had access to
transport, that it was financially viable and enabled them to go about their
What I say to members on the other side of the chamber is yes,
last week was certainly problematic but what was more problematic for the people
of Victoria was their government, when in power, cutting services — and people
will remember that. It might have been 10 or so years ago but people remember
it; it is still burning in their minds. They also remember that the Kennett
government closed their schools, sacked their nurses and privatised the
transport system. The people in western Victoria remember the Kennett government
closing the Maryborough line, as they remember the closing of the Ararat line.
They remember that the Kennett government closed the Gippsland line at
Bairnsdale, and they also remember and will continue to remember that it is this
government that has restored those services for regional Victoria.
The Victorian transport plan is enormous in every sense.
It is a commitment to the growing transport needs of this state
and to shaping Victoria into a more efficient and sustainable state, whilst the
Liberal Party and The Nationals are plainly committed to doing nothing; they are
absolutely committed to doing nothing for regional Victoria.
O’DONOHUE (Eastern Victoria) — I am very pleased to make a contribution in
this extensive debate, and I congratulate my colleague Mr Koch for moving this
motion and for his contribution on this very important issue of public
transport. Public transport is a critical issue. It is one of the core services
of a state government, but in recent days and weeks the system has absolutely
collapsed. I want to pick up some general themes not only gleaned from
contributions to the debate by government members today but from the
government’s contribution through the newspapers and other forms of media over
the last few weeks and indeed months, and to outline some of the contradictions
made in those contributions.
We have heard speakers today talk about the evils of
privatisation. Mr Viney said that the train system was flogged off to the
private sector. We have heard others talk about the evils of privatisation and
the effect it has had on the system. But then we have the same government
extending the contract with the operator, Connex, and now going through a
re-tendering process. When the minister is pressed, he says, ‘Yes, we believe in
On the one hand, members are criticising privatisation while on
the other hand, the minister and the Premier are embracing it. Maybe that is a
contradiction between the left and the right of the Labor Party.
Maybe it is a belief by the Labor Party that it does not have the capacity or
skills to run the system and that privatisation may not be perfect but that the
government would do an even worse job if it ran the system. Who knows? That is
an inherent contradiction in the debate we have had thus far.
We have also had in recent years, in fact over several years,
the government talking about climate change and about preparing services for
climate change, about the need to prepare for climate change and what is going
to happen. Then we have contributors to the debate today saying that the rail
services could not cope because it was too hot.
On the one hand we had Premier Brumby and former Premier Bracks
saying, ‘We are preparing; we need to prepare because this is going to happen’,
but on the other hand we have other speakers saying it is too hot for the
services to operate.
Either the government has been doing the work and preparing for
climate change because it has seen it coming, or it has not. It cannot have it
both ways, and that has been an inherent contradiction in what the government
has been saying.
The Labor Party came to office with a plan for 20 per cent of
trips to be by public transport by 2020. That was a very clear promise from
Labor that 20 per cent of trips would be on public transport by 2020. Today, in
2009, approximately 12 or 13 per cent of people use public transport. We are a
long, long way from the government’s promise of 20 per cent by 2020 — millions
more trips would need to take place between now and 2020 for that commitment to
be reached. We have government members saying, ‘We could not have predicted
this; we could not have known that patronage would rise by so much and that the
popularity of the system would be so great’.
Ms Pulford and Mr Viney both said that ‘We are a victim of our
own success’, but the government is still a long way from its stated policy
commitment of 20 per cent of trips on public transport by 2020.
We have heard speaker after speaker rail against the former
Kennett government and what they perceive it did or did not do which has caused
us to be in this situation. The reality is that this government has been in
power for 10 years. It has had the capacity, the revenue and the resources to do
what it needed to do to fix any perceived problems it may have thought flowed
from the previous government. The government never mentioned that the Labor
Party was in power before Premier Kennett’s government, from 1982 to 1992, and
that there was a decade of inaction under the previous Cain and Kirner
governments that sent Victoria bankrupt.
We have heard several speakers opposite, obviously speaking
from government-prepared notes, refer to returning train services to Gippsland.
Mr Tee spoke about the benefits of returning train services to Gippsland. The
last government speaker, Ms Tierney, spoke about returning train services to
Gippsland. In 1999, when the Labor Party was in opposition, in 2002 when it was
in government and in 2006 when it was still in government, Labor went to the
electorate and said, ‘We will return the South Gippsland railway line to the
people of South Gippsland. The South Gippsland railway line will be reopened by
a Labor government’. Government members brush over that. To his credit, Mr
Scheffer broached the issue. He said the South Gippsland rail line was not
reopened after an investigation, and he said, if my notes are correct, ‘It was
the right thing to do’. That is an absolute disgrace. If Mr Scheffer thinks it
was right for the government to lie to the people of South Gippsland for three
elections and turn its back on reopening a rail line that it said it would
reopen, then that is a disgrace.
If Mr Scheffer thinks that lie was the right thing to do, I
wonder what other lies of this government he thinks are worthwhile or justified.
Other speakers spoke about the disastrous so-called fast rail
project and the cost blow-outs associated with that, the failure of myki, the
funds expended on those projects in a wasteful fashion, way over budget, and the
fact that that precludes investment in other areas. Mr Rich-Phillips made the
point that we believe the government should deliver better services, but it is
not, as the Treasurer presents it, one option or another option. The government
has demonstrated an incapacity to manage projects either on time or on budget,
and that has had consequential flow-on effects to other areas of investment.
Many speakers on the government side have spoken about the
government’s public transport plan. It is the fourth plan the government has
released for public transport.
It was released before the economic slowdown was truly
understood and before the Prime Minister made his announcement today about the
$44 billion stimulus package. The underpinning of the whole Victorian transport
plan is federal funding. We all have a magic wish list — a magic pudding, as
the Treasurer referred to it in question time today. The transport plan is not
worth the paper it is written on, because there is no funding underpinning it.
For government speakers to speak at length today about a plan that has no
funding, that is based on the never-never and that extends out 10, 20 or 30
years is misleading the people of Victoria.
I want to pick up on a couple of comments that individual
speakers on the government side have made. It struck me from the tone of the
debate just how out of touch government members are. I am talking about not just
ministers but also relatively new members of Parliament who have clearly lost
touch with the day-to-day experiences of people.