Public transport

I rise to respond and grieve for the state of public transport in Victoria under the leadership of the Minister for Public Transport. The minister spent pretty much his entire contribution to the debate seeking to bag and drag down the propositions put forward by the opposition. The best that the government can do is simply respond to initiatives by the opposition.

What an extraordinary proposition we have here. We said near enough to six months ago that we would come out within 12 months of the election with a comprehensive, fully funded plan to address the question — —

It was a fully funded plan to address the public transport needs of this state going forward.

What did this state government commit itself to? The ridiculous folly of this tunnel — this $8 billion folly — connecting the Eastern Freeway to the Tullamarine Freeway. I refer members to the Eddington report, which indicates that approximately 23 per cent of traffic coming off the Eastern Freeway seeks to go east-west across the city and connect up with the Tullamarine Freeway. That is not me saying that; that is what is said in the Eddington report.

Have circumstances changed? We will have to wait and see, because at the moment we have no capacity to scrutinise the traffic flow statistics. We certainly have no capacity to scrutinise the business case, because all these matters are being kept secret and kept from public scrutiny. The government can merrily go along and say, ‘We have the congestion-busting answer. This is it.

We have found the tablet of knowledge, and it is going to be the east-west tunnel. It is going to create 3200 jobs, and it is going to be a marvellous outcome for Melbourne — a road connecting the Eastern Freeway to the Tullamarine Freeway’.

It is interesting to note that only in the last couple of weeks the Queensland government announced a very ambitious project costing billions of dollars, which is also a tunnel project. The most interesting thing about that project is that it is a public transport tunnel underneath Brisbane. I thought it was really interesting that that very conservative Liberal government had understood that the future livability of the state of Queensland is reliant upon investing heavily in a public transport outcome.

That is exactly what we are seeking to do with our Project 10 000. We want to put public transport squarely at the centre of the conversation, to offer a real, fully funded alternative to what this government is proposing. In that context there were a number of matters covered by the previous speaker, the Minister for Public Transport, that I think are worthwhile picking up.

The minister came to the debate crowing about reliability on the train system.

Here is the truth of this, Acting Speaker: it is not hard to have a reliable train system, as the minister seeks to crow about, if you run trains against the peak, if you keep your reliability statistics up by having trains bypass stations and to ensure further reliability you take trains out of the loop. That is this government’s solution. That is definitely a solution for ensuring reliability, but it is shonky. It is simply shonky on the part of the minister. He knows — and these are the facts — that at the moment reliability is based on trains running against the peak, trains missing stations and trains being taken out of the loop. They are the simple truths, the facts, and members of the government cannot deny them.

The minister pointed to the regional rail project and crowed, ‘We recast this project, which is under budget and ahead of schedule’.

The simple truth is that the project was a fully funded initiative of the Labor government which sought to unchoke some key public transport routes coming into the city and also for country trains coming into the city. The regional rail project is an important investment initiated by the Labor government which is now being finalised by this government. I acknowledge that the project is coming to fruition, but let us not forget who started it and funded it — it was a Labor government.

I was also interested to hear government members crowing about the rollout of the new E-class trams that are coming onto the system. They were piloted late at night a few weeks ago in the member for Prahran’s area — down in Chapel Street. They are beautiful to look at. Admittedly they are 10 months late — —

They are 10 months late, but the first two are now out there.

In an aside the minister said to a member of the opposition, ‘Thank God you got those E-class trams; we are delighted we are able to launch these new trams’. Yet again, the rollout of the new E-class trams was an initiative of the Labor government. It is a fantastic project. The E-class trams have been built here in Melbourne and are world class.

As we know, the issue for public transport is that there has been a massive shift of people onto it. Today 70 per cent more people are using public transport than 10 years ago, and we know that the system is under severe pressure.

In that context the opposition has sought to frame a strategic intervention in the public transport system through the announcement of a grade separation program. If members on the government benches understood how public transport works, they would know that you have to address fundamental bottlenecks in the system.

Victoria is unique in this context, because there are about 180 level crossings on the metropolitan system which cause conflict between the public transport system and motor vehicles more generally. The Labor government has undertaken an ambitious program for the 50 most strategic level crossings to be eliminated to ensure that the efficiency of the public transport system can be increased and the flow of motor vehicle traffic enhanced.

I turn to the question of the allegations that Labor has underbudgeted its plan for grade separations.

The coalition’s three budgeted grade separations will be completed for a total of $349.8 million — that is a fact, that is what they will cost. That is an average of $116.6 million per grade separation, which is within the average cost estimated under Labor’s plan. The Minister for Public Transport, who preceded me in this debate, told the house that the two grade separations required for the regional rail link that are on Anderson Road in Sunshine would cost $150 million together, or $75 million each. That is a total average of $100 million.

Let us be clear. Members of the opposition have worked on the basis of the established budgets of this government — in terms of their figures that are published in the budget papers — about how grade separations should be achieved in this state. Each grade separation is different, but members of the opposition have been extremely conservative in their costings of this program. We want to ensure that we get the best outcome in terms of frequency and reliability of public transport through the system. We want to ensure that we have traffic management and also ensure that we have good urban design that attends to that. The other two aspects of that that are really important — –.

Not only will we ensure that we have the grade separations but one of the key elements of this is to ensure that you take the opportunities for land value capture that may attend to some of these grade separations. What that means is that when you free up some of the land, you offer the opportunity to partner up with local governments where there are contiguous parcels of land and with VicTrack where there is VicTrack land to ensure that you provide opportunities for the private sector to further develop those sites.

Our first priority will be car parking, because that is fundamental to getting people onto the train network and ensuring that the reliability of the train network is enhanced. We believe there is an opportunity there, and certainly we believe there will be an opportunity to drag down the total cost of these projects if you have a pipeline of works that is available going forward for eight years. We are not talking about projects that go out for 10, 15 or 20 years; these projects will be achieved within the eight years of our program.

The debate this morning has been dominated by the government seeking in a pathetic way to try to tear down the initiatives of the opposition. In my time in this Parliament no opposition has come out a year in advance of an election with such a well-established, well-argued and well-budgeted transport plan. The opportunity is there for members of this government to provide an alternative proposition, and they simply cannot. All they can do is seek to denigrate a plan that has been widely supported in the community. The opposition transport plan will make a huge difference to public transport in this state and will create 10 000 jobs. More importantly it is a major alternative to the ridiculous folly of this government proceeding blindly down the path of tying this state up to a mad east-west tunnel that will do nothing — nothing! — to support public transport or enhance the livability of this state. I grieve for the future of this state under a Liberal-Nationals government.