August 22, 2013  |  Second Reading

Major Transport Projects Facilitation Amendment (East West Link and Other Projects) Bill 2013

 I am  pleased to  speak on  the Major  Transport Projects Facilitation Amendment  (East West Link and Other Projects) Bill  2013. Clearly there are two issues associated with this bill. The significant focus of the  bill  is  to  bring  in legislation which will  enable  this  project,  the so-called east-west link, to be fast-tracked. You have to ask: why is this piece of legislation necessary?

The last government built EastLink and got under  way and completed the regional fast  rail project and numerous infrastructure projects important  to this state and to the people of my electorate. Under the  Kennett government infrastructure projects also took place. There was  the capacity  to get on with those projects in a timely  manner and see them completed, and they  did  not need to move more hastily than was appropriate.

Labor and I oppose this piece of legislation because the government is trying to move with undue haste. What has always been known with major projects is that it is very important that you do your research appropriately before you get started with a project, that you  consult with  and listen  to those  who understand the issues associated with your proposal and that you get the best advice before you go  ahead. We  have heard that the City of Melbourne  and other  councils, which believe  they  have  some knowledge and advice, as well as community members who want  to provide feedback  on  this project, are  being denied that  opportunity under this legislation.

This  side of  the house  is very concerned that the  government is  moving with undue haste  on this  project. As  members already  know, we do not support this project because there is no business case and we believe there are so many other opportunities to better address the transport needs of people in this state that ought to be pursued.

If the government wants to go down the path of this so-called east-west link, it needs to make sure that it does not operate with such undue haste that the state regrets this afterwards.

The  people of  my electorate  of Ballarat  East want  to know  more about  this project. They hear that it is  a so-called  east-west link,  yet the  project as proposed starts  in the  east and ends at the Tullamarine Freeway. For people in the west of Melbourne, or further west in Ballarat, Bendigo or Geelong, it could not  be called an east-west  link, because there is not  the link that they  are looking for across the west of Melbourne.

Many  people in  my electorate  have reasons to travel to Melbourne on a regular basis. Many people commute to work in Melbourne on a daily basis.

Some of  those people  take the  train, and those who are  train travellers  are pleased that the former government built the regional fast rail  link, which has seen more and more people taking advantage of the train link into Melbourne. The train  travellers are sometimes  concerned  about the  delays  as the trains  go through the metropolitan system, so they are pleased that  the Brumby government initiated the regional rail link project.  I am pleased that this government has continued with  the regional rail link, but  it is clearly not a project that it initiated. It was initiated under Labor, and it is going to  see improvement  in rail links between the west and Melbourne.

However, those who travel into Melbourne by road on  a regular basis continue to tell me that it is  getting slower and slower. They  are pleased that the former government constructed the Deer Park bypass and the Anthonys Cutting realignment so there is a smooth  run on the road from Ballarat and  the west into Melbourne during non-peak periods.

But those who  travel  in the peak periods  tell me, and I  have  experienced it myself, that once you get towards Caroline Springs the  traffic  starts  to  get slower  and slower.  When you  get onto  the Deer Park bypass the  traffic flows better until you get  on the Western Ring Road and the West Gate Freeway. During peak periods things  get very slow at that  point as the traffic joins  with the traffic coming from Geelong to Melbourne.

These road  users know this is only going to  get  slower in the coming years as more traffic comes  to the  city from  Geelong, Ballarat  and other areas to the west. They are looking for  an alternative to the  West Gate Bridge, as Sir  Rod Eddington proposed. We are looking for a second  river  crossing. Our concern is that the east-west link that the Napthine government is proposing is not going to address any of  the traffic  problems experienced by people who  live in  and travel  to Melbourne from my  electorate.  If  $8  billion  is spent on this east-west link tunnel  in  the Clifton Hill area, the projects  people  in  my  electorate  are looking for to make traffic flow better are not going to happen.

Those who travel by train are looking  for the  Melbourne Metro rail tunnel that has now been put on hold  by this government. It is  another project proposed in the  Eddington report that would have seen better traffic flow, in this  case in the public transport system, through Melbourne.  This government, like coalition governments in  general,  does not support  public transport. Under  the Kennett government not  only  did the rail system  get  further run down —  as with the Geelong-Melbourne rail link and the Bendigo-Melbourne rail link — but some country  rail services, such as those to Ararat and Maryborough, were closed down altogether.

It is important that we get the balance right. I and the Labor Party say we need a balance. Public transport needs to be strongly supported as a way to encourage people  off the roads. This is clearly not happening under this government as it stalls the proposed Melbourne Metro tunnel. All the  eggs should  not be  put in one basket,  as they  have been  with this $8 billion tunnel under Clifton Hill, which is in effect all the proposed east-west link is.

We want to see a system developed, as is proposed by the Eddington  report, from a  range of traffic  proposals  looking at both  better road infrastructure  for getting  to  and  from  Melbourne  and better  rail  infrastructure through  the Melbourne system. This is clearly not being proposed under this government. The people of my electorate want not just better road  infrastructure for getting into  Melbourne, such as  an alternative to the West  Gate  Bridge  for  crossing  the  Yarra River,  in  the  future  but  also opportunities for roadworks in the Ballarat area, such as a bypass road from the Western Highway that links to the Midland Highway  to Geelong. I am keen  to see opportunities  for a  link to  the  east of  Ballarat, which  would be  of great benefit to people who  travel down the Western Highway and then take the Midland Highway to  Geelong or in the other direction. Projects such as these are  going to be put off into the never-never if this $8 billion tunnel is supported.

We know that a  business case has not  yet  been put together for  this project. Although we have federal opposition leader, Tony  Abbott, saying he will support it, clearly that is not on the basis of a sound business  case that has been put forward. We are waiting to see that  business case so we can understand how this government can be strongly supporting this project.

It is clear the government is not doing so in an appropriate and planned manner. That  this  bill  aims to  bypass  sound planning  and  consultation  with local government and the like makes this project of more concern.

I do not want to see us all rueing the day when this government went down a path that disenfranchised people in my electorate through a lot of  money being spent on this tunnel instead of a more balanced approach having been taken to the flow of  traffic,  in  terms of both public transport and road traffic,  through  and around Melbourne. I want  to  see  the  proper  homework  done,  a business case prepared and proper consultation put in place for whatever projects happen.

The  Labor Party  is planning  to put  forward its proposals  ahead of  the next election. We  will address a number of  these issues and show  where we stand in terms of the road and rail infrastructure in and around the Melbourne area which will clearly be needed in the future.

We did not shirk the job when we were in government with  the many road and rail projects that we undertook. I look forward to more — —

  The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Weller) — Order! The member’s time has expired.