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.