Mr HOWARD (Ballarat East)— The word ‘delusional’ is the only word you can think of when you hear the comments that are being made by members on the opposite side of the house, members of the government, with regard to this matter of public importance (MPI). In fact when you read the statement of the matter of public importance that was proposed by the Minister for Public Transport today, you have to check the date again: is it 1 April? No, it is 2 April. The government has missed the date, because this would have to be an April Fools Day trick if ever there was one.
You have to believe that this Minister for Public Transport gets around this state of Victoria like Mr Magoo — he does not see what is happening. He does not deliver, and he has not seen what is happening on public transport. As the member for Ballarat East and a member for regional Victoria, I know that the minister does not understand that he has a responsibility to deliver into regional Victoria, and that simply is not happening.
Let me begin my contribution by noting headlines from the Ballarat Courier, not from last month or last year but from Monday of this week.
The headline is ‘Ballarat train delays continue’, and it reports:
- Train commuters received a shock this morning after discovering services on the Ballarat line were running up to 40 minutes behind schedule.
- Delays and cancellation of train services started as early as 5.00 a.m., with multiple services being switched from trains to coaches.
- The latest update from V/Line states that delays of around 40 minutes around the Deer Park area were due to a signal fault.
- Multiple trains from Bacchus Marsh to Southern Cross were cancelled and reverted to coach services.
That was from Monday of this week, but two days later this minister wants to say, ‘We are doing a wonderful job of making the trains punctual and reliable’. Clearly that was not the case on Monday of this week, and it has not been the case for so many days already this year and over the last year.
In addition, an email dated today was passed on to me today from a traveller on the Bendigo line. This traveller says:
- I’m writing to you about our V/Line rail. My wife Monique and thousands of other people travel to … Melbourne five days a week and are constantly frustrated with late and slow train services and never informed properly with cancelled trains …
The traveller goes on to say:
- You … want regional Vic to grow, but do nothing to make the country commute more efficient. It’s so frustrating for my wife, who gets up at 5.00 a.m. each day to catch the 6.00 a.m. train so as she will be on time at work, to find the V/Line train has to give way to Metro trains at Watergardens and Sunbury, so of course she’s late most days, and the return home is just as bad. We are sick of all the spin … so what I’m asking is quite simple make our V/Line trains priority through the metro maze so as the regional people can at least get to work and home on time.
This is an email dated from today from another rail traveller on the Bendigo line, which runs through my electorate. Clearly punctuality is not something this government can be proud about.
Only Mr Magoo could go about saying, ‘Yes, we have got wonderful trains that are all going on time and we ought to be congratulated’. It is simply not the case.
On Monday evening this week I held a community meeting in Ballan, and amongst the people who came along were commuters who use the rail service daily to get from Ballan to Melbourne. They wanted to let me know the latest, and the latest was again that morning when the train service arrived in Ballan from Ballarat to go on to Melbourne there was standing room only for those Ballan travellers going to Melbourne, and that has regularly been the case. Let us go back a little bit to reflect upon the reality of what has happened over recent years.
When Labor came to office in 1999 the rail service had been brought to its knees by the Liberal-Nationals coalition government, especially in regional Victoria where so many lines had been closed — to Ararat, down to Gippsland and elsewhere across the state. Labor reopened those lines.
We invested significantly in the regional fast rail service that saw new V/Locity trains being built in this state. It was a lovely new change to actually have rail carriages built and assembled in Victoria, which is something that had not happened for years and certainly not under the coalition government. We upgraded the rail on those major rail lines between Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Gippsland into Melbourne. Rail travellers thanked us for that and knew they had a much more comfortable and reliable rail service.
However, we have seen rail travel times reduced again under this government. We were up to just over an hour between Ballarat and Melbourne, but that is no longer the case. It has gone backwards and there is crowding because it has been a popular service. Although Labor in office purchased many V/Locity trains and had more on order, this government dallied over ordering new trains and caused a backlog which means that people from Ballan and other travellers have to stand on overcrowded trains.
Therefore this government has not done its job on passenger services.
In terms of affordability, we heard announcements last week about Metro rail and reductions in pricing. That has not been the experience in regional Victoria, which has seen prices go up 20 per cent over the three years of this government, and there is no relief in sight. It is not more affordable and not more reliable; it is less reliable under this government.
As we know, this government’s major project for transport infrastructure is an $8 billion tunnel in Melbourne. It is not rail projects but a road tunnel that is not going to benefit the people in my electorate at all, who see the roads in our electorate deteriorating. The Ballarat-Colac road is one of the worst roads in this state, as identified on a website the Labor Party established. As I travel along it all this government has done is put up more signs that say ‘Rough surface, drive slowly’ or ‘Drive carefully’.
It has not upgraded the roads and it has not delivered on roads in my area.
The government promised $4 million in funding over the term of this government for Ballarat-Buninyong Road, but it has been very slow in delivering that project. Even though it started with $2 million committed under the Labor government to upgrade the roundabout at Whitehorse Road, that work was only just started last month. It is not good enough to see this government sitting around for nearly three and a half years before getting around to delivering this roundabout, which was funded by Labor in the 2010 budget. That is not good enough.
We want to see this government get serious about roadworks in and around regional Victoria. Our country roads have deteriorated badly as funding has been drawn away. Even in town we see that roads like Ballarat-Buninyong Road have not attracted the funding that was promised, and the delays are unbelievable. The people in my electorate and people of regional Victoria have been seriously let down by this government. This matter of public importance — this statement put forward by the Minister for Public Transport — is deluded. The minister needs to get out, take off those Mr Magoo glasses and listen to people, look at what is happening in public transport, look at what is happening with our roads and commit to getting work done to address those issues. I do not believe that is possible under this government. We saw under Labor a commitment to public transport, as shown under the Bracks and Brumby governments.
People in my electorate clearly understand that, and they have only been disappointed by what they have seen under this government not only on public transport but on roads. Labor is committed to addressing these issues.
This government has dillydallied for more than three years. Its members make promises and wild and deluded statements. From day one they should have got on with it and started delivering on the projects that were clearly identified by the people of my region as needing to be done. We want to see serious work, not hear deluded statements from this government.