Monday, 24 June 2013
Infrastructure (Priority Funding) Amendment Bill 2013; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
If you come into inner-city Melbourne on any given weekday morning you are almost certainly going to see a line of cars down the Eastern Freeway trying to get into the city. As you look at any picture taken from Hoddle Street out towards the east and down the Eastern Freeway you will see three or four lanes of cars side by side, chockers; you will see a bus lane that has a couple of buses moving in it; and you will see a great swathe of green down the middle of the freeway—land that was set aside more than 30 years ago for a rail line out to Doncaster. You will also find on any given morning people who are trying to come from the west into the city struggling on overcrowded trains and quite often being left at the platform.
As a result, anyone with any sense of rationality looking at Melbourne's transport system has said over the last few decades that there are two critical projects we need to build. One is to finalise that rail line out to Doncaster that we have been promised for so long. The other is to build the Melbourne Metro rail, coming in from the west and then looping in towards the city stations. That will provide another river crossing and greater opportunities for people from the west to come in to work, but also to get into the city without having to use their cars.
Despite the fact that those projects have been on the table for a while and despite the fact that the Melbourne Metro project is ranked by Infrastructure Australia in its highest category, as being ready to proceed, what we have in Victoria is a state government that is ignoring both those projects and is instead pushing for tunnel, a tollway, coming from the east through the middle of inner-city Melbourne into the city. This tunnel will not just wreck inner-city Melbourne and turn it into a rat's nest of on and off ramps; it will not only wreck some of the greatest suburbs that are drawcards for people to come and live, work and play in the city; but it is also completely unfeasible because the people coming in from the east in the morning do not want to get over to the west, as the tunnel proponents tell us, they want to get into the city or to the south. As a result, all that this proposed tunnel will do is extend the massive traffic jam that is the Eastern Freeway in the morning right through the city; it will do nothing to shift people. That is why it is not on Infrastructure Australia's priority list.
Despite the fact that it is not rated highly on Infrastructure Australia's priority list, we have governments intent on progressing it. Currently it is the Victorian Liberal government and the federal opposition who want to progress it. Labor at the state level started the idea of the east-west tunnel, and when there was a debate in this place a little while ago several members of the Labor Party spoke in favour of it. To its credit, though, the Labor Party has announced a significant investment in the Melbourne Metro rail project. That is very good, but it will all amount to nothing if there is a change of government in September. So this bill provides us with an opportunity to Abbott-proof inner-city Melbourne. I urge the government to take up this bill, because it will ensure that that investment that is promised into the Melbourne Metro will be prioritised over the road projects that at the moment are not even on Infrastructure Australia's ready to proceed list.
What this bill will do is introduce an element of rationality into transport planning in our cities—something that has been missing for a very long time. It will say that if there is a rail project listed high up on Infrastructure Australia's list, that should get priority over a lower down road project. Exempted from that, of course, are important safety projects and upgrades that are already underway, and there will be areas where there is no competing public transport project—in regional and rural areas, for example—so it is not intended to address those and it would not. But what it would say is that in our inner cities, where we have been crying out for safe, clean and efficient way of moving people, of getting them to and from work and to and from the city, if such a project is a goer it should be prioritised and we can Abbott-proof inner-city Melbourne before the election. (Time expired)