Monday, 9 September 2019
Private Members' Business
Sydney Metro West
That this House:
(a) that western Sydney is home to two million people, which is nearly 10 per cent of Australia's population and Australia's third largest economy;
(b) that western Sydney's population is expected to grow by an additional one million people in the next 20 years while the population in the corridor between Parramatta and Sydney is expected to grow by 420,000;
(c) that more than 300,000 new jobs are expected to be created in the same period and that traffic congestion is expected to cost Sydney nearly $15 billion by 2031;
(d) that Parramatta is western Sydney's Central Business District (CBD) and is Sydney's second CBD;
(f) that the project, when operational, is expected to slash travel times between the two CBDs to just 20 minutes (on trains running every two minutes) and reduce traffic congestion;
(2) recognises the NSW Government's commitment of $6.4 billion in funding to the project and additional commitment to fast-track the project to begin construction in 2020;
(3) further notes that Federal Labor committed to $3 billion funding to the project prior to the 2019 federal election; and
(4) calls on the Federal Government to urgently allocate the funding that will ensure the project can begin construction in the fast-tracked timeframe.
I want to talk about the lost and wasted hours in traffic congestion; lack of parking at train stations that causes people to leave home as much as an hour earlier than they otherwise would in order to park, losing an extra hour with family at the end of each day and putting extra pressure on partners taking care of school drop-off and collection; and reorganising your time around traffic—joining a gym in the city rather than a local one so that you can travel early and avoid the traffic, but losing the opportunity to build local community relationships and spend time with family.
Traffic is expensive. It's estimated to cost Sydney nearly $15 billion by 2031, but the real cost is to families and communities. People spend wasted hours in transit instead of with family and friends, sitting in a car instead of building relationships that sustain family and community. There's a good part of the solution in front of us right now, and that is the proposed Metro West—a new metro line that will connect Parramatta and Sydney via the Bays Precinct and Sydney Olympic Park. When operational, Metro West is expected to slash travel times to just 20 minutes, and trains will run every two minutes, easing travel times for communities and reducing traffic congestion.
This project is urgent. I rise today to urge the federal government to allocate funding to fast-track the Metro West project. Federal Labor made a commitment prior to the election, and I ask the federal government to do the same. People in Parramatta and further west spend far too much time in transit to work. Road tolls, including those on the new WestConnex, are a real burden and are contracted to rise four per cent per year for decades to come. This is a community-changing project for now and the future. The problem is already dire, which is why Infrastructure Australia identified Sydney Metro West as a high-priority initiative with a medium-term timescale of five to 10 years. It was added to the priority list in 2016.
Let's look at what we have now. We have the T1 western line, which is the main rail line from Penrith to Central via Parramatta. The line is more than a century old. It's already crowded well beyond the benchmark at peak hour. The benchmark for overcrowding, strangely, is 135 per cent. That means 100 per cent of seats are filled and no-one is standing. But the latest data from March 2016 shows that when the 8.05 train from Schofields reaches Westmead it's at 150 per cent capacity—well over the 135 per cent target. It drops slightly at Parramatta as people get off for the CBD, but it is at 161 per cent at Strathfield and 172 per cent at Redfern—well above the 135 per cent target. Punctuality is down—from 93.1 per cent in January to 88.5 per cent in June, just over six months. As bad as the overcrowding is now, patronage is increasing in line with growth.
The 2015 Australian Infrastructure Audit projected that passenger demand on the existing T1 line would increase by about 50 per cent between now and 2031, and it's already happening. For the morning rush at Parramatta Station, the population is expected to grow by an additional one million people in the next 20 years, and, in the Metro West corridor, it's expected to grow by 420,000. There'll be more than 300,000 new jobs in that corridor between now and 2036, so it's incredibly important.
The Morrison government has not committed to this extra funding. The New South Wales Treasurer has publicly stated that he'll ask the federal government for additional funding. Our office has written a letter to Minister McCormack asking for the Morrison government's commitment, but we are yet to receive a response. This is one of the most important projects in our region, supported—in fact, conceived—by a Liberal state government. I strongly urge the federal government to get behind it sooner rather than later. As I said, this is not just a matter of public transport; it's a project which allows families and communities to spend more time together doing the things that matter. Every hour that a person spends sitting in a car, when they could be at home, costs families, costs children and costs the community, in the long run, far more than the lost productivity. It costs us in social cohesion and strong families.
I start by congratulating the member for Parramatta on this very excellent motion. My wife recently had her job relocated to Parramatta. It means that her drive—because that is the only way to get to Parramatta from Collaroy, or the northern beaches—on some days is two hours both ways. What the member for Parramatta said about the disruption to family lives and the impact it has on children and on communities I can only echo, with a factor of 10. It has had an impact on our daughter, on our family and indeed on my wife's psychology and mental health—being stuck in traffic like that. I am often bemused, and not in a good way, when people from other cities of Australia talk about traffic congestion. As a member of parliament, you are shunted around the country to different committee hearings and you note that no-one quite knows what traffic congestion is until they come to Sydney.
Having heaped all that praise upon the member for Parramatta, I should note that the state government of New South Wales have done an enormous amount for the people of Western Sydney and indeed for the entire Sydney basin. They have spent $23½ billion on WestConnex, the M4 and the M5. They are spending $4 billion on two light rail lines in Parramatta. The Metro North West, which recently opened, cost $8 billion. The Parramatta Metro West, to which this motion speaks, will cost somewhere in the vicinity of $22 billion. The Sydney Metro is another $23½ billion. There is the Aerotropolis, of course. I don't need to say very much more about that. There is the first high-rise public school in Australia, at Parramatta, which is $300 million. And I left out NorthConnex, which will relieve a lot of traffic pressure on west Pennant Hills Road and people trying to get into the Parramatta CBD. The reason for all of this, let us not forget, was the $50 billion infrastructure backlog that was left at the end of the Carr-Keneally government, when you had a premier who said, 'Sydney is full; people need to go away,' and then, at that very moment, the Rudd federal government increased immigration to 400,000 people, many of whom settled in Western Sydney.
I would also reflect on a couple of other things. The first is the move the state government has made to move a lot of government services and departments to Parramatta. While I welcome this in theory and in principle, it does have two deleterious effects. The first is, there are many core services—for example, legal services—that have an ecosystem based in the Sydney CBD. Relocating part of those services to Parramatta has a very negative impact on productivity. It also has the impact of diminishing people's access to those services from other parts of Sydney. From the Northern Beaches, on most days, a drive to Parramatta can take up to two hours. That's not the case to the CBD, and it's not the case for many other people in Sydney.
I think the state government needs to be very cautious about the services it relocates to Parramatta and the sorts of access impacts that has on the rest of Sydney, and the rest of New South Wales, and on the ecosystem or supply chain, particularly in legal services where you have lawyers and barristers based in the city. The courts' specialities, like industrial relations, are also based in the CBD. The Fair Work Commission is based in William Street, Woolloomooloo. The other thing is a—
Mr Husic interjecting—
The member for Chifley knows very well, because he and I have many friends in common—they like to deny it, depending on who they're having dinner with, that many of them do live in the western suburbs of Sydney.
Mr Husic interjecting—
Now he denies it too. I hear the cock crowing a third time, Mr Deputy Speaker! The other thing is— (Time expired)
Mr Husic interjecting—
I'm pleased to hear that. I might be able to get through my speech without interjections. That's good. I congratulate the member for Parramatta for bringing this motion to the parliament. To give credit where it's due, the member for Mackellar has made some very positive points, but, as he suggested, there are some things he certainly should reflect upon, No. 1 being the provision of infrastructure in Western Sydney, and in south-western Sydney, by this federal government.
The Western Sydney region is the city's primary driver of population growth, with a population of over two million set to grow to 3.5 million by around 2035 to 2040. Western Sydney also has Australia's third largest economy. As a doctor, however, I am a great believer in the social determinants of health. That includes things like adequate housing, good jobs and adequate transport so that people can get to and from work and spend time with their families at the end of each working day. Unfortunately, that is not happening in Western and south-western Sydney.
The Parramatta CBD is Western Sydney's CBD and is Sydney's second largest CBD. It's essential that our transport infrastructure doesn't fall behind and that Western Sydney roads and public transport systems are fit for the sustained population growth that's going to occur in the next 30 to 40 years. Addressing mobility and congestion is the key, and putting infrastructure in place before the rapid development is the second key to unlocking the wealth and potential of Western and south-western Sydney.
I want to acknowledge that the government's plans for Sydney's Metro West project are plans. They're not funding it. They haven't guaranteed funding and I believe it will be many years before they do. I'd also point out that the development of Western Sydney Airport is occurring, as we speak, without any concrete plans for transport infrastructure from south-western Sydney—my electorate of Macarthur, in particular—to Western Sydney Airport. This is in spite of the most rapidly growing populations in New South Wales and close to the most rapidly growing population in Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald has a very good diagram this morning, a very good map, that shows population growth—
Yes, in Sydney, in the next 20 years. It shows that the Camden LGA will grow more than three times faster than any other electorate, any other area, in Sydney in the next 20 years—a growth of around 130 per cent; yet there is no public transport infrastructure, particularly rail, planned for that area.
The western corridor has the strongest housing growth in Sydney, and the Sydney Metro West project has the highest potential to provide value-adding to all those areas. Federal funding is needed urgently to ensure construction can begin in a fast-tracked time frame and close any funding gaps. It's obvious to all involved that the project simply cannot wait. It is also obvious to me that the heavy rail line from Leppington to Western Sydney Airport can't wait either. This is urgently needed transport infrastructure that has a high value-added component. It will improve the lives of many people living in Western Sydney and South Western Sydney and provide much support for the families that are rapidly moving into the area.
The electorate of Macarthur and the electorates to the north—Lindsay, Parramatta, Chifley et cetera—urgently need this transport infrastructure to be put in place. They are sick of being told, 'It will come, it will come,' when nothing is being done. We are being delivered platitudes. To give credit where it is due the North West Metro project—and my eldest son was one of the project managers on the project—is providing an excellent service. But the people of Western Sydney and South Western Sydney should not have to put up with congested roads and no public transport while they wait for this vacillating government to finally decide whether they will or won't fund the project and get things moving. It is affecting their lives, it is affecting their families—as the member for Mackellar has pointed out—and it is affecting their quality time with their kids. I think it is far too long to have to wait for more and more bureaucratic decision-making to occur. We know that the project is urgent. We know that it needs to be funded. It must happen.
The Morrison government is working hard to deliver for the people of Western Sydney by busting congestion and getting on with delivering the jobs of the future and the jobs of today. As the member for Lindsay, I welcome our governments infrastructure investment for Western Sydney ensuring that more people can get to work and home again safer and quicker and that more people can work where they live and not have to do that long commute out of the area for a good job. I did that commute for over 10 years—15 hours a week—and I'm proud to see that investment in our community so that our kids won't have to do that long commute. They will have access to good local jobs.
In New South Wales alone we are investing $39.2 billion in infrastructure. In Western Sydney over $5.3 billion will be invested to deliver congestion-busting infrastructure in roads and rail. The Morrison government, in partnership with the New South Wales government, is delivering the Western Sydney City Deal, and our goal of a 30-minute city, by delivering the first stage of the North South Rail Link, which starts in the electorate of Lindsay and goes to the airport and aerotropolis. The Western Sydney City Deal will bring over 200,000 jobs over the next 20 years. By supercharging the aerotropolis and the agribusiness precinct it will be the advanced manufacturing capital of Australia, upskilling our residents and our children in those jobs of the future and initiating new education opportunities. Airport, road and rail infrastructure will help provide the employment, housing, transport and educational opportunities needed to accommodate population growth.
I have established the Lindsay Jobs of the Future Network working together with local schools, industry and business to ensure that our kids in Lindsay and Western Sydney are being trained and educated in those jobs of the future so that they won't have to commute out of the area like many of us do today. They will be getting the jobs that are coming with the airport and the aerotropolis.
How easy is it going to be for them to get to work on the North South Rail Link from St Marys? This $3.5 billion investment by the Morrison government will provide an important local rail connection to the new airport and create the public transport spine of the new city in Western Sydney. We're working towards this important rail link being open in time for the airport's opening in 2026.
During construction of the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport, over 11,300 jobs will be created. Within five years of opening it will be 28,000 jobs, and this project is already attracting a number of high-skilled industries into the area around the airport. The local target for these jobs is 30 per cent during construction and 50 per cent once the airport is operational, and I'm told that there are already up to levels of over 50 per cent local people in those jobs. We're working hard to deliver local jobs for the people in Western Sydney, and this is a priority for both the Prime Minister and me, as the member for Lindsay.
Having recently attended the opening of the Western Sydney International Airport Experience Centre with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, the minister for cities and the Minister for Finance, I can proudly say that the Morrison government is committed to easing congestion on our local roads and building the infrastructure to create more local jobs and investment in Western Sydney. This includes the construction of the M12 motorway and a $200 million Local Roads Package. A total of $170 million has been awarded for local contracts within our local community, and this is great for small and medium-sized businesses. This is great for local families.
The $2.9 billion Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan will ease congestion, provide better roads in Western Sydney and the region, and create 4,000 local jobs. But it's not just about rail; we're investing in road upgrades—these include the Northern Road at Jamison Road in Penrith and the upgrade to Bringelly Road, the Northern Road and Camden Valley Way. We're also investing in the upgrade of Mulgoa Road between Blaikie Road and Jeanette Street—this is all in the electorate of Lindsay—and the upgrade of Dunheved Road, which is a very important road in the electorate of Lindsay. We also have upgrades to Emu Plains Station, Kingswood railway station and, importantly, with the development of the airport, St Marys railway station.
I'm glad the member for Lindsay mentioned the Western Sydney International Airport Experience Centre, which relies heavily on augmented reality. It seems fitting, given this government's approach to infrastructure in Western Sydney. Whenever you hear the member for Lindsay—and I'm going to put this video on my Facebook page—talk about the wonders of this airport, you need to go to that member and ask her where the flight plans are, which communities in the member for Lindsay's area will be affected by a 24/7 airport and what she is doing to stand up for communities in her area. If you get a response on jobs, know this: the Liberal government justified putting in that airport and breaking an election promise that they had on that airport on the basis of jobs, and they can only deliver 50 per cent of all the jobs to Western Sydney residents, which I think is a joke for a $10 billion project. We have all these infrastructure needs in Western Sydney, which are in this resolution about the Sydney Metro West project, that weren't even mentioned by the member for Lindsay—hardly at all. And yet there is congestion occurring from Penrith to Parramatta on the T1 Western Line that the member for Lindsay made no reference to to say that this should be a priority.
Now, I commend the member for Parramatta for raising this. She has to raise this because in her area, in Parramatta, the figures—even in the figures that were released today in the Sydney Morning Heraldshow that the population of Parramatta, which was roughly 240,000 people in 2016, will leap to 380,000 by 2031. So getting improved infrastructure to move people from Parramatta to the Sydney CBD is very important.
From my point of view, I want to see similar sorts of things happen with an extension of the metro or improvements for those long-suffering passengers between Parramatta and Penrith. I stand at those railway stations and I see rows of people five deep crowding into those trains. Be they from Mount Druitt, Rooty Hill, Doonside or Blacktown, they are standing for ages on a rail line that people depend on to get home at the end of the day. Three days out of five, people run late because those trains run late. People who have family responsibilities, who help the kids with homework, who have sporting responsibilities or who just want to get home to spend time with family should not be late home three days out of every five because we have not worked out how to decongest that rail line.
Put in some of the ideas that were initially proposed, like, for example, the western expressway, and find some way to decongest that line. At the point in time when it was proposed at the start of this decade, the expressway cost roughly $500 million. We've seen no investment in it. From my point of view, I do believe there should be federal investment in the Sydney Metro West project or in decongestion. While I understand the member for Parramatta is forcefully advocating for her electorate, and rightly so—there's no more vocal advocate for the Parramatta area than Julie Owens, the member for Parramatta—I am also speaking up for people in my area who are facing transport delays either on public transport or on the roads.
Mount Druitt to Parramatta has been recognised by Infrastructure Australia as one of the hotspots. Nothing is being done to address that. This government has no plans for the M9, which should be built and run in parallel with the M7. While the Sydney Metro project in the north is a great project, I do have residents complaining about delays and breakdowns on that rail line. I think of the people who go to Tallawong railway station and are confronted by what appears to be four football fields of parking. There is no centralised, one-stop parking station. I hate to think of them returning to their cars that are like little pressure cookers at the end of the day in the hot summers. There hasn't been dedicated investment in a parking station at that site. I think of the residents in Doonside. I have had to take action through the Australian Human Rights Commission because of breaches of federal disability law. We can't even get investment to upgrade existing railway stations like the one at Doonside.
There are a lot of things in Western Sydney where we need not words, not platitudes but concrete plans, concrete financing and concrete itself to show that work is happening in one of the fastest-growing regions in the country.
It is my great pleasure to join my colleagues the member for Parramatta, the member for Chifley and the member for Macarthur in raising and responding to this very important motion. It has been my pleasure to listen to their contributions, which have balanced a deep commitment to the communities they respect with an equally clear understanding of what needs to be done to respond to the great challenges of linking people to opportunities and busting congestion across Western Sydney. This is a problem that affects all of us, not just Western Sydney, because Australia has a productivity problem and a government that won't rise to meet this most fundamental economic challenge. It's a challenge with many dimensions, but getting our cities working more effectively is particularly important right now, when all the economic indicators are so concerning and when the government continues to resist the calls of the Reserve Bank governor and a chorus of respected economists to boost investment in productive infrastructure spending.
As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker Zimmerman, Australia is, outside of the city states, the world's most urbanised nation. The vast majority of us live and work in our city and suburbs—more so in Western Sydney than anywhere else. But, over six years, the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments have been slow to recognise this and its implications—implications for our prospects of continued economic growth and living standards, and for sustainability of living standards too. Prime Minister Tony Abbott indulged in a fantasy that how our cities function was no concern for our national government, and we are still paying the price for this wilful neglect, particularly the congestion-boosting nonsense of refusing to fund urban public transport projects. He cut the funding from the Parramatta to Epping line as part of the billions taken away from vital rail projects linking the places where so many Australians live—our fast-growing suburbs—to job opportunities.
While the successive governments since then have embraced—or accepted, I should say in reality—that the record under Malcolm Turnbull and now Prime Minister Morrison doesn't withstand scrutiny, Minister Tudge can be given marks for enthusiasm in talking up his achievements. But his is a lone voice in this regard, and for good reason. He is tinkering around the edges rather than grappling with the enormous challenge presented by traffic congestion, particularly, as the member for Chifley reminded us, by not recognising his responsibility to deal with traffic congestion in areas where it most needs to be dealt with, rather than where it seems to be politically palpable. This is at a great cost to Australia's economy. We note that the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics has estimated the annual cost of lost productivity caused by congestion at $16 billion—that figure is now two years old. The figure is increasing.
A government that is serious about meeting our productivity challenge and about the living standards of people in Western Sydney would have done so much more. The motion put forward by the member for Parramatta makes this clear. This is a call to action that must be heeded. On this side of the House we recognise the importance of Western Sydney—Australia's third-largest economy and home to more than two million people, with very significant population growth predicted. We see that recognised in today's The Sydney Morning Herald, which is something that perhaps government speakers could reflect upon. We recognise the challenge that this presents to government at all levels: to find ways to work together, to deliver place based solutions, building on the understanding that is found within local communities. This is why the Leader of the Opposition has spoken of city partnerships instead of deals. It is because enduring partnerships are needed to build a bridge between fragmented governance arrangements and a shared vision for a dynamic Western Sydney.
On this, can I put on record my appreciation of the work of the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue. A report they've just released, Stuck in the middle, is a critical contribution. I'm sure that's recognised by the member for Parramatta. It is modestly titled but makes an important response, and it deserves a response from this government.
The creation of the Greater Sydney Commission makes possible a genuinely polycentric city, but this requires a commitment to more than two major economic anchors. We need to look beyond the present CBD and the possibility of the airport, as exciting as they are. We need to recognise, as this motion does, that Parramatta is the CBD for Western Sydney and has enormous potential that simply has to be realised, including through Metro West, a project to which the New South Wales government is of course committed, and to which federal Labor committed $3 billion. As the now Leader of the Opposition said, we did so in order to reduce congestion and dependence on cars and to bring jobs closer to where people live, while connecting all of Sydney to the new Western Sydney Airport. Metro West is genuinely a city-shaping project, but Minister Tudge continues to pretend that it is nothing to do with him. This isn't good enough.
I'm delighted to speak on the motion that has been moved by the member for Parramatta in relation to the Sydney Metro West project. It has the potential to be an important project for Sydney, not just for Western Sydney but also for those parts of the route it will service that are closer to the CBD. I wanted to start my remarks today by indicating my support for the expansion of the metro network across Sydney. We've already seen exciting developments happening under the current state government. Recently, after the federal election, my idea of a short break was to try the new Metro North West Line. I have to say that it is such an exciting project for north-west Sydney. It is a revolutionary project because it introduces to our city metro-style, single-deck trains that are driverless. With their capacity to move large volumes of people more quickly, these trains bring enormous benefits to congested and potentially congested parts of the network. That project is being extended through my electorate—I'm thrilled that the federal government is contributing $1.6 billion towards the Sydney Metro project. It is going to be a game-changer for public transport on the North Shore.
As the member for Parramatta highlighted, in other parts of Sydney we are already seeing congestion levels on existing rail networks that are causing serious discomfort and disruptions for commuters. We see that on the North Shore Line of Sydney, particularly as it gets closer to the CBD. The Sydney Metro project, which will involve additional capacity at Chatswood and new stations at Crows Nest and North Sydney, and will provide a two-minute connection to Barangaroo and a three-minute connection to Martin Place, will bring dramatic benefits to residents in my part of Sydney. And, of course, when it is concluded it will extend out to Bankstown. The Sydney Metro West project is an exciting extension of this program of introducing metro rail to Sydney. As Parramatta seeks to rival North Sydney as the second largest CBD in our metropolitan area, I know it will mean a great deal to residents in Parramatta but also to the vibrancy and the future of Parramatta as the great CBD that it is and will continue to become.
I should also mention, which other speakers haven't spoken about, the enormous benefit the Metro West project will bring to other precincts. Sydney Olympic Park, for example, is a growing residential precinct capitalising on the legacy of our 2000 Olympic Games. One of the issues that Sydney Olympic Park has faced is not having a regular, direct connection to the Sydney CBD and other areas. The metro protect will be a huge boon for both the residential and the commercial areas of Sydney Olympic Park.
I also wanted to touch on the Bays Precinct. The Bays Precinct is old industrial land around the bays close to the CBD. It has the potential to be one of the most exciting transformations of old industrial land into commercial and residential that our city will see. One of the great challenges of the Bays Precinct is the lack of easy public transport. Whilst it won't solve every one of its public transport needs, because by its nature the Bays Precinct does not follow a linear pattern, this will provide an opportunity for the type of connectivity which I believe that the Bays Precinct so desperately needs to be the success story that I hope it becomes.
I am proud of the fact that I am part of a party that, in New South Wales, is led by a state government that has done so much to improve transport. We're seeing the missing links in our freeway network being filled. It is also fair to say that, if we look to the future, mass public transport is really going to do the heavy lifting for cities like Sydney. We know that completing those freeway links is important, but at the end of the day they have their limitations. I believe a strong public transport network is the only option to allow those gaps to be filled.
I speak in this chamber as someone who, prior to becoming a member of parliament, was a board member of the International Association of Public Transport for the ANZ branch, and I know just how important getting those public transport links right is going to be for the future of cities like Sydney.
The federal government has been playing its part. I mentioned the contribution that we're contributing to Sydney Metro. The wonderful work that's happening for the Western Sydney Airport is part of our plan for Western Sydney. I'm sure this project is receiving the consideration it deserves by the federal government—because it is an important one.