House debates

Thursday, 5 March 2020


Melbourne Airport Rail Link

4:45 pm

Photo of Damian DrumDamian Drum (Nicholls, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Melbourne Airport Rail Link project in Victoria. This project has been in the design phase. We've been talking about this project for over 50 years. Victoria is at a very important stage of this very crucial infrastructure project. It is trying to make the decision as to what type of project it is that the Victorian state Labor Party provides to the people who are going to use airport rail link. Quite simply, we only have one freeway connecting Melbourne's CBD to the airport, and the Victorian government's claimed it wants to provide a new airport link for Victoria's future.

The preferred project sees a designated tunnel leaving Melbourne CBD to Sunshine, and from Sunshine a new line on a designated track heading out to the airport. This should be $20 for 20 minutes. This should be able to be a fantastic project offering our overseas and interstate travellers a brilliant link between our amazing world-class airport and one of the world's most liveable cities, Melbourne.

What we are seeing the Victorian government doing—because they seem to have run out of money on a whole range of other projects that they're building around Melbourne at the moment—is try to find a cheap and nasty solution for airport rail link. They want to abandon a designated tunnel going from the CBD to Sunshine. They want to put the airport rail link back in with all of the other metropolitan rail systems. This is going to see that first three or four minutes expanded out to 13 or 14 minutes—an additional nine minutes just in that first stage of getting the train and the travellers out to Sunshine. This is going to clog up an already congested system the moment it is built, let alone in the future.

It's not just the travellers who are going to the airport that have the opportunity to either gain or lose with this project. If the government builds this project right, with a designated tunnel to Sunshine and then a new designated line above soil to the airport at Tullamarine, it also has the ability to introduce these amazing passages into the city for all of our regional cities. Certainly, Geelong and beyond Geelong to Warrnambool and Portland have the opportunity to benefit from the state government doing this project right. Bendigo, Ballarat and Echuca also have the opportunity to benefit if the government does this project right. Shepparton and Wangaratta, Wodonga and Albury—they have the opportunity to benefit. They've been left behind. These cities have been left behind by a Labor government that has refused to invest in rail technology and rail services for the last 20 years. So, whilst Bendigo and Ballarat have 24 and 28 services every day and Geelong has 30-odd, Shepparton has four. Wodonga and Albury, and Wangaratta, similarly, are very poorly serviced into Melbourne. The new rail link has the opportunity to fix this. It has the opportunity to play a role in fast trains to Geelong, something that has been thought about and talked about very extensively. Quite simply, the Victorian Labor government has a very important choice.

What must also be said is that the federal government put $5 billion on the table for this project, right at the start. In fact, the federal government dragged the Victorian government forward in this project because the Victorian government kept pushing it away saying, 'It's too hard.' It was the $5 billion that the federal government put on the table that forced the Victorian government to come along and get involved in this. When those two parties got together, the Victorian government and the federal government, they agreed that the best way to get this project built was a designated tunnel from the CBD out to Sunshine. Now they want to abolish that.

I have never been contacted by so many councils, or so many committees—for Bendigo, Ballarat, Echuca, Moama, Shepparton, Melbourne. All of the major councils are writing to the politicians reinforcing their view that the Victorian Labor Party build the right project. Here's an opportunity to put something in place that will benefit Victoria for the next hundred years, or they could make that system worse for the next hundred years. It's a great opportunity to look after train travellers in the west, train travellers to the airport and train travellers to all those regional cities that have the opportunity to benefit.