Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Matters of Public Importance
I inform the Senate that, at 8.30 am today, Senators Macdonald and Siewert each submitted a letter in accordance with standing order 75 proposing a matter of public importance. The question of which proposal would be submitted to the Senate was determined by lot. As a result, I inform the Senate that the following letter has been received from Senator Siewert:
The urgent need for the Government to apply the benefits of the mining boom to addressing acute urban challenges in Australian cities including those outlined in the Capital Cities Liveability Index such as traffic congestion, housing affordability and loss of natural habitat with high quality urban regeneration and investment in public transport.
Is the proposal supported?
More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
I thank the for Senate the opportunity to make a contribution with my Greens New South Wales colleague, Senator Lee Rhiannon on the matter that the Deputy President has just read into the record. Senator Rhiannon is going to address it at greater length, but I will acknowledge the coalition of eight groups that has today launched an exceptionally important and timely report into the state of Australian cities and in particular what the design of our cities is doing to our population, our kids, our time, our jobs and where we can live. This new study was commissioned, conducted and supported by eight groups ranging from the Planning Institute, the Heart Foundation, public transport advocates and the property sector to take a long, hard look at what has happened in Australian cities in the last 50 or 60 years—effectively in the postwar era—where we have allowed the domination and priorities of the private car to take priority over people and over the livableness of our great cities.
This report estimates that traffic congestion now costs the economy $9 billion per year. It is not the first time I have seen figures like that as to the economic cost of traffic congestion, but let us pull apart how these estimates are made. That figure is made up, in part, of your unpaid time sitting in traffic jams between where you live and where you work and the loss of that productive time to you which you could have been spending in leisure pursuits, with family, studying or at work earning an income. The staggering figure of the of $9 billion per year cost of congestion is derived in part from this gigantic loss of amenity and loss of time for each of us who find ourselves condemned to traffic congestion.
I note this study is not anticar, and there is no purpose to being anticar. There is no imperative here to ban the use of private cars, but we actually need to knock it off its pedestal and provide transport choice to people. What we have done in the planning of our great cities is eliminate choice. If you live in the middle ring or outer suburbs in an Australian city, particularly if you have kids, you need one private car per working adult whether you are a greenie or not, whether or not you care about atmospheric pollution, the cost of petrol, lost time, the frustration of sitting in traffic jams, the elimination of urban bushland for road projects or the unsustainable sprawl of our cities. Whether or not you pay regard to those things and whether or not those are your priorities you have no choice. It is very difficult as a working adult to live in an Australian city without a private vehicle unless, like me, you are lucky enough to live close to a major railway line and have access to cycling infrastructure. That infrastructure costs money and it requires investment. It requires planning and requires a change in the way that we think about our cities
The way that we have planned transport has also had a dramatic impact on housing affordability. It has become something of a cruel joke that the concept of housing affordability in Australia now means a brick-and-tile air-conditioned box, way over the horizon—20, 30 or 40 kilometres from where a person works. Maybe that is where the cheap land is, where we build over urban bushland or plough under market gardens or peri-urban agricultural land, losing forever the valuable soils and biodiversity. Maybe it is affordable to get into those areas, but it is certainly not very affordable to live there. What you never see in the glossy real estate ads is the cost of maintaining a private car per working adult because you have been stranded on the fringes of a city. The $9 billion a year in congestion costs do not accommodate those costs. They are absorbed by private individuals, as is the lost time sitting in the car trying to get to work, trying to get the kids to and from child care or trying to get out of the city. So transport affects housing affordability, it affects amenity and it affects many, many other things. We have never really acknowledged in the Australian context the true cost of building ever-larger houses, with ever-shrinking numbers of people living in them, further and further away from centres of amenity, jobs, services and public transport. We have to reverse this tide. Today's report is one important step towards doing that.
Australian cities are some of the most car-dependent in the world, and the greater Perth metropolitan area now stretches nearly 120 kilometres from end to end. To my mind a coalition government in Western Australia has never laid a single kilometre of railway line. They talk about it, and every now and again they close a railway line, but they have never taken the time or the investment to open one. But, with the support of the Greens, Perth does have a good public transport network, but it simply has not kept pace with the growth of the city, and now many residents of Perth have been stranded.
These challenges are very, very difficult to confront and cities move slowly; there is no quick fix. Planning decisions made in haste can be regretted for many years and decades afterwards. One of the ways in which the Greens have chosen to make an impact is to co-author, with the Property Council of Australia and the Australian Urban Design Research Centre, AUDRC, a report called Transforming Perth, which I was proud to launch with those two organisations and Senator Milne when she was in Perth with us last week. The report is effectively a study that builds on the work of Victorian urban planner Professor Rob Adams, who is the Director of City Design at the City of Melbourne. It asks: what if, instead of simply letting the sprawl go and maintaining an effectively unregulated or even over-regulated low-density sprawl in Perth, we developed medium-density corridors along public transport corridors—areas where high-capacity public transport can take some of the road space and give people that transport choice that they need? When you combine that with networked cycling infrastructure and a reorientation of the bus network, you can do extraordinary things. The Transforming Perth study identified more than 1,500 hectares of land along seven high-capacity transit corridors in Perth and showed that if you built medium density dwellings—not high rise; not Hong Kong-looking towers along these corridors—of four or five storeys, you could potentially fit between 94,000 and 250,000 dwellings along these corridors. This would effectively overbuild areas of urban blight—light industrial areas along these corridors, areas of car parks. The study took out heritage areas, green space and areas that local communities find valuable and netted out 50 per cent of strata title blocks and said, 'What would happen if you took the remaining space and created diverse, sustainable, affordable, medium-density housing?' What that has done in the context of this study and Professor Adams's work is that it leaves 90 or 95 per cent of the urban fabric untouched, and it simply develops and concentrates people along these activities corridors. If they are put in appropriate housing that is designed for that context—diverse and affordable housing—we can actually eliminate sprawl. We can not just reduce but actually eliminate greenfields development and bring the city back to the people; we can bring services, public transport, childcare centres and jobs back to the suburbs which long since ceased to have access to those things. That is the reason why you see these extraordinary figures being quoted in this report that has been released today.
It is a study that I am proud to have been a part of. It has been an unexpected joy working with the Property Council and a cohort of developers that they brought in to keep our feet on the ground. My thanks go to William de Haer and to Joe Lenzo, the Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia, for their committed work in bringing this report to fruition; to Dr Anthony Duckworth-Smith, who is assistant professor with AUDRC; and principally to Chantal Caruso and her team of volunteers and interns in my office for bringing a lot of very, very sharp policy ideas to bear. Now comes the crunch. This work needs to be funded. The public transport infrastructure does not come for free; neither does the cycling infrastructure. It will pay for itself, including in those reduced $9 billion congestion charges that we all absorb as citizens of poorly designed cities. It is imperative for the government to levy appropriate taxation on some of the companies that are dragging extraordinary profits out of this country so that we can afford to build the infrastructure in Perth and in other cities around the Australian continent, so that we can afford to put in the infrastructure that people deserve. Without appropriate taxation, that will never become a reality.
I was very interested to hear that Senator Ludlam is basically running the argument that Australians' right to drive their cars in whatever part of Australia they like should be examined very closely to be efficient—I think he does not give credit to the drivers of those cars, because they always look at the efficiency of their means of transport—and that choosing a three or four-bedroom house on the outskirts of a city at the time of your working life because that is what you can afford is something that also may need to be reviewed. Interestingly enough, the city of Adelaide does have some of the proposals that Senator Ludlam has suggested on the books. If you had talked to the Deputy Premier of South Australia as late as last week, he would be able to point you to the vigorous opposition to not multistorey but four- or five-storey planning approvals on major arterial roads—the same principle of infilling the city and infilling the major arterial roads with higher density housing. And it has been vigorously disputed by at least one council. The complaint people have is that there is nowhere to park the car. It is going to be a very long and arduous debate to take Senator Ludlam's position and carry it off.
I suppose it is important that we place on the record what the Labor government is doing in addressing the challenges of our city. I am fortunate enough to live in a city which is still easy to get around. Even in the alleged peak hours, we are probably no more than 20 minutes point to point for almost anywhere you want to go. That sort of ease of transport in Adelaide is not likely to bring any urgent change, but it is very important that we have a federal Labor government which since 2007 has placed the plight of 18 major cities on the national agenda. It is also important to place on the record that the previous coalition government, in keeping with coalition governments of the past, abandoned programs to improve our cities, such as the Hawke-Keating $2.3 billion Building Better Cities Program.
Our cities are home to seven out of 10 Australians and generate 80 per cent of the national income. This Labor government believes cities are too important to ignore. That is why, after national consultation, this federal government introduced Our Cities, Our Future, a national urban policy for a productive, sustainable and livable future, in May 2011. That is why we established a Major Cities Unit. The aim of the urban policy is to keep our cities globally competitive, productive, sustainable and livable.
Through a COAG agreement, state and territory leaders have been required to produce long-term strategic planning systems for their capital cities, taking into account a range of criteria, including: preservation of the transport corridors needed for the future, preparing for population growth and demographic change, planned evidence-based land release and an appropriate balance of infill and greenfield developments, climate change mitigation, better urban development and environmental management of water, energy and waste. This Labor government is very visible and active on all of those fronts.
Infrastructure funding under the Nation Building Program is linked to progress with these strategic city plans. So Senator Ludlam was on the right mark; he has Buckley's and none of having the reforms he is mooting being supported by a popular vote, but is important that this Labor government is proceeding in a sensible, thorough and strategic way to achieve what can be some remarkable outcomes, in a cooperative and proactive way.
In their 12 years in government, those opposite did not contribute one cent to a single public transport project, anywhere in Australia. In Melbourne's western suburbs, work is well underway on the Regional Rail Link. This is currently the biggest public transport project anywhere in the country, with the federal government contributing more than $3.2 billion towards its construction. In addition, this government has: invested $20 million through the Liveable Cities program for a raft of planning and demonstration projects directly improving our urban centres, transport links, cycling and walking paths and urban energy programs; produced three editions of the State of Australian cities, a national snapshot of our 18 major cities, fully downloaded more than two million times; established a national urban policy forum of experts to provide the best advice to government and to ensure that we get the policies right; contributed $58 million to two cooperative research centres, the CRC for Low Carbon Living and the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities; and launched an urban design protocol, providing a simple design guide and check sheet for governments and organisations. The list goes on and on.
Some of the commitments that have been made in public transport are: Victorian Regional Rail Link, $3.225 billion; Moreton Bay Rail Link, $742 million; Gold Coast Light Rail, $365 million; Noarlunga to Seaford Rail Extension, $291 million; Melbourne Metro One, pre-con, $40 million; Brisbane Inner City Rail Study, $20 million; and the Perth Light Rail Study. So the government is proactive along the lines of making sure that major cities provide long-term sustainable public transport. Where it is practical, possible and efficient, rail has been funded.
I think it is really important to move quickly to another really great initiative of this government, the NBN. What may well happen in a lot of our major cities is that people may choose to work from home. If you are going to choose to work from home, you are going to need high-speed, high-upload, high-download connection. Guess what? That is what the NBN does. There will be many businesses—and I have operated a couple of organisations which would have been well suited to people working from home. It is not hard to do your bookkeeping from home. You can scan the invoices in, email them across, and people can put the figures in MYOB or whatever accounting suite they use. People would not have to drive the hour to work and would perhaps be able to match some of their childcare commitments with their work. I think some studies say that it is actually a very productive way of people working. In terms of productivity, people working from home are measured as being perhaps higher than the morning around the morning tea and the coffee and the chat, as you get into work every day. So if we are to make our cities more livable then teleworking could well be the way to go.
There are some stats which indicate enormous savings in the downtime that Senator Ludlam spoke about—some 120 million litres of fuel, avoiding 320,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and reducing congestion costs, of $470 million. These things are not new items. This government is on the job. As far as taxing the superprofits of mining companies is concerned, that is happening. We are not taxing the superprofits of mining companies, as some of the states do, in terms of royalties, which have no regard for profitability; it is a just a tax on a tonne out of the ground. The superprofits are being taxed and those taxable dollars are being put to good use. I am sure that, when the revenue reaches the appropriate level, consideration will be given as to how we can better use those dollars and get our cities to be more livable, more productive and more efficient places of work, and places of good living.
Today we are debating a matter of public importance, put up by the Greens political party, which in effect says: tax the mining industry, tax them again and again, and with those taxes we will be able to fix the roads, housing and natural habitat that have been lost. That is, in effect, the matter that we are debating today.
I acknowledge that some of our cities are finding difficulties with traffic congestion and some loss of habitat. But if you look at Melbourne, under a Liberal-National state government, you will see these magnificent freeways and ring-roads through the city that really have addressed some of Labor's mismanagement of our cities. If you look at the capital of my home state, Brisbane, you will see that it had a Liberal and then LNP city council under Campbell Newman that built tunnels, that really addressed the issues of traffic congestion and housing affordability and that was renowned for the work that it did on the protection of natural habitat in that state. Contrast that with Sydney, under years of Labor rule and a Labor government that was only interested in giving mining leases to the friends of the mining minister or playing games with the unions that control the Australian Labor Party, and you have a good contrast of Labor administration in the cities. Look at Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and at the Liberal-National governments. Mr O'Farrell is now starting the long task of fixing up Sydney's traffic congestion and housing difficulties. But it will take a long time.
The Greens think that you can tax your way to prosperity. Little do they recognise or acknowledge that, in 2010-11 alone, the mining industry contributed in royalty revenue some $9.5 billion. That is in addition to the so-called superprofits tax—that is, company tax that mining companies pay when they make any sort of profit—and it is also in addition to all the payroll taxes that go to state governments.
So the mining industry in Australia has, until recently, contributed to its way. Regrettably, with the combination of the Labor Party and the Greens, investment in the so-called goose that lays the golden egg is starting to falter because you have these crazy left-wing policies of the Labor-Greens alliance of wanting to tax mining out of our nation.
The Greens in their 'best of 2012' press release, issued towards the end of last year, were actually claiming credit for the best broken promise. They are claiming the benefit of dropping the surplus fetish. The Greens do not understand that, for Australia to be strong and for Australia to have the money to invest in and build the sort of infrastructure they are bleating about and that we need such as dams and water storages throughout Australia, you need to run a tight financial ship.
I note that the Greens and Labor talk about major public transport options. They never seem to remember that the last major railway built in Australia was the Alice to Darwin railway. Built by which government? The John Howard government built that magnificent piece of Australian infrastructure. Why were we able to do it? Because the country was successful. There was investment coming into the country and we were able to afford those sorts of things.
Have a look at Western Australia, an exemplar state after three years of a Liberal-National Party government, where the economy is now booming. Why? Because investment has been encouraged. People know that that is a state where they can make profits and, out of the profits, they pay money in one form or another to the state and federal governments. You only have to look at the magnificent job that is happening in Western Australia, with all of the new proposals for public transport and better traffic flow. I would have to say with some pride for my fellow Australians in Western Australia that they understand that you do not fix Australia by taxing the goose that lays the golden egg. The people of Western Australia clearly recognised that last Saturday, when they not only overwhelmingly turned to the Liberal and National parties and destroyed and decimated the Australian Labor Party but at last count—as I read it—completely decimated the Greens political party. That is a forerunner of what will happen with a policy-free group—they are certainly not policy-free; I take that back when I refer to the Greens. That will happen to a group who have these pie in the sky, airy-fairy, 'fairies at the bottom of the garden' sort of policies that read well if you get a grade 4 kid to write out a wish list of what they would want for Australia but are without any understanding of what it requires to run a complex business like the Australian nation. Unfortunately, the Greens have these thought bubbles about how they would like to see Australia, but their actions do anything but give Australia the wherewithal it needs to be strong and to provide the sort of infrastructure that the Greens are talking about.
You only have to look at history and see that the only true parties of the environment in the Australian parliament over decades have been the Liberal and National parties. Go through any measure of the environment—the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Kakadu, natural resource management—
Thank you to the Labor Party senator—banning of guns in Australia and all those sorts of things. But, if you go through any serious environmental forward steps in Australia, you will see that they have been introduced by a Liberal and National Party government. Why? Because we had the sort of economy that allowed us to pour millions of dollars into the Natural Heritage Trust and to do things for the environment, for country towns and even for regional cities. But the Greens and the Labor Party do not understand that. They think you just tax, tax, tax investors that have lots of options around the world—Australia is not the only kid on the block with good mineral resources. What the Greens and their Labor allies want to do is to tax the mining industry out of existence so that the wealth that Australia gets from them, and the wealth that allows us to build infrastructure and look after the environment, will disappear.
Only the Greens and the Labor Party could introduce a minerals resource rent tax that does not raise any tax, but that is another issue. The fact that they are doing this—the sovereign risk issues that continually come because of a Labor government that is hanging on by its fingernails with the support of the Australian Greens and is so dependent on the Australian Greens that they will do any of these crazy left-wing proposals that the Greens click their fingers at—is the problem that all Australians understand. I do not want to predict future elections, but I ask you to look at past elections, and clearly people in my state of Queensland, in New South Wales and in Western Australia have understood that you do not make Australia strong by making our major industries weak. That is the issue that the Greens should really be looking at, rather than this airy-fairy stuff they come up with.
I congratulate Senator Scott Ludlam for moving this matter of public importance on the acute urban challenges in Australian cities. An urgent challenge facing our major cities is solving the growing traffic congestion crisis. Traffic congestion is costing Australia $9 billion a year and estimates say that that will reach about $20 billion by 2020. It is $9 billion already—think of the lost jobs and the lost productivity for business. This is a huge issue.
When I joined the New South Wales parliament in 1999, Sydney residents and businesses were already stuck in traffic jams. You could not wind down your windows on a hot day because the air pollution was so bad. You could not let your kids ride their bikes on the clogged roads. Buses and trains were lagging behind population growth. In the New South Wales parliament the Greens regularly spoke up for public transport and against motorway expansion, but through the 2000s things only got worse. Labor, with the support of the coalition, changed laws to benefit big developers and motorway builders. CityRail's late-running trains became a political crisis. The only way out for the Labor government that they saw was to slash the train timetables. The trains may have run on time for a period, but we got reduced services. The Roads and Traffic Authority was all powerful in this era and, instead of expanding the CityRail network as a priority, the government's road budget was triple the transport budget. We got more motorways and more traffic jams as a result. We got more urban sprawl, not serviced with public transport, and public land was sold off to private developers, locking up strategic transport corridors. Every year the problem grew bigger and the solutions became more costly.
In Sydney there has been a succession of failed toll roads, motorways and tunnels that have simply induced more traffic on our roads. The M5 East tunnel became so heavily congested that the government had to advise motorists to keep their windows closed. The M5, M4 and M2 motorways are like parking lots in the morning and evening peak. The Cross City Tunnel and Lane Cove Tunnel ventures were white elephants that faltered under the weight of rubbery traffic modelling that underpinned their base case financial models
The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics has reported:
In general, the forecasting performance for toll roads in the world has been found to be poorer than for toll-free roads. There is an asymmetrical patterns of forecasting errors, that is, consistent overestimation. Australia is no exception.
And certainly Sydney saw it up close: so much of the cost when the motorways went under came back to the public. So often road projects are built on these false promises. They make wildly optimistic claims to reduce traffic congestion and divert focus and funds away from urgently needed improvements to the public transport network.
Melbourne and Brisbane have similar toll road problems. Melbourne has a myriad of motorways and toll roads and yet traffic continues to grow. The latest road project, the East-West Tunnel, has been described as the next toll road white elephant. It is being compared to the BrisConnections Airport Link toll road that went into receivership last year.
What a foolish interjection. The Greens in Melbourne are campaigning for new east-west public transport links, improved services and an investment in a real metro network. The travelling public want better public transport too, but the government is firmly backing the toll road.
It does not have to be this way. Tonight I have the pleasure of speaking at the launch of the Moving Australia 2030 report and I very warmly congratulate those who have worked on this outstanding document. It is a vision for integrated and sustainable transport and land-use planning that the Greens have shared and advocated for over 20 years, a world-class sustainable transport network servicing green, livable cities. It is a clear, bold vision for tackling the fundamental transport challenges of the 21st century: climate change, energy security, population growth, public health and quality of life. The Moving People 2030 Taskforce is made up of the local government association, planning, public transport and bicycle groups, and the Heart Foundation. I think the authors have done an excellent job. It is an exciting collaboration which will inform and influence decision makers at every level of government if they are willing to allow that to happen. It is exactly the kind of integrated approach that we need for transport planning and future-proofing our cities.
The Greens have a longstanding record of support for public transport, cycling and walking. We have worked hard in state and local governments for community-driven planning decisions that elevate the principles of ecologically sustainable development and promote clean air and healthy lifestyles. We have campaigned for the preservation of integrated land-use planning to halt urban sprawl, create more livable suburbs and secure strategic corridors and green spaces for the future.
There are fundamental reasons why this sustainable cities vision is still to be realised despite the overwhelming public support and strong economic and environmental grounds. For eight years in New South Wales, the Greens campaigned to expose the undue influence of developer donations in New South Wales. Our work and that of many community groups resulted in a ban on developer donations and then a ban on all corporate donations. The campaign was grounded in the idea that greedy developers and corporations were buying influence to win favourable planning decisions. For a dark decade in New South Wales under the Labor government, while the vested interests of developers trumped the public interest, these developers donated $20 million—over $12 million to the New South Wales Labor Party and over $7.5 million to the coalition in opposition. At the height of these donations in 2005 the Labor, Liberal and National parties joined forces to pass the now infamous part 3A planning laws that eroded the state's planning controls and led to an ad hoc growth strategy. The major parties put part 3A on the map. It was used to rubber-stamp bad developments based on concept plans, with minimal environmental assessment and without meaningful community consultation.
The losers were Sydney residents who now live in poorly planned suburbs and who struggle every day with worsening air quality, long travel times on congested roads and an ailing public transport network to get to and from work. This is costing Sydney's economy billions of dollars and making our city less livable. The situation is not intractable, however. But it will take a huge commitment and support of the state and federal governments to overcome this legacy. The problems in New South Wales have spread much wider than Sydney. In the Hunter Valley there has been a strong local campaign to improve public transport and for better land-use planning.
The community are calling for the retention of Newcastle rail. Successive governments in New South Wales, Labor and coalition, are for ripping up heavy rail that goes into the heart of Newcastle, something that should be used to help develop that city in the most livable way. The federal Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport's Hunter division has produced an excellent report that showcases a range of planning strategies to make Hunter communities more livable and more sustainable to grow the local community beyond coal. But the Department of Infrastructure and Transport is not funding this excellent work. Instead, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Mr Anthony Albanese, has pledged a $3.5 billion investment in a new coal rail line for the Hunter Valley's fourth coal loader in Newcastle Harbour—yes, that is $3.5 billion. Mr Albanese might try and call this money for freight public transport, but the reality is that it is assistance to the coal industry and robbing money for public transport and for integrated planning.
The problem is not confined to New South Wales. Every capital city carries a backlog of public transport infrastructure. Major regional centres need improved passenger connection with the surrounding communities. We could carry a massive increase in bicycle and walking infrastructure in major cities and centres across the country. For the Moving Australia 2030 recommendations to become reality we will require a huge shift both in the car culture that still dominates and in the funding bias that grossly favours roads over public and active transport. The federal government, through the excellent strategies outlined by the Major Cities Unit and the department of regional development, has set the right direction.
What will it take for the government to get on board and make the shift to fund more public transport and active transport infrastructure projects? There are huge gains to be made for our economy and for our community and the environment. Now is the time for Minister Albanese to show leadership and to step up support for public transport and active transport infrastructure funding support—support that is critical to making our cities more livable.
When one travels around the world and visits global cities, you appreciate how well we have done in Australia when it comes to planning and urban development, particularly the planning of our big cities. Anyone who returns home to Sydney would appreciate that Sydney is probably the best city in the world. There is nothing like flying in over Sydney Harbour and seeing that golden jewel of a harbour, the wonderful beaches and the large metropolis that is Sydney. We really have got it right when it comes to planning and urban development. If you look at big global cities like Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York or London, they all have congestion and smog, and people predominantly live in high-rises without backyards and there is very little green space. In Australia, these are things that we cherish and come through in our urban development and planning laws. I think you can say that in Australia we have planned and developed well. But we cannot take what we have for granted.
There are challenges in urban development and in maintaining the liveability of our cities—and by liveability, I mean affordability of housing; jobs that are close to where people live so they do not have to travel for hours each day to get to work; adequate public transport that delivers people in a clean, on-time environment; affordable renewable energy; and access to leisure and green spaces. Labor believe that the federal government should play an active role in urban development. Indeed, it probably was a Labor government that first took an active role in our nation's urban development when the Whitlam government established the Department of Urban and Regional Development.
Labor are committed to better urban planning, better development and greater liveability of our cities. That stands in stark contrast to the opposition. What is the approach of the opposition? Their approach was enunciated in a recent comment by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Tony Abbott, who stated: 'Transport infrastructure is a state responsibility. The Commonwealth government should no more have to fund it than a state government should have to buy new tanks for the Army.' That is the approach of the coalition when it comes to urban development. 'We won't worry about it. We'll wash our hands of it and just hand it all over to the states'—a beautiful little hospital pass. Haven't the states done a wonderful job with urban development! Isn't Campbell Newman doing a wonderful job with protection of the environment in Queensland!
Labor believe that the federal government should take a role in urban development and that is why Labor developed a national urban policy. For the first time in our nation's history, a national government has a clearly articulated set of aspirations for our cities, and it is delivered and updated through the annual report State of Australian Cities, which reports on the progress that we are making on national urban policy.
This is an area that has traditionally been covered by the states but Labor believe that it should be a partnership—the state governments working with the national government to deliver better planning and urban development. Through this national urban policy, we are working with the states and territories to improve urban planning. It includes preserving future transport corridors, a better balance between land release and urban infill, climate change mitigation, better urban design to reduce water and energy usage and preparedness for the ageing of the population. We are doing that in a collaborative manner, just as we are doing it in a collaborative manner when it comes to infrastructure development in this country through the Infrastructure Australia model, where organisations are able to put in bids that are assessed by an independent body. It is all about improving the productivity of our economy.
But there are some challenges in urban development, particularly when it comes to transport. In Sydney now, it is almost impossible in peak hour to tell someone what time you are going to get to a meeting. You could be one hour either side because of transport congestion. Unfortunately, I think the current Liberal government has missed the mark when it comes to transport and fixing some of those problems—but that is another issue.
Over the next 20 years, Labor have committed to working with state governments to fix some of our transport problems, particularly when it comes to freight transport and getting freight off our roads. Much of the investment that we have made in this area has been about improving the accessibility of freight on rail and decoupling some of the entanglement that occurs between passenger rail lines and freight rail lines. Over the next 20 years, the amount of freight carried in Australia will double and that will mean that there will be extra pressure on our transport system. We are working to ensure that we are detangling the bottlenecks that have existed and we are doing this in a number of areas.
With regard to roads, we have doubled the roads budget since we came to office and that has meant that we are constructing more than 7,500 kilometres of new and upgraded lanes throughout the country. This is in addition to more than 14,000 local government road projects under the Roads to Recovery program, 2,000 black spot projects and 350 heavy vehicle safety and productivity projects. In my state of New South Wales, the Pacific Highway between Sydney and Brisbane is being upgraded. Two major works are underway: the Pacific Highway bypass at Kempsey and the Pacific Highway bypass at Bulahdelah. As we speak, there are 1,300 people working on those bypass projects in New South Wales and they are being funded by this federal Labor government.
On rail, we have had a massive investment in new rail infrastructure. We have increased the investment in rail in this country tenfold since we came to office compared to the time of the Howard government. We have ended the previous curfew which operated during peak morning and afternoon periods for road rail from Port Botany because the passenger line received priority. We began construction on the North Sydney freight corridor project. We are investing in the development of the Moorebank intermodal terminal, which will take about 3,300 trucks off Sydney's roads everyday and will create 700 jobs. Recently, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport opened the southern Sydney freight line, a $1 billion investment aimed at detangling that bottleneck infrastructure that traditionally existed between passenger and freight rail in this country. Another big issue in Sydney is of course a second Sydney airport. When you go to the airport now at 5.30 in the morning you will get caught in traffic around Sydney airport. You will be guaranteed to get caught in a traffic jam. Passenger numbers going through the airport will double by 2035. Most global cities have two airports, and it is simply unacceptable for Australia not to be looking at a second airport for Sydney. Unfortunately, the approach of the O'Farrell government again has been: 'We don't need a second Sydney airport. It's not our problem. We won't worry about it. We'll wait until sometime into the future.' That is the approach of the Liberals.
Another important issue regarding liveability and urban development is the environment and access to green space. In New South Wales the contrast is stark when it comes to protection of the environment and promotion of green space. The Carr Labor government declared more marine parks and more new national parks than any other government in history. What has been the approach of the Liberals? The Liberals have allowed people to shoot in them. They have allowed people to shoot in national parks. That is their approach to saving the environment: to allow people to go shooting in national parks in New South Wales.
If you go down in the woods today in New South Wales, be sure of a big surprise. And, if you go down in the woods today, you better not go in disguise, Senator Joyce. You better not go dressed as a kangaroo, you better not go dressed as a bear, you better not go dressed as a possum, because there will be someone there to ping you off and shoot you right through the nose. That is what the approach is in New South Wales. Who is there to load the gun for you? None other than New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell and his bumbling Minister for the Environment, Robyn Parker. They are loading the gun for you as shooters ping off people in the national parks. That is the approach of the Liberal government when it comes to the protection of our environment. It is a stark contrast between Labor, who are protecting the environment, and the Liberals in the New South Wales, who are allowing people to shoot.
You also have the likes of Andrew Stoner with an Uzi or something like that, spraying bullets around and taking out kangaroos and bears and things like that— (Time expired)
If you down to the woods today you are certain of a big surprise, because you will probably find in the woods a little cabinet, and in that cabinet you will find Eddie Obeid being appointed there by the current Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr. That is as big a surprise as you will get with the ALP. Lots of surprises with the ALP in New South Wales. Lots of surprises: Eddie Obeid, Ian McDonald. Lots and lots of surprises.
Going back to the issue. I find it rather amusing that here we have the Greens' motion saying there is urgent need for the government to apply the benefits of the mining boom when the Greens do not believe in mining. I can help the Labor Party out here. You are supposed to get stuck into the Greens because of the hypocrisy of the statement. The Greens do not believe in mining. Which mine do the Greens believe in? They do not believe in coal mining, they want to shut it all down. They do not believe in any of the infrastructure that goes with mining. They do not believe in any form of mining. They are applying the benefits of the mining boom, but tell us: which mines? Which mines do you believe are culturally sensitive? Which mines do you want to go forward with? Which mines are you proposing? Everything about the Greens is hypocrisy.
The Greens motion also mentions dealing with the issues of addressing acute urban challenges. This is the other part of the logic of the Greens: you take the wealth from the regional areas and you move it to the urban areas. Forget about all the people who live in between. Forget about regional Australia. Let's just take the wealth out of the regional areas—out of Blackwater, out of Singleton, out of Cessnock—and move it to Paddington and West End. That is where you need the wealth of the mining areas—in Darling Harbour. We just heard the Labor Party talking about this. Congratulations: Sydney is a beautiful city. But one of the problems we have got with the rail issue—and they talked about all their investment in rail—is that they have never built the inland rail, they have never brought about intermodal port access, they have not connected Melbourne up to Brisbane. We are the only nation on earth where our second-biggest city is not directly connected to our third-biggest city. They do not believe in that. $30 million is all they have put in the forward estimates for that, but they are investing it all in Sydney.
Yet the obvious one they will not build. And you know why they will not build it? Because they have got to look after their mates at Port Botany. We should be doing the logical thing and creating a corridor of commerce so the people of the Tamworth, the people of Dubbo and the people of Victoria get the capacity to link up to the mining fields of central Queensland. We would have the capacity to move product and we could create the commercial opportunities so people could get in on the ground floor. That is the sort of vision that people want. That is the sort of vision that the National Party offers. That is the sort of vision that the coalition offers.
But let's go back to the Greens. They always tell us about their economic credibility. This is how deep their economic credibility goes. They do not believe in mining, but they want the mining tax to pay for Gonski, the NDIS, Denticare and high-speed rail. That is $280 billion worth of promises. The problem we have got is even Rudd's mining tax only brings in about $100 billion. We have got in one item of their so-called fiscal oversight a $180 billion black hole. This is because they are incredible. They lack credibility. This is the conclusion people came to in Western Australia, where they have said that they are well-meaning but they are just off with the fairies. Nothing they say, if you hold their hand to the flame, makes any sense. We have got this inner urban sort of nostalgia that is desirous of the regional areas to basically give the benevolence of the resources that live in their areas to make their lives better. That would make sense because, when you go to the Greens senators, it is easy to work out what they believe in by where they live.
Senator Wright's office is in 100 King William Street, Adelaide—5000—right on the knocker. 5000—bang smack in the middle of town. We have got Larissa Waters—251 Given Street, Paddington. Paddington is a lovely spot. That is where you want to be, it is a lovely spot. Rachel Siewert—she lives in Northbridge—bang smack in the middle of Perth—6003. You cannot get much closer to the middle of the circle than that. Senator Lee Rhiannon is right out there in the sticks—she lives in Surry Hills. She is a long way out. Senator Milne—Hobart 7000—smack, bang in the middle again.
Madam Acting Deputy President, on a point of order: I ask you to draw Senator Joyce—I do not know what random tangent he is on listing people's home addresses; I believe he is actually listing offices as far as I can tell. I ask you, Madam Acting Deputy President, to draw him back to the substance of the motion about traffic congestion in Australian cities and the challenges facing Australian residents in Australia cities—that would be great.
I am definitely mentioning office addresses; I would not mention their private addresses—that is their private thing.
What we find at the Manic Monkey Cafe of inner suburban Nirvanaville are the Greens offices. They are saying once more that we should be taking the wealth from regional areas and helping out the traffic congestion in the centre of Adelaide, in Surry Hills, in Paddington. This is why people believe their whole political philosophy is so fanciful. And where are they getting this money from? They are getting it from the mining tax. What don't they believe in? They don't believe in mining. What have they asked for it to do? They have asked for it to pay $280 billion worth of expenses. How much does the mining tax bring in? It brings in $100 billion. So how much is their black hole? $180 billion. What do they bang on about at the door? 'You've got a black hole.' You have just got one issue—you fall flat on your face. This is why it is just total and utter hypocrisy.
Why don't you move a motion, if you believe in the regions, to discuss the inland rail? We should be discussing sealing the third road across Australia. We only have two sealed roads going from east to west in this nation. There are only two possible ways you can go from east to west in the nation of Australia in the year of our Lord 2013 and remain on a sealed road, and that is bizarre. Why don't you move a motion about that? Why don't you move a motion about the Indigenous communities out west and how we should get mining resources to finance their services?
To be honest, I believe that the benefits from the mining boom should be invested in regional areas. That is why we believe in royalties to regions at a state level, because the royalties are a mechanism of state government, so royalties from state governments should be invested back into regional areas. I have got no arguments with that whatsoever. I think that Brendon Grylls in Western Australia has been commended by the people of his state when they gave him a seat because that is what he stood behind: royalties to regions. The issue is the absolute hypocrisy of the Greens who are becoming less believable by the moment.
Because this motion is so hypocritical and so unbelievable, it calls into question things that are going to come to light in the very near future. We have also to test the Greens' belief in whether they are going to vote for the censorship of the Australian media as it comes forward with this so-called media policy from Senator Conroy, which in regional areas is going to bring about greater centralisation. He is dead right: he said that I crossed the floor against centralisation; I absolutely did. This piece of legislation he proposes brings about greater centralisation of the media in regional areas, and it will be interesting to see whether the hypocrisy in this is also evident in how the Greens vote in that media legislation. It brings about censorship. It is absolutely bizarre.
It will be interesting to see whether the Greens, who are the shining orb of life, truth and wonder, will vote for transparency in the media in this legislation or for censorship. That will be another interesting thing. It will be interesting to see whether they vote for the guillotine to shut down the debate just like they want to shut down the media. It will be a fascinating to see as to whether they take it to a Senate inquiry, because they believe in the committee system. Will they take it to a thorough Senate inquiry or will they crawl under a rock because that is what their coalition partners, the Labor Party, tell them to do? It is all going to be there for us to see within seven days. It will be very interesting.
You cannot wonder why the people of Western Australia no longer vote for you, because then there will be other states that will not vote for you. They are watching you closely, and the Greens seem to have lost their soul—they continue to lose their soul. This is an absolutely hypocritical motion, because you do not believe in the mining tax. It says you want to get money from an industry that you do not believe in and you want to invest it in your backyard where your offices are. You are where you live, and you live in the inner urban areas. You want the money from the regional areas to prop you up.