Public Transport Motion

09 February 2017

That the Senate condemns the failure of the Turnbull Government to invest in public transport infrastructure across Australia.

Here were are some eight months into the second term of the coalition government and, in that time, our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has not sought to commence a single new major public transport project anywhere in the country. We all had high hopes that Malcolm Turnbull would differentiate himself from Abbott's appalling record on this front, but instead investment in our public transport systems coming from the Commonwealth continues to languish.

When Labor were in government, however, we increased federal spending on transport infrastructure from $141 to $269 a person. We committed to more public transport than all our predecessors since Federation combined. This has been incredibly important for our nation because we cannot have sustainable cities and quality family lives when people are stuck on congested roads.

In fact, the Barnett government relied on federal Labor when we were last in government to put money into the sinking of the railway line between Northbridge and the city of Perth, and we are just beginning to see the benefits now of this fantastic investment in the city. It has been thanks to the planning and investments coming from the Commonwealth that we have been able to see this project start to come to fruition. Without that money, this project would not have happened and our city would be much the poorer. The project really highlights the significance of investment in public transport, and this is exactly what WA is now missing out on.

What we had instead from the Liberal government when they came into government is that they scrapped all funding for public transport in our nation to the tune of $4 billion. From my home town of Perth where this investment is sorely needed, the Commonwealth has withdrawn $500 million that Labor allocated for public transport when we were in government. This is despite the appalling fact—and I know you will understand this, Madam Deputy President—that figures show that Perth is set to have seven of Australia's 10 most congested roads within 15 years. The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics says that 50 to 65 per cent of people are spending more than 45 minutes commuting to work every single day. That could be more than 10,000 hours per year stuck on the road because we have a government that will not invest in public transport around our country, 10,000 hours per year of people missing out on time with their families because the Liberals will not invest in public transport.

There has been no investment by the Turnbull government in public transport in Western Australia. There has been no investment by the Barnett government in public transport in WA. What we have here is both the Turnbull and Barnett governments taking Western Australians for granted. We have here a very wrong set of priorities. The WA Liberal and National government's key infrastructure project is, I am very sorry to say, a $1.9 billion freight link that is in fact a road to nowhere. It is a road whose construction is destroying important wetlands in areas of biodiversity. These are very precious areas that are much needed within our urban environment. It is a road that is destroying the homes of animals and wiping out endangered flora.

Colin Barnett, the premier, has argued that the freight link is to facilitate the passage of trucks to Fremantle Port. But the simple fact is that the road does not go to the Fremantle Port. If that were not so terrible it would almost be funny. The road terminates before it gets anywhere close to the Fremantle port. In fact, what we know about the Fremantle port is that it is already very much close to capacity, and what the state really needs is a southern port that fits with the state's future infrastructure needs and enables the state's economic development.

Instead, what we have is this appalling road to nowhere. The Freight Link has been an absolute debacle from the get go. It is a terrible example of the Barnett government's mismanagement of Western Australia. So while we have Colin Barnett, Lisa Harvey and their mates in the Turnbull government sitting back and doing nothing about public transport in WA, what we have in the Mark McGowan Labor government is a real plan. We have a plan to invest in METRONET to connect our suburbs around Perth and to help fix congestion on our roads. It includes the introduction of a circle line, revolutionising Perth's rail system, providing the first east-west rail link so that commuters do not have to travel into the CBD to get out to other suburbs. It is an incredibly important plan. It includes completing the Forrestfield-Airport line, building a train line to Ellenbrook and, finally, keeping the promise that the Liberal government broke time and time again, building a Yanchep line to the north and a Byford line to the east as well as a new train station at Karnup in the south.

It is a comprehensive plan, but it will need investment from the Commonwealth government. The plan involves fixing dangerous level crossings on the Armadale, Midland and Fremantle lines. With that, with METRONET, Western Australia will have the world-class public transport system that it deserves. It is smart, affordable and achievable and it will bring Perth in line with some of the best cities in the world when it comes to public transport.

These are issues that the Commonwealth government can no longer be missing in action on. The plan is not only good for fixing congestion; it will create more than 10,000 jobs for Western Australians in our state. It will also see local manufacturing of railcars in Western Australia, increasing our local manufacturing of railcars to 50 per cent, which is a massive increase from the current two per cent under the Barnett Liberal government. This is incredibly important because the decline in the economy in Western Australia has seen many of our state's young people missing out on apprenticeships. We need this infrastructure and these jobs for the future of our state.

But the plan does require federal funding and federal investment for WA. So what we really need to see is the Commonwealth government diverting that money from the Freight Link, because we know a Mark McGowan government will not go ahead with it. The Commonwealth government needs to divert that money from the Freight Link and invest it in our public transport system, just as it did for the state of Victoria when state Labor won government there and the state made infrastructure and planning changes.

Those of us from WA Labor here in this place and the other place will not back down on this question. We will be fighting the Turnbull government to make sure that you fund our infrastructure projects in WA. We will fight to make sure that the Turnbull government invests in our public transport to ease congestion in WA. We want to fight the Turnbull government to make sure you play your part in making METRONET happen for the people of Western Australia. Why? Because it is a good plan. It is a necessary plan and it is the only real plan that is going to reduce congestion in our cities.

I know that if the Turnbull government takes money away from Western Australia because they do not support the reinvestment of the Perth Freight Link money into our public transport system, if they do not act on congestion problems that are becoming uncontrollable in our state, then they will lose seats in Western Australia, because voters in Western Australia's outer suburbs are angry. They are angry about the lack of investment in infrastructure and public transport in our state. They are sick and tired of being left behind by Liberal governments here in Canberra and over in WA.

What we have here is a real choice on 11 March. It is a choice between a tired Liberal government that has no plan for Western Australia, or a fresh approach with the Mark McGowan Labor government. Labor will invest in our future and in our public transport system. I am confident that we in this place will be able to fight the Turnbull government for a better deal for our state.