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The argument that we produce only a small amount of greenhouse gases relative to the rest of the world, for me, is about as powerful as saying, “If we do not sell our uranium someone else will; so why not, and we need not be worried”. The issue is: If we do not act responsibly ourselves, how can we possibly hope to influence other countries whose impact is very significant? We have a responsibility to provide a sophisticated model which has moved forward to one of sustainable urban living.

MR DE DOMENICO (Minister for Urban Services) (3.53): Mr Speaker, the Government is committed to improving public transport in Canberra as part of a broader strategy to make transport more efficient and more accessible to all members of the community. Nobody would deny that a crucial element of any modern city is an effective transport network which serves the business, social and recreational needs of all its citizens. Transport links are the arteries of urban living. What many people fail to recognise is that transport is about moving people, not just vehicles. Too often city planners have tried to build transport networks that cater predominantly for the private car, often at the expense of preserving or developing better public transport. Mr Speaker, this Government recognises that public transport has significant advantages over the private car. Public transport is more fuel efficient, resulting in a lower level of pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and hydrocarbon; generates at least 68,000 tonnes less of greenhouse gases; avoids the massive congestion problems that mar many overseas cities, and even some Australian cities; and carries people more efficiently and more safely.

There are absolutely fundamental reasons why methods of delivery of transport services provided by both the public and private sectors need to be improved. I have already mentioned the environmental priorities such as lower pollution, lower levels of noise and gas emissions. Equally important is the economic imperative to minimise the use of resources to construct and maintain our urban infrastructure. Public transport can help to avoid the high costs of low-density urban development, improve social factors like maintaining access and equity, and provide transport for people with disabilities. It can allow the development of a greater focus on community development, healthier lifestyles, and recreational needs. It can also enable us to make a positive response to the constant pressure on governments to increase efficiency and reduce public expenditure.

There is also a powerful trend emerging from Federal and State governments that sustainable management of Australian cities to ensure a quality livable urban character is fundamental to the long-term economic prosperity of those cities. This trend is most evident in the current federally-funded building better cities program, which the Federal Treasurer announced last night would be continued, and we welcome that approach. But it is also set to extend into many other areas, particularly in the environment, health, business and transport fields.

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