Page 120 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 15 February 2006

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commence as early as 2006 and was to become a crucial part of the sustainable transport plan. I will just quote from a few of the press releases. One on 18 December 2004 stated:

The Belconnen to Civic Busway is probably the most significant infrastructure investment being made by the ACT Government ...

On 20 April 2004:

This project will significantly reduce travel time.

On 16 June 2004:

These improvements will link with the Belconnen to city busway proposed in the sustainable transport plan.

And on 14 January 2005:

The busway will make a significant contribution to our stated purpose ...

Those are reasonably unequivocal. There has been a lot of talk from the minister, but it is clear from the money that has been outlaid at the moment in preparation that the plan is to go ahead with the busway some time probably in the not too distant future. As Mr Corbell said initially, he expected or hoped that construction could commence some time in 2006.

Recently, after sustained criticism of the proposal from the opposition and various other groups, we have started to hear different noises being made by members of the government. The Treasurer was the first to sound a note of caution. The Treasurer emphasised last year that a majority of cabinet would decide the issue. We all know that that is sort of code for: “Hold your horses, Simon. We’re not sure about this project. The majority of cabinet will decide, so don’t go out and say too much.” I do not think there is much doubt how the Treasurer would vote if this were to come before cabinet prior to his departure.

Then we come to the Chief Minister. In the Assembly and in the media he has repeatedly emphasised that no decision had been taken on the busway. But then he went one step further and on 23 December last year he said on radio:

In terms of planning it is not about today or tomorrow it’s about the long term. The planning that we’re currently doing in relation to a Belconnen to Civic busway is at this stage design, to ensure that we identify a possible route should the decision ever be taken to build one, and I need re-emphasize that, should the decision ever be taken to build it, that there will be land reserved for the purpose.

That does seem to represent a significant policy shift—from a busway that was likely to go ahead in 2006 to an exercise in the reservation of land for a project some time in the distant future. That does represent a significant shift, and I will come back to that, but the concern that that raises is the kind of expenditure that we have seen to date if this is really just to reserve land. Let me make it clear that that was not the initial purpose. That was not how it was sold. It was about a busway probably going ahead fairly soon, and there does seem to have been a shift.

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