Page 121 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 15 February 2006

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The Treasurer has gone one step further. In an interview on 2CC in January 2006 he said:

Let’s get one thing straight on the busway. It is very far sighted on the part of the Government to do planning to ensure that in the future, there is a corridor for a busway or light rail to run on. So that even if we don’t build it now, we have ensured the route for a busway or light rail won’t be built over and the whole thing won’t become impossible. However, the decision to actually build it is a secondary decision.

That seems to go even further. What we heard from the minister before was that the busway would go ahead and it would allow for future light rail if that were ever to come down the track. But, after the Chief Minister said, “Well, this is really just about reserving land,” we have the Treasurer now saying, “Well, it’s really about reserving land, maybe for a busway, maybe for light rail—we don’t know—some time in the future. We’ll just make sure.”

The question then becomes: is the project still for a busway, or is it simply to reserve some land? If it is just to reserve some land, we have got to question some of the expenditure that we have seen to date on this issue. Why sign a marketing contract on a project to reserve land? Why spend $6 million simply to reserve land? Why do detailed design work? They are all the questions.

This goes to the heart of the problem. It started out as an idea of the planning minister. There was not a lot of thought given to it by cabinet but he was allowed to go out with planning stuff. As they have seen more and more opposition, and as this proposed project has been analysed more, the colleagues of Mr Corbell, his cabinet colleagues, have seen that this is not a good idea. In the current economic and budgetary climate, they just do not think that it is a good idea. So what we have seen is a gradual backing away.

But, in the meantime, we have seen marketing contracts signed. Why a marketing contract if all you are doing is reserving land? I do not think you need to market that process. People would understand that that is just future planning and that, if we ever want to built a busway or light rail, those are the corridors reserved for it. I do not think that there is much danger that the kind of corridors that we are talking about are likely to be built on either, to be fair, so it is not a sort of exercise in rocket science. This is not a difficult process if that was all that it was about.

But of course it was not about that. It was about building a busway, and what we need to know now, and what we need the minister to answer, is whether the busway is still going to go ahead or whether it has now simply just become an exercise in reserving land. It is fine if they are going to put it off for years. But why are they spending $6 million on things such as detailed design work and marketing if this is really just a bit of sensible long-term planning, if we are to believe the Treasurer and the Chief Minister on this issue?

An amendment has been flagged by Mr Corbell, and I note that it does not actually say anything about the busway, or, if it does, I have sort of missed it. It talks about a sustainable transport plan. I am not going to speak to the amendment now, but I hope that some time in the debate someone from the government will stand up and say, “We think spending $150 million on a busway that saves three minutes from Belconnen to

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