Page 541 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 13 February 2013

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We in the opposition will be scrutinising this agreement and, in particular, from my perspective as shadow minister for transport, the commitment to construct light rail.

The thought of light rail in Canberra is not a new proposition. Of course, Walter Burley Griffin designed Canberra with wide boulevards to provide for private vehicle traffic, many with space for the provision of a bus way or tramway at a later point in time. Since those days of the early development of Canberra, light rail has been considered countless times as an alternative transport mode in the city.

Today, the cause has many passionate advocates—such as ACT Light Rail, convened by Damien Haas. It is my belief that people like the idea of light rail, but the realities of the cost of construction, patronage and running costs are still major hurdles that need to be overcome.

In the 2008 election, the Canberra Liberals undertook that if we won the election and won government we would conduct an engineering study to provide more information about the feasibility of construction. After all, it is very difficult to do a cost-benefit study if neither the costs nor the benefits are known.

I believe the government has jumped the gun by giving an absolute guarantee to Canberra to construct light rail before the all the facts are known. The government has not committed to simply doing studies, research or costings. It has committed to delivering light rail in Canberra. This is a bold and courageous commitment and one I think it will struggle to honour.

The Labor Party said in media releases:

If re-elected, ACT Labor has committed to establish Canberra’s first large-scale private sector partnership to plan, finance and develop the first stage of a light rail network starting from Gungahlin to the City.

The opposition have already flagged serious concerns about the cost and patronage of light rail, and we want to see evidence. If the opposition are to support the government in this endeavour, like all issues, the case has to be made.

My motion today is about this case. The government should deliver to the opposition—and, through the Assembly, all Canberrans—information about the project. I have asked for the expenditure to date on external and internal sources, the time line for the decision-making and construction process, the expected cost to taxpayers of pre-construction and construction, the predicted patronage, running costs and staffing once operational, the population within reasonable walking distance of light rail stops, the plans for park-and-ride facilities, the financial models for funding the project, and what feedback was received from Infrastructure Australia as a result of the 2008-09 federally funded proposal, which failed. These are all reasonable questions to ask and they should be able to be answered.

In the current budget, the government states:

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