Page 3080 - Week 10 - Thursday, 15 August 2013
MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (10.37): The expenditure that is planned for capital metro beyond what is in the budget is in the order of $600 million. That represents the biggest infrastructure program in the ACT’s history. I would note that is simply phase 1 of what the government intends to be a full rollout of trams, light rail—whatever you want to call it—across the ACT, and that has not been costed. It would be very difficult to cost. But what is pretty evident is that it would be in the multiple billions of dollars. With the way the figures have been bouncing around over the last couple of years, it is a little difficult to predict, but putting lines out to Belconnen, perhaps out to Woden and Weston, out to the airport, going over the lake and south, is going to be enormously expensive.
What the government is asking us to do through this budget is to provide funds, the $5 million or so, that start the ball rolling. So the decision we are being asked to make today is not just a $5 million decision that goes into this budget; it is a multibillion-dollar decision and it is going to have a massive impact on the ability of this jurisdiction to do a lot of things, because there is a cost benefit to this. If there is a benefit to light rail then the reality is that if we are spending billions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars, it means we cannot spend that money on other things.
In a comparison of what the priority is for this community and where the taxpayers’ money should be spent, this is a pretty big decision. In fact, it is probably one of the biggest decisions this Assembly has ever been called on to make. The concern that we on this side of the Assembly have is that the case has not been made. Is it the right decision or not? I am convinced that the case has not been made.
I am not the only one that thinks this. Infrastructure Australia agree with that. They are experts when it comes to these matters. When they looked at the government’s proposal, they have been dismissive. They have said that the case has not been made. So Infrastructure Australia say that but we are being asked to sign away billions of dollars, potentially, of taxpayers’ money on a case that has not been made.
Why are we being asked to do this, because it does seem extraordinary? It is quite clear that the decision on light rail was a political decision. For many years the Labor Party resisted it—and probably rightly, because they looked at the evidence and at the policy and they said, “No, this isn’t viable; the way to go is buses.” And that was a longstanding position of the Labor Party.
But the politics changed. We had the advent of the Greens and parliamentary agreements and, with the bleeding of votes to the left, there was the Labor Party’s desire to fight on the same ground on a range of issues—particularly Minister Corbell—and a political decision was made by the Labor Party.
I do not think that is the right way to do business. There is no great rush for this decision. The analysis needs to be made, the case needs to be put, the evidence needs to be gathered and the community needs to be convinced, and that has not occurred. So it is with great regret that we on this side have been put in a position where decisions are going to need to be made on capital metro that are pre-emptive, driven by the politics, and that is exactly what is happening here.