Page 311 - Week 01 - Thursday, 12 February 2015

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To put it simply, light rail is bad policy for Canberra. It will not achieve its public transport goals. It will cost $800 million to build, plus interest, but it will carry only one per cent of Canberrans to work and school every day. The passenger numbers are low but the cost is high, and it comes at a time when the territory government is running a large deficit which has just increased by 132 per cent.

For a perspective on these costs, I think it is good to have a look at the government’s preferred delivery model of the project, the availability of a public-private partnership. Each year, for the next 20 years after construction, the territory government will make a $100 million payment to a private consortium—every year for 20 years. That is $8.3 million a month, $1.9 million a week. What is more, with this $100 million payment in outgoings, what is the annual revenue of light rail? It is $5 million. According to the business case, $5 million per year is the revenue for light rail—outgoings $100 million; incomings $5 million. It is absolutely scandalous that the government is trying to shut down debate on this issue. The total ACTION operating budget is about $125 million. So the government is saying, “We value 12 trams the same as 400 buses.” Four hundred buses in operation is what the equation is—12 trams or 400 buses. It is absolutely outrageous that the government would try and shut down debate on this issue.

The new Chief Minister has also liked to promote light rail as a great job opportunity. But, as he would know, each dollar spent comes with an opportunity cost. We have to ask: is $800 million on this project the best way to spend $800 million? What are the alternatives? How many alternatives are there that do not involve international consortia? Could it possibly be that a hundred $8 million projects might deliver a far better economic return for small businesses across the ACT?

This project is fundamentally flawed and this legislation is fundamentally flawed. This is disappointing legislation. It is legislation which shuts out the community and shuts out the Assembly. It is a government that is using its bare majority of nine members, put together by Labor and a Green after the last election, to simply shut out the community. The opposition will be voting against this bill and will also be moving amendments to try and make the bill marginally better. As I have already said, this is flawed legislation and it should not go ahead.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Capital Metro) (4.50): I am pleased to rise to support this debate this evening. This very much is a debate about values. It is about your future vision and perspective and objectives for the growth and development of our city. It is a debate about the next 20 to 30 years, not just about the next 12 to 18 months.

Members interjecting—

MR CORBELL: I heard Mr Coe in silence, Madam Assistant Speaker, and they are entitled to hear the arguments they do not want to hear.

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