Page 1442 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 May 2015

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Of course, the electorate did not know this when they voted on it in 2012. We were told in 2012 that it would cost $6.8 million a year to operate and maintain light rail. The minister repeated this assertion when I asked him about the operational cost in estimates in April last year. However, the full business case, released late last year, tells us that it will cost $26 million to operate and maintain light rail in 2021, and the figure grows year on year. The electorate did not know this when they voted in 2012.

We also did not know the forecast patronage levels in 2012. With 3,946 people catching light rail in the morning peak, we now know that less than one per cent of Canberrans will catch light rail to work or school in 2021. Again, the electorate did not know this when they voted in 2012.

As Graham Downie points out in today’s Canberra Times, there was also no information provided to the 80 per cent of Gungahlin residents and all residents in Kaleen and Giralang that they will lose their current bus services. Let us put it plainly. Before the last election, the electorate was unaware that the ACT government was preparing to spend $783 million on a tram which will carry less than one per cent of Canberrans during the morning peak. This is why Canberrans deserve a vote on this project before contracts are signed.

The ACT government must know there is a large level of opposition to this project. Almost every constituent I talk to ultimately brings up the topic of light rail, with the vast majority agreeing that it is simply not the right time for it. The overwhelming response I get from my constituents is that they are continually frustrated by this government’s blind determination to proceed with the project, often at the expense of other projects in the territory.

Canberrans cannot understand why the ACT government is cutting funding to ACT Policing but proceeding with light rail. Canberrans cannot understand why their footpaths, parks and roads are being neglected all across the ACT so that light rail can be built to serve only a small portion of Canberrans who are travelling in the morning peak. Canberrans do not understand why the best buses in the system—routes 200 and 202—are being taken away and replaced with a slower tram service.

The fact that there is a high level of opposition, and in some quarters perhaps even anger, serves to demonstrate that the ACT Labor government does not have a mandate for this project. The electorate do not accept that they have voted on this, as the government likes to purport. The people of Canberra want to have their say.

My motion today calls on the ACT government to not sign any more contracts for the design, construction, operation and maintenance before the October 2016 election. I am simply saying that Canberra residents should get an opportunity to vote on this project with the full facts in front of them before the territory is locked into a 23-year, $2 billion commitment. Whilst the government have already spent many millions of dollars on this project, they should stop and seek the support of Canberrans at an election.

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