Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 05 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 May 2015) . . Page.. 1448 ..
to the community. It was done to best practice standards by professionals in this area. The facts say that this project will generate a billion dollars over 30 years. It will return $1.20 in benefits for every dollar we invest. This, of course, is one of the many holes in Mr Coe’s argument, and no amount of colourful invective can make up for it. The project is a positive one that will return $1.20 for every dollar invested.
Beyond this bare numerical fact are the facts that our city is rapidly growing, traffic is growing and it is incumbent on us to respond to future challenges—climate change, peak oil, urban sprawl. Light rail is recognised as an excellent tool for driving quality redevelopment, creating transport corridors and higher density growth in an environmentally friendly way. But what is the Canberra Liberals’ approach to these future challenges? Literally nothing but to oppose any steps being taken. All we ever hear when the Canberra Liberals are asked this question—and people do ask it from time to time because they think if you are going to oppose something so strongly, you presumably have an alternative—is, “We’ll release the transport plan closer to the election.”
They tried to fly below the radar with the same approach at the last election, and all we saw was a transport plan that turned out to be millions of dollars of new roads and car parks that was put out at the last possible moment, with no scrutiny and no analysis of what it would mean for traffic flow in Canberra, let alone its impact on development or social or environmental issues. That is an irresponsible plan for the future of our city. What will the result be if city planning focuses on cars and parking and urban sprawl? It will lead to entrenched problems—social problems, environmental problems, economic problems. It costs the government and individuals more and more as these problems grow and it leads to expensive efforts to retrofit sustainable solutions. This underlines the fact that this is an irresponsible approach.
On that note, I have to mention Mr Coe’s recent admission that he plans to tear up light rail contracts if he is in government and let the taxpayer foot the bill. Just to make this crystal clear, Mr Coe will rip up a contract that is for an environmentally sustainable public transport project supported by the majority of the community and assessed as being positive for the city and he will make the taxpayers pay for it. Mr Coe is perhaps the most vocal of all the Liberals in this place in claiming to care about the humble taxpayer and the value of their tax dollar. It is a stunning admission that he will force taxpayers to pay millions of dollars for nothing while at the same time condemning our city to a future without a modern, first-class, sustainably powered light rail system.
The advantages of light rail are vast and extend right across the city. I spoke to the tourism industry advisory council of the Canberra Business Chamber last week and one of the issues discussed, of course, was light rail. Light rail is excellent for tourism. If you think about it, it is unlikely anyone will ever say, “Oh, you should visit Canberra; they have a great new dual-lane road that you should drive on.” It is rather more likely that they will say, “You should visit Canberra; they have an excellent new light rail system. The city is really becoming more interesting and lively.”
As the Tourism and Transport Forum of Australia wrote in its position paper on light rail: