Page 1714 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 13 May 2015

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Chief Minister on Transport Reform) (3.30): I welcome this opportunity to talk again about some of the benefits of light rail to our growing city and at the same time rebut some of the spurious arguments being put against it.

Many of the benefits of light rail, of course, are already listed in the full business case for capital metro, which has been released to the community. To remind the Assembly of some of these, the business case lists $222 million in transport time savings, $140 million in infrastructure efficiency savings, $196 million in wider economic benefits, $240 million in land use benefits, $13 million in environmental and other benefits, $5 million in walking and cycling health benefits, and over 3,500 jobs supported during construction.

These are the clear and concrete benefits, the kind that can be easily monetised for the purposes of a business case. But of course there are other extensive further benefits that are less easily refined into numbers and dollars.

Last week I talked a little about the tourism benefits of light rail. I pointed out that the national tourism and transport forum was urging all levels of government to look at light rail as a potential policy and infrastructure solution to the problems of congestion and urban mobility. It said that light rail was a good way to meet future challenges and had an important part to play in delivering urban productivity, livability and sustainability. It also talked about the branding benefits of light rail for cities and its ability to attract visitors and events.

To continue that theme of light rail being beneficial for tourism, I note the recent article in the Brisbane Times quoting the chief executive of Gold Coast Tourism. He said that the light rail project has been “an unmitigated success”. He talked about the benefits of extending the Gold Coast light rail on to its second stage. This second stage would take the light rail from the Gold Coast hospital at Southport out to the main passenger line at Helensvale. The first stage travelled from the Gold Coast hospital at Southport to Broadbeach. Since opening in July 2014, it has already carried five million customers. The head of Gold Coast Tourism said that the Gold Coast is booming and that the light rail is key to its long-term growth. His quote is that light rail “is critical for the ongoing success”.

I think building a quality public transport spine that will support our city well into the future is also critical to the ongoing success of Canberra. Light rail is going to be a defining feature of our city in the future. We have the opportunity to make our city one that is sustainable, more compact and livable, powered by renewable energy, and increasingly resilient to threats of climate change, sprawl, congestion, peak oil and pollution. Light rail is not just a policy for this year or for the next election; it is a policy to ensure the ongoing success of our city well into the future.

This is one of the clear differences in the approach of the Greens and the approach of the Liberal Party. I can describe what the Greens’ vision is for Canberra for the next 10, 20 and 50 years. I challenge the Canberra Liberals, with all their focus on negativity and oppositional politics, to describe to the Assembly, and the Canberra community, what Northbourne Avenue will look like in 20 years from now under their approach. Will it be congested? How will people be travelling? Will it have new development? And what will the air pollution status be like?

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