Page 2556 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 11 August 2015

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MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (11.42): You certainly know that someone is struggling to make their case when they have got to spend their whole speech quoting the opposition, that their own arguments are not stacking up, certainly not convincing us nor, would I say, convincing the people of Canberra. The reality is that light rail is not an effective transport solution.

Certainly a lot of studies have occurred. There has been a lot of conversation, discussion, about whether light rail would be the right fix for Canberra. Some of that debate has occurred before in this place from across the political divide. But the more it has been looked at, the more the facts have been on the table through business cases, through responses from Infrastructure Australia, the Productivity Commission and others, it has become clear that it is not a viable transport solution for the ACT and, indeed, the route that has been selected from Gungahlin to the city is perhaps the least viable of all.

It is not a transport solution, and Mr Coe has pointed to a number of solid arguments that demonstrate that, not the least of which is when you hear Mr Corbell quoting “European cities of our size”. The problem is that Canberra is quite unique in how spread out it is, and other cities across the world of our population size have significantly higher density, a fact that often Mr Corbell forgets to mention.

It is not an economic solution. We know that, because if you are going to spend close to a billion dollars you would expect a good economic return. We know that buses, in the government’s own business case, in the government’s own arguments, have a higher economic return. I think almost any other project conceivable would have a higher BCR than that which has been proposed for light rail even if you believe some of those optimistic assessments within the business case.

It is not a jobs creator, which is the latest endeavour to sell this project. I refer members to David Hughes’s article in the Canberra Times that looked at that. It looked at the long-term jobs out of light rail. When you finish the construction phase, his estimate is 75 jobs. During the construction phase there are about 1,900 jobs, I believe.

Of course, you have to then consider what are the opportunities lost. If you are spending that much money on an infrastructure project, $783 million, on perhaps one or two or maybe a dozen infrastructure programs, what is it that you are losing in terms of jobs? His analysis is that when you do that sort of rigorous analysis, light rail is a net jobs destroyer comparative to what else could be provided.

This is where people come to me, Madam Speaker—and they probably come to you in the streets as well. They scratch their heads and say, “I just don’t get it. It does not stack up. What is the purpose of light rail? Why is the government pursuing it?” Quite clearly there are a number of reasons, but they are not good reasons. The two that I think are evident are, firstly, that it is a political fix. It is a political fix because Mr Corbell wants this and Mr Rattenbury wants this.

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