Page 3733 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 28 October 2015

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It appears that the new administration recognises the need for investment in sustainable transport for our cities if they are to stay livable and economically productive. This contrasts to the approach of the former Prime Minister Mr Abbott, who was well known for his focus on road building at the expense of public transport. So it is pleasing to see that the old-school Abbott approach is on the way out, that is, of course, except if you are here in the Liberal Party in Canberra, where the Tony Abbott approach lives on through our local representatives in the Canberra Liberals.

While Malcolm Turnbull announces that the federal government will co-fund the Gold Coast’s second light rail line, the local Liberal Party say they will tear up the contract for a Canberra light rail project, even though that would waste millions of dollars and would scrap a quality, sustainable transport solution that has the support of the majority of Canberrans. All of this must be highly embarrassing for the local Liberal Party. They continue to channel the ghost of Tony Abbott, refusing to recognise the benefits light rail will bring to Canberra and its important role in creating a future livable city.

I have seen the Liberal Party’s commentary on the light rail network plan that the government released on Monday, a document that looks forward to the challenges that we will face in our city and built environment. The response from our local Liberals is, of course, totally negative. They do not want light rail from Gungahlin to Civic but nor do they want it from Civic to the parliamentary triangle or to Woden or to Belconnen or to Tuggeranong or to Weston Creek and Molonglo or to the airport. This is a textbook Tony Abbott response. They do occasionally want it. We occasionally hear a line from Mr Coe that says, “Well, you should not be building it from Gungahlin to the city. It is not the best choice. It should be Civic to Belconnen,” as they have got to have a bit of parochialism occasionally. So the position does ebb and flow at times.

The bottom line is that the government has released a vision for this city about building a quality public transport network over a sustained period of time. I must say that the reaction I have had to date has been very positive from the Canberra community. The people whom I have spoken to, just in the first couple of days, have been very positive about the fact that there is clearly a big picture here.

Recently we saw some new survey results on light rail—a Canberra Times self-selecting poll and a randomised survey conducted by a professional company. Again, the Liberal Party’s approach to this survey was revealing and worth looking at more closely. It highlighted the casual relationship they have with the facts on a regular basis. Mr Coe’s media release had the headline, “Majority against light rail”. It said, “The poll shows 52 per cent of Canberrans do not support the ACT government’s plan for light rail from Gungahlin to the city.” This is a clear example where the Liberal Party use information selectively or distort it in a way that will obviously give readers an inaccurate impression. Firstly, this release talked about only the Canberra Times self-selecting poll. That was a very interesting poll and a lot of people participated but, let us be honest: even the Canberra Times, when they announced it, highlighted the shortcomings of a self-selecting poll. They were honest enough to say that when they introduced it in the paper.

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