Page 1350 - Week 04 - Thursday, 12 April 2018
The second change announced in the budget review is that the utilities concession is going to be expanded to long-term residents of caravan parks and retirement villages which have embedded electricity networks. These people were not able to get the concession through the normal method because they do not get a bill from an electricity retailer; they get it from their accommodation provider instead. This change means that they can get a cash payment equivalent to other people’s bill reductions, which is a good thing.
More locally, I am very pleased to see that $25 million is going to be allocated over two years for the capital costs of expanding the Woden bus depot, which I walk past on a regular basis. It is land which has been empty for a long time. Expanding the no-longer used Woden bus depot will mean that we have sufficient space to store a bus fleet on the south side; it will modernise our facilities; and it will provide future capacity for electric buses, including charging infrastructure, battery space and solar panels. Yesterday in this place we talked about bus timings; I am sure that having a depot on the south side will improve on-time running of our bus fleet. It will have space for charging electric buses, as I said. The next thing, of course, that we need to do is buy a few more electric buses. And as a member for Murrumbidgee, I am also very pleased that it will be happening, because it will improve employment in Woden, which is desperately needed.
Another transport-related innovation that I am very pleased to see is work to improve the rail line between Canberra and Sydney. We are going to be able to offer to work with the New South Wales government to apply for federal funding to speed up the train. The current train line is slow. It is as slow as it was 50 years ago. It is generally too slow for most people. The bus is faster and cheaper, which is a sad state of affairs. If there were a faster train service, I know it would be very popular. It would be more comfortable than the bus, it would be cheaper than flying and it would save many transport emissions. It would be more comfortable, relaxing and convenient. I really, hope to see improvement on our train line to Sydney very soon.
The budget also includes $630,000 to establish an online panel to improve the community engagement process. I am really interested to see how this is going to work and how it can be used to improve the diversity and quality of community input. Improving the quality and processes of the government’s community engagement is an important parliamentary agreement item, and this online panel is one facet of it. It will be fascinating to see how this works, and it is very important for this Assembly to have a good oversight of how community engagement is happening with these new methods. Another part of improving our deliberative democracy process is the participatory budgeting process. We look forward to seeing that commence next year.
The Greens are pleased that all these initiatives have been funded. As I said, and as Mr Rattenbury said, we will be supporting the appropriation Bill.
MR BARR (Kurrajong—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development and Minister for Tourism and Major Events) (11.19), in reply: We see a rare combination of tripartisanship on an appropriation bill. I do not expect that that will be a consistent thing in this place over the balance of this parliamentary term. I thank all members for their support of these bills.