The following is a speech I wrote but was not ultimately required to deliver at the Victorian Labor State Conference at Moonee Valley Racecourse, Melbourne on Saturday May 17 2014.
Delegates, Victorian Labor understands that Melbourne’s growing population is putting huge strain on our metropolitan transport infrastructure. Congestion on our roads and longer than necessary public transport commutes effectively rob us of precious time we could otherwise spend with friends and family and drive down our collective productivity.
I’m here today as Secretary of the Melbourne Labor FEA. The Melbourne electorate is perhaps the biggest consumer of public transport in the whole country. People in Melbourne rely on sustainable and efficient public transport to go about their busy daily lives. However, our inner city neighborhoods withstand the worst of traffic bottlenecks while our urban train network suffers from overcrowding and routine delays.
Delegates, my own experience catching a train into the city every day at Newmarket Station is an example of this. Newmarket Station is located in the state seat of Melbourne in the heart of the Flemington/ Kensington area.
All too often, morning commuters at Newmarket face lengthy, often unexplained delays. And often when trains do finally arrive, they are overcrowded and while some of us may be lucky to squeeze in the door, the less able bodied are forced to wait for the next service.. and wait and wait they do.
For too long, transport infrastructure under this Liberal-National Government has been treated as a second class priority and public transport users as second class citizens. Public transport has been a political football for the conservatives, impeding the development of long term, strategic infrastructure policy.
We in the Labor Party understand the need for a train system that is more reliable and can carry more passengers. Delegates, our Melbourne Metro plan is designed to do just that.
The former Federal Labor Government established Infrastructure Australia to provide independent and transparent advice about the economic, social and environmental costs and benefit of particular projects and to consider the best way to get value for taxpayer investments.Infrastructure Australia identified Melbourne Metro as a priority to meet Melbourne’s future transport needs.
Labor’s Melbourne Metro is a nine kilometer rail tunnel that will link the Sunbury and Pakenham/ Cranbourne rail lines. Under our plan, there will be five new underground stations at Arden, Parkville, CBD North, CBD South and Domain. The rail tunnel will join the Dandenong corridor to the east of South Yarra Station and the Sunbury line west of South Kensington Station.
Stations where people need them, not where gambling interests want them. Our transport priority is to put people first.
The vision behind Melbourne Metro is relatively simple: simple timetables – modern signaling to maximise the number of trains that can operate on each line – higher capacity trains – better integration with connecting buses and trams.
The project would “untangle” our current rail system and create four independent rail corridors. Services operating along these corridors will be able to run at higher frequencies without interfering with other routes.
Labor’s Melbourne Metro would provide 19 extra services on our passenger rail networks across Melbourne. This translates to up to 20,000 more passengers on our trains each hour.
It is also a necessary first step in other critical transport projects such as a train line to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport.
I am immensely proud of the fact that I am a member of a political party that has been a long-term supporter of the Melbourne Metro project.
Our previous Federal Labor Government in its first term allocated $40m to the Melbourne Metro project. In May last year, Federal Labor allocated a further $3 billion towards the cost of building the link. We did this because Labor understands the important of public transport to nation building and nation-building is what Labor Government’s do best.
By contrast, the stale, visionless conservatives on our right do not understand the need to invest in our future.
Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National Government will never fund any urban rail projects. Further, Dennis Napthine’s State Liberal Government has walked away from its earlier position supporting Melbourne Metro.
Instead, they want to build an $8B East-West tunnel to nowhere that will do nothing to ease Melbourne’s congestion problems.
Shame delegates, shame!
The Liberals East-West tunnel was not even on the radar when Infrastructure Australia identified Melbourne’s transport priorities.
They have plucked it out of thin air, presumably due to some neo-liberal ideological disdain for public transport infrastructure, to the detriment of all Victorians.
On all available evidence, the economic, environmental and social costs of the Liberals East-West project significantly outweigh any benefits. By committing to this project, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his mate, Premier Napthine have failed to listen to the expert advice of Infrastructure Australia and turned their back on the hundreds of thousands of Melburnians who rely on public transport to go about their daily lives.
Despite frequent requests, they have also refused to release their figures for public scrutiny. The little we do know about their dud tunnel suggests that taxpayers will be left to carry all the risks in building and operating the road. Surely, there are better uses of $8 billion of taxpayers’ money?
Delegates, Labor is categorically opposed to the Liberals East-West project.
Our vision of Melbourne’s transport future is backed by the experts.
We understand that Melbourne Metro is essential to Melbourne’s transport future and we know only an Andrews Labor Government will build it.
The fight for a better transport future for all Victorians begins now.
Thank you. Brenton Baldwin