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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3358

Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth) (22:00): Last year was 50 years from the day that the trams that ran out along Anzac Parade to the eastern suburbs—out to La Perouse, out past the showground, out past the cricket ground and the racecourse, and of course out where the University of New South Wales is now—were closed by a Labor government. For all the time that our new foreign minister was Premier of New South Wales, he did nothing to build new light rail in Sydney and, in particular, most mystifyingly, did nothing to reinstate the light rail out along Anzac Parade, where there is a reservation still in place—a light rail that would have terminated in his own electorate. He could have done something for sustainability, something for public transport and something for his own constituents, but he chose to neglect all of those people and objectives.

However, last year a Liberal government was elected in New South Wales with an outstandingly capable transport minister in the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian. She has already released a light rail strategic plan, which is committed to reinstating light rail as an important part of Sydney's public transport mix. A number of routes are being assessed, including three different routes which pass through Moore Park along the old alignment of the La Perouse tram that was shut down in 1961 and terminate at the University of New South Wales. Any of these routes would have to pass a cost-benefit analysis, but the minister has said—and I commend her for saying this—that the New South Wales government is committed to expanding the light rail network.

I live in the most congested city in Australia. It is congested because of a lack of investment in public transport infrastructure. There was a view held by governments, and in particular the long-running Labor government, that the only answer to transport problems was the motor car. The fact is the city is now too densely populated and too big to be able to solve all of its problems with more roads. We need to get people out of their cars and the only way you can do that in a free society is to offer them viable, clean, reliable alternatives. There is a blindingly obvious opportunity in the eastern suburbs in my electorate: a route that would run from Central railway station, go up to Taylor Square and Anzac Parade, go past the showground, the cricket ground and the football stadium, go out past the Sydney Boys High School and the Sydney Girls High School and go out past the racecourse to the University of New South Wales and the Prince of Wales Hospital. All of these places are enormous employers from Monday to Friday, and of course the sporting facilities have enormous patronage on the weekends. Those facilities would never have been established were it not for light rail. It was light rail that built them and it is the neglect of light rail and the fatal decision in 1961 to tear up the tramways that has made them inaccessible. The interesting contrast is that despite the Labor Party saying that it is a party of the working man, that it is a party to help the battler, it is the Labor Party that has been saying, in the words of the Labor transport minister John Watkins in 2008, 'We are absolutely against light rail.' On his blog last year, Bob Carr, under a section which was largely devoted to his favourite Civil War sites—but he was not talking about sending a tramway to Gettysburg on this occasion—wrote: 'Governments cannot build new rail lines to every new suburb.' We do not need new rail lines to every new suburb. What we need in Sydney are some rail lines built to the old suburbs that used to have very workable, very effective light rail lines. Gladys Berejiklian is offering real hope for the first time in decades for public transport in Sydney and, in particular, light rail in my electorate.