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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 8429


Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (19:50): Bennelong is a region of Sydney that seems to be the beneficiary of all that is desirable in a modern metropolis, but with all of the challenges. There are state-of-the-art shopping centres—the latest and greatest being Top Ryde City; business parks that are spectacular in scope and size, boasting the Optus headquarters—which is a world in itself; Macquarie Hospital, with medical technologies to amaze, enthral and, most importantly, heal; and Macquarie University, which has just this week been recognised as producing some of Australia's most successful graduates. Many of these graduates begin as overseas students and I have spoken repeatedly of the need for a much greater level of support for these students, who play such an important role in our national and local economy.

The boarding houses that have materialised all over Marsfield, leading to the community action group, Marsfield Against Residential Suffocation, have led to a radical change in the nature of this quiet suburb, as well as the mistreatment of students by unscrupulous landlords. Housing developments are aplenty, with something for everyone, but that sometimes seems to be the problem; so many moving into Bennelong and yet so many more funnelling through to the CBD from the fast-growing Hills district. The biggest single issue for some time has been concern regarding overdevelopment, which generates the first symptom of traffic congestion that impacts on our everyday life. This situation is magnified by the lack of public transport development, resulting in the import of more traffic congestion. This is the motivation to push for the well-overdue investment in infrastructure—namely, the North West rail link and the Epping to Parramatta rail link. These two pieces of infrastructure are absolutely vital to take the pressure off and regain acceptable levels of traffic rather than the levels that so drain our productivity and quality of life.

I have argued recently for appropriate development that will not destroy our leafy suburban amenity. When located at the junction of these proposed upgraded rail hubs, as I have promoted for the proposed development of the Epping town centre, it would appear that no additional traffic will result. Through an acceptance of the inevitability of population increases throughout our nation's largest city, the high-rise nature of the proposed development will stymie any lateral spread and therefore protect the nature and quality of life in the surrounding suburbs.

Involvement in the redevelopment of the Ryde rehabilitation centre has also produced an improved result through the cooperative nature of the developer, Frasers Property. Macquarie Park also sits there waiting patiently for the promised infrastructure that will not only reduce its people's biggest challenge of simply getting to work in reasonable time but also open up further opportunities to fulfil its vast potential. The City of Ryde has predicted that Macquarie Park will be Australia's fourth largest CBD by 2030, alongside the booming Parramatta.

With this knowledge, it is our duty as community leaders at all levels of government to invest in the infrastructure necessary to facilitate this growth. We must ensure that we do not repeat the same mistake made by successive Labor governments, promising infrastructure to get a good headline but rarely turning a sod of dirt or laying a metre of track. The 13-year delay of the North West rail link has seen the project blow out in cost from $360 million to $8 billion. The Chatswood to Parramatta rail link was set to cost $1 billion; half of it was built 10 years later at a cost of $2.4 billion.

The crucial connection from Epping which would link the two burgeoning CBDs of Macquarie Park and Parramatta was announced by a desperate Gillard government in the dying days of the election campaign, with a promise of a further $2.1 billion. Bennelong's voters did not believe this promise, and I am here as a result of that today. Their insight seems well founded following successive broken promises on everything from a carbon tax to asylum seekers and now the surplus. The people of Bennelong would certainly appreciate it if the government kept this one promise. It is interesting to note that the Epping to Parramatta rail link failed to rate a single mention in the thousands of pages of budget documents, despite every other nation-building project that was announced in the MYEFO being confirmed in this year's budget. The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport gave me a verbal reassurance that this promise stands. The people of Bennelong are watching closely to see if his word is worth more than that of his Prime Minister.