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Thursday, 6 March 2014
Page: 1976

Mr GILES (Scullin) (11:23): A key feature of the electorate of Scullin, much like the electorate of my friend and colleague the member for Calwell, is suburban growth. Communities in suburbs such as South Morang and Epping North are experiencing extraordinary growth. Areas that were farmland relatively recently are now developed suburbs. I note that in the very near future one in five Australians will be living in outer suburban communities. I am excited by the possibilities of this growth but also recognise it poses significant challenges. Indeed, one of the things that has dominated my thinking and my actions since I was endorsed as Labor's candidate for Scullin is what I can do and what governments can do to help shape these communities to ensure their viability.

Often we think of major infrastructure issues, and I have often had occasion to speak up for the provision of public transport infrastructure, be it buses that link up with these new communities or heavy rail. I have also spoken up for significant road improvements such as the duplication of Epping Road, the extension of Edgars Road and the O'Herns Road interchange. These are vital infrastructure questions that I will continue to pursue, but today I wish to raise an infrastructure matter that may seem small but reflects a dire situation that is affecting many of the people that I represent.

I refer to the dire situation which faces residents in Epping North that relates to the proposed traffic lights on the corner of Epping Road and Harvest Home Road in Epping. During the election campaign last year I doorknocked in this area and residents were quick to raise this as well as other infrastructure issues. They continue to do so with great frequency and often with quite some vigour. I am presently holding a series of community catch-ups, including at Wollert just up the road, and I have already been contacted by several constituents foreshadowing to me that these infrastructure issues are of great concern and they wish to spend time with me to go through what I can do to assist them.

On Tuesday of this week local residents were joined by my state colleagues Lily D'Ambrosio and Bronwyn Halfpenny to discuss the hazards that the lack of traffic lights at this intersection presented, as well as some other issues facing the area. I would have liked to have been there to continue my advocacy and better inform myself of the concerns of residents, particularly in light of some recent accidents. It was notable that no-one from the Victorian coalition government attended this meeting. This lack of concern by the Baillieu-Napthine governments has become worryingly familiar for the residents of Epping North. Residents are enduring constant buck-passing between VicRoads, developers and often Telstra. The City of Whittlesea, the relevant local government body, is one of the fastest-growing municipalities in Australia. It needs urgent investment and strategic planning support from the Victorian and Commonwealth governments. The council has resorted to launching a campaign, Access Denied, to highlight the systemic issues in the area. Part of this includes a mobile billboard, which I understand will circle the Victorian parliament during sitting days. These are extraordinary lengths for the council to have to go to just to get the attention of government.

The intersection at Epping Road and Harvest Home Road is symptomatic of the lack of planning with the ever-growing suburbs of Melbourne. In Epping North we see the failure of this neoliberal developer-driven approach to urban planning, with something as simple as the installation of traffic lights developing into a Mexican stand-off between different groups and with no-one assuming responsibility. In contrast, federal Labor went to the last election with a more cooperative approach to urban planning, with a minister for cities. The Urban Policy Forum was at the centre of our approach, whereby planning experts could provide valuable advice to decision makers about big issues on managing growth and on smaller issues like traffic lights on intersections. This was to deal with the concerns about greater productivity that we often speak of in this place and also the concerns of liveability, including personal safety. I am disappointed, though not surprised, to find that one of the first acts of this federal government was to junk the Major Cities Unit. The coalition never proposed a minister for cities, so this is one commitment they can be regarded as having kept.

But what this means for residents of Epping North is more of the same. As the federal member I am keen to work with state and local governments to give the residents of Epping North the government they deserve, a government that will listen and act in their interests. There is only so much local government can do by itself. Fortunately, the people of Victoria go to an election on 29 November and have an opportunity to vote for a party with a plan to manage growth and congestion, and to support communities.

I want, again, to pay tribute to the work of the local Aurora Community Association—in particular, the indefatigable Toni Wuelfert, Cara Horner and Tony Francis. They are working to build a stronger sense of community and a sense of agency for residents who feel powerless, but who should not. I am pleased to speak here in support of their work and do all I can to ensure that Melbourne's future does not become a tale of two cities.