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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 801

Mr HOWARTH (Petrie) (19:35): I am a patient man. But I am not a patch on the people of Petrie: 132 years is a long time to spend waiting for a train, but that is exactly what generations of residents in my electorate have done.

First mooted in 1884, it took the coalition government—this coalition government—to come to the party with the funding needed to make the Redcliffe Peninsula rail line happen. Labor of course had their chance—and to be fair, they did pay it some lip service. They signed a bit of paper and made their own version of a commitment until it came to the 2013 election, when the previous member for Petrie said that under Luke Howarth and under a federal coalition government this would never happen. At which point they politicised the issue. They said we would not fund it—delayed indefinitely. And at the 2016 election, just four or five weeks before the election, the previous member, who is now the state attorney-general, once again said it would be delayed indefinitely. 'Delayed indefinitely,' they said.

When we were elected we put taxpayers' money where it rightly belonged: into the Redcliffe Peninsula rail line. It opened in October 2016. It now connects those in the Moreton Bay region, one of the fastest-growing regions in Australia, mind you, with Brisbane's CBD. It marries affordable housing with jobs; it links lifestyle and opportunity; it cuts travel time; it eases road congestion; and it reduces emissions. And these were just some of the reasons that we worked to find the funding needed to make the project happen.

So on 4 October, when the Prime Minister joined me in boarding the first train to travel from Redcliffe out to Petrie, it was a proud day. It was a proud day not just for all levels of government but for the Australian coalition government—for me, personally, but for the entire community and for generations of people who had waited for this to happen. As we handed control of the line to the Palaszczuk Labor government and Queensland Rail, we trusted they shared our commitment to the people of Moreton Bay. Sadly, they soon proved their loyalty lay elsewhere.

Just days after the Prime Minister and I took that first trip, Queensland's then transport minister, Stirling Hinchliffe, received some disturbing news. According to the report of the Strachan commission of inquiry, released just a fortnight ago—and which I have here—just days after that first trip, Mr Hinchliffe was told of impending disruptions and delays. Mr Hinchliffe—who has since resigned as transport minister—has conceded he received information about driver shortages more than six months before that first trip, in March 2016. Those warnings materialised as a mass service disruption so that two weeks after that first trip one in eight trains was being cancelled. By Christmas Day, this had blown out to one in three. This affected commuters at Bald Hills, Carseldine, Zillmere and right along that Caboolture line. The added demand from the Redcliffe-Peninsula rail services collided with the slickness of the relationship between Labor and the unions. The trains virtually ground to a halt and Queenslanders were left stranded at the station.

That the Labor government was powerless to prevent this still-unfolding debacle beggars belief, and it gives an astonishing insight into the fundamental flaw of the foundations upon which the Labor Party is built. Why were they powerless to act? It is because they value their relationship with the unions more than they value the people they represent. And they let the tail wag the dog.

The report of the Queensland Rail train crewing practices commission of inquiry was released just two weeks ago. We have since been exposed to one shameful admission after another, each implicating the Palaszczuk government more than the last. These include revelations that union crewing rules and restrictions reduced productivity to the point where train drivers spend less than one-third of their shifts actually driving a train. That is absolutely amazing. They include that driver recruitment practices crippled the line. And, according to the report, we are looking at up to two years before full service is restored.

While the union holds the rail line to ransom, I guess Queenslanders can only exercise patience: stuck at the station, just waiting for a train.