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Tuesday, 19 November 2002
Page: 6790


Senator TCHEN (8:07 PM) — I take great pleasure in following my Victorian colleague Senator Marshall to speak about Victoria. I think Senator Marshall ought to be admired because he chose, once again, to defend the indefensible by trying to praise the achievements of the Bracks government over the last three years. Tonight is not the first time Senator Marshall has done this; he has done this a couple of times. Having chosen this course of action, he is in the unfortunate position of not being able to find any achievements on which to praise the Bracks government. Tonight Senator Marshall said that the Melbourne 2030planning document—a strategic plan for Melbourne's development over the next 30 years—was something of an achievement of the Bracks government. In particular, he criticised Mr Petro Georgiou, a Victorian colleague in the other chamber, who has written an article exposing Melbourne 2030 as a con job.

Senator Marshall took great exception to some of the comments Mr Georgiou had made about Melbourne 2030. But, instead of arguing whether Mr Georgiou was right or not, I would like to draw Senator Marshall's attention to the comments of another critic, Mr Kenneth Davidson, who, I think, is much more politically acceptable to Senator Marshall. In the Age last month, when Melbourne 2030was first released, Kenneth Davidson described this particular document not as something which was to be a highlight of any government's achievements but as simply a restatement of the main elements of the Kennett government's 1995 planning document entitled Living suburbs. This is something which Senator Marshall should think about. The Bracks government produced something which the Kennett government had put up seven years before. So it is not fair to paint the Kennett government as evil when the Bracks government has replicated something which was done seven years earlier.

Metropolitan planning strategies are notoriously difficult to produce because in metropolitan areas you do have conflicting interests. There are various development interests and environmental interests, there are issues about whether public transport and/or cars are the best way to move people around and there are competing land uses. These are always difficult issues. It takes determination and vision to achieve the balance between development needs, environmental needs and social needs.

So every government from time to time will undertake a plan for long-term development of a major city like Melbourne. Whether they can achieve the goal will depend on whether they take their job seriously or not. It is pretty obvious that anyone looking at Melbourne 2030will find that not only is it a wholesale regurgitation of old ideas but, worse than that, it is a wholesale regurgitation of old ideas which are presented in the wrong way. I will give an example.

Melbourne 2030 proposes a solution to eliminate excessive transport and to redirect development to ensure that it meets community needs. The key centrepiece is the concept of activity centres. The idea is that, instead of all the activities being concentrated in the CBD developments, activities will be encouraged to occur right across the metropolitan area so that people will have shorter distances to travel. In the 1950s, the then Melbourne metropolitan area planning authority, the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, had already come up with this idea. They proposed that there be a small number of major centres, about six, around Melbourne—mini CBDs. More than 50 years later, we find that the Melbourne metropolitan structure actually reflects the old Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works planning proposals in that we have these activity centres, which anyone who lives in Melbourne knows about. These centres include Box Hill, Frankston, Dandenong, Footscray and Preston. They are the centres around which a lot of activities occur now.

Many people in Melbourne live in regional divisions; they do not have to travel long distances to go to a CBD. Instead of trying to develop this idea further, Mr Bracks, through Melbourne 2030, thought that he was on to a good thing and that he would push this further. His plan proposed not five or six, not 10, not 20 activity centres but 104 such activity centres right across the metropolitan area. I cannot imagine a metropolitan area of Melbourne's size having 104 activity centres. The only way for these activity centres, such dispersed structures, can be linked is to rely on private cars.

Melbourne 2030 proposes that the government intend the public transport share of metropolitan Melbourne's trips to double to 20 per cent by 2020. This is all very nice, but how you would service a dispersed distribution of services and population through a public transport system is not clear. Showing that the government is not genuine about what they propose to do about public transport, when Mr Doyle came up with the proposal that a Liberal government would abolish zone 3 of the public transport zones— which is the very outer zone—so that people in the outer areas would only have to pay the same amount for their public transport as the people in the inner and middle areas, Mr Batchelor, the Minister for Transport, attacked the Liberal Party's proposal. He said it would not work because it would bring too many people onto the public transport system. That is the most ridiculous argument that a Minister for Transport could come up with, particularly a Minister for Transport who supposedly supports the idea of public transport. Mr Batchelor says reducing ticket costs for public transport is not workable because it will bring too many people onto the public transport system.

So Senator Marshall has taken on a lame duck idea. I come back to what Mr Kenneth Davidson said about this plan. He said that Steve Bracks tried to sugar-coat the same pill that Jeff Kennett came up with, with phoney consultative processes and documents in warm, earthy colours, subliminally evocative of a sustainable environment with lots of people enjoying caffelatte society, trams and trains and hardly a freeway in sight, apart from the odd blurred picture evoking speed and mobility. Maybe these are the freeways that Mr Bracks claims he has already built, like the Scoresby freeway, which he spent a lot of public money advertising.