Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 531

Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (16:24): I cannot believe how blessed I am to be following on from Senator Smith and Senator Rice. Before I go to Senator Smith's contribution, I say God bless the Greens. I think Senator Rice really is pure of heart, and it is well known that Senator Rice is a cyclist, but I just have to clarify a few things. It is a wonderful dream to think we could have a third—I think it was, Senator Rice—of journeys in cars, a third on public transport and a third walking or cycling. But it never ceases to amaze me. The Greens, like all Australians, like to wake up in the morning and know the milk is fresh in the stores, there is bread on the shelves and newspapers have been delivered so everyone can read them. They actually get there through heavy vehicles and our transport networks, and we have to have roads to get our trucks from the ports, railheads, warehouses and distribution centres. You always seem to skip over that, Senator Rice.

I could probably make a suggestion: the Greens should lead by example. If they really are that concerned and passionate about cutting down on car journeys, why don't they all turn up each morning here—the whole nine of them—in a pastel rainbow painted bongo van so they could save the eight Comcars the journey? You do not see that. Mind you, it would remind me of that 1960s comedy sitcom, The Munsters, when they were on holidays! But I digress. I have got to come back to Senator Smith's contribution.

It is very clear the general business notice of motion was condemning the Turnbull government's lack of investment in public transport infrastructure, but Senator Smith clearly did not deliver a lot of home truths, and I would like to correct the record before I go down the path of talking about infrastructure for public transport. It is not only trains. It is not only buses. It is roads, bus stations and train stations. Senator Smith, in our state of Western Australia you cannot possibly argue—and I know you would not even try to argue—against the massive investment by state Labor governments in public transport over the last 20 years. It was state Labor governments that built the northern railway line, as you and I both know. You also know it was the Court Liberal government that shut down the Fremantle train line. You would remember that very well, because I know I do too. It was the state Labor government that opened it back up again. You would also know it was the state Labor government, through a previous member for—what seat was Alannah in? I cannot remember. What was her federal seat?

Senator Lines: Perth.

Senator STERLE: Perth! It was her fantastic work that opened up the southern suburbs with that magnificent piece of public transport infrastructure: the Perth-Mandurah railway line. I tell you what: I use it so many times. There are so many times when I use that in peak hour, and it is not big enough, let me tell you. It should be double-deckers.

But let's just clear some things that Senator Smith will not talk about. Yes, there happens to be a state election coming up in WA. We know that. Each time we have a state election under Barnett, from the Liberal opposition in 2008 to becoming the Premier in 2008 and then the Premier again at the 2013 election, there are shocking, misleading statements that the Barnett opposition and then Barnett government put out. Senator Smith, in his own words, made accusations of Labor 'hoodwinking voters' and about promises. I am not quite sure if it was 'broken promises' or 'Labor makes lots of promises'. But let me quote to this chamber a few examples of the shocking broken promises, false commitments and—no, I cannot use the word 'lies', because I will get pulled up by the Acting Deputy President. But what about the Ellenbrook railway line?

Everyone in this chamber knows I very rarely read speeches, and I am not reading a speech, but I want to quote and make sure I get my quotes right. This was during the 2008 campaign, when Mr Barnett was the Leader of the Opposition. The Liberals specifically stated:

A Liberal Government will provide $53 million over the next four years toward the construction of a new rail line to Ellenbrook, to meet needs in the fast growing North Eastern Growth Corridor.

The Liberal candidate and now member for Swan Hills, Mr Frank Alban, sent out material to his electorate, telling voters that the Liberals would build the Ellenbrook line. The fact is the funding was not delivered. The project was cancelled. During the 2013 campaign, Premier Barnett claimed that the commitment had never been made. Of course, someone forgot to tell Mr Alban, who sent out all that information to the seat.

Here is another ruse from the Barnett Liberal government in Western Australia. This was on 31 July 2013. The catchcry at the time was 'fully funded, fully costed'. Here we go: despite claiming during the election campaign that its projects—this is the Liberal Party—were fully funded and fully costed, it was revealed that a total of $3 billion in Commonwealth contributions was assumed for major infrastructure projects such as the Liberal's MAX Light Rail, the Liberal's airport rail and the Perth to Darwin highway. The federal government had not given one single commitment to provide one cent of funding. It was another ruse by the Liberal Premier Barnett.

I will go onto the MAX Light Rail; let's talk about the MAX Light Rail not being funded. MAX Light Rail was this grand plan that the Liberals had into the election. They were going to look after Perth's public transport infrastructure. On 31 July 2013, both the funding and time frame of Premier Barnett's MAX Light Rail project were uncertain, with the Premier refusing to reiterate his promise that it would be operational by 2018. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to provide the required federal funding for the project as well.

The Liberal government said the Metro Area Express, which is the MAX, would be a new light rail system connecting Mirrabooka with the CBD—Mirrabooka is a northern suburb—and across to Nedlands. Nedlands is the area around the university. It is very nice suburb. You would not find too many blue-collar workers in Nedlands, which is a shame, because I know I would love to live there. The light rail would also connect up with Victoria Park, which is the next suburb, out of Perth and over the Causeway. Commuters would be able to use that new light rail by 2018. The Premier, Mr Barnett, said this on 2 September 2012:

Max light rail, that project is going to be complex … my instinct tells me is that if any of the projects are going to slip out, it’ll be that one.

He said that a year later, on 15 May 2013, on ABC TV radio.

Here is another cracker. We will take this one from 28 August 2013: the rapid bus transit to Ellenbrook. You would have heard about that one. The Barnett government broke another promise to the people of Ellenbrook by failing to fund the Ellenbrook rapid bus transport service. They could not have the rail line and they are certainly not going to get the bus line. This is what the Barnett Liberal government promised: they promised Ellenbrook a rapid bus transit service, which was identified as a priority in the state government's public transport plan for Perth. Do you know what they are saying now? No funding was provided back in 2013-14 and it has just slipped off the books.

Here is another one. Now, before they all jump up on that side, all of a sudden with an election in the air, whoosh, it was: 'Let's get the graders out there, let's get some orange witch's hats and let's put some sites and fencing.' They have now extracted their political digit and now got on with the airport rail link because there is an election on. It is two years delayed. That happens. We know, we understand that delays happen. But Mr Barnett promised on 13 February 2014 that the Barnett government would deliver the airport-Forestville train line by 2018. If there was not an election coming now, there still would not be anything. That is the only reason they started one project after all the broken promises.

They also promised, on 30 June 2015, the Aubin Grove station. The Liberal government broke another promise on public transport with the delay of the construction of the Aubin Grove train station. They promised a train station and 2,000 park-and-ride facility would be open in 2016. Now they are hoping it is going to be open sometime around 2018. Before those opposite get all excited, I know massive infrastructure projects get delayed, but there is a difference between promising when you are going to do it and waiting until the last minute before the next election, then racing out to try to tell the people of Perth why you have lost a AAA credit rating and that you are a government that delivers. They are a government that breaks promises on public infrastructure and infrastructure projects constantly.

The Barnett Liberal government in Western Australia also promised—it was the Liberal-National government back then; now they are not, because they have had a little bit of a falling out with Mr Grills, the leader of the Nations, but anyway—that the Liberal-National government would add more than 15 million service kilometres and an extra 158 buses to the state's transport system, in the biggest boost to bus services in Western Australia in more than a decade. That was on 23 May 2011. What they are now saying is that the target of 15 million service kilometres has been 'wound back a little bit'—I do not know what that means—and spread over an extra seven years. That came from the Public Transport Authority's managing director, Mark Burgess—I know Mark Burgess. That was at an estimates hearing on 9 June 2015, when Senator Smith gave me the opportunity to correct the record.

I may as well keep going. On 27 July 2015, Mr Troy Buswell, who at the time would have been the Minister for Transport, said:

Our two key transformational projects to redefine travel and development patterns are the extension of the northern suburbs railway to Yanchep and a light rail from Mirrabooka to the CBD.

I have heard that before; it has popped up again. This was to the Sun City News on 21 July 2011. Where are we now? The Yanchep rail extension is not going to happen until possibly the middle of the next decade.

See, there is a constant here. There is a constant theme of promising anything that they think they need to do to win an election. They take the Western Australian voters for fools, promising it up. They promise, promise and promise. They then come back after the election and have more excuses than you could even imagine about why they cannot do it, while also losing our AAA credit rating, while also knowing that the wind-down on construction and in the mining industry was going to bite and while also knowing all the Treasury forecasts that the price of iron ore would fall through the floor. But that did not stop Premier Barnett and his ministers and members of parliament absolutely misleading the people of Western Australia with false promises that I said I am not allowed to call lies—but I do not know what else you call them in this day and age.

So, while I am on a roll, let's continue about the Western Australian Liberal government, shall we? And let's have a look. On 6 November 2015 they promised:

In total, 50 six-car sets (300 railcars) will be delivered over 10 years from 2019 at an estimated total capital cost of $1.2 billion.

Then, on 26 October 2015 in TheWest Australian Mr Barnett is quoted as saying:

We're just not in a position to make a huge commitment for the next series of cars.

Now, isn't that amazing? So, Senator Smith: good luck. I know how it works, mate: Thursday arvo, and we have been here bashing heads all week, and we all have a lot of things going on, and then you get tapped on the shoulder, you get the phone call from the whip's office: 'Geez, we've got 20 minutes. Can you burn up some time, because the bloody opposition's put one on us. You're from Western Australia; the West Aussies will certainly get up and have a crack at us. Can you go in there and defend the indefensible?'—which I think you have done. You have done your party a service. You have tried your best, Senator Smith, but you really led with your jaw when you allowed me to come in and talk about the lack of public transport infrastructure in Western Australia and the misleading commitments and promises that were all broken by your mates in the Western Australian Liberal government in Perth under the leadership of Premier Barnett—who, I must say, now has found himself heading for another election, and all of a sudden I am just waiting for the promises that are going to come this time.

But unfortunately the beauty of this is that I think Western Australians will say: 'Hang on: we've heard it all before. We're sick of the promises. You can get away with the odd one that slips up now and again, but when you continually lie to us and continually mislead us and continue to promise the world and then come up with all the lame excuses for why you can't do it, while congestion in Perth is going through the roof—'.

And there is absolutely no secret that the former Prime Minister, Prime Minister Abbott, had no respect for public transport. He made it quite clear. How do I know this? I know because I have chaired the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee, whether it was Legislation, in the government years, or References, in the opposition years, for the past 10 years. That is how I know that. I sit there in Senate estimates, alongside Senator Back. We know all the promises. We know all the bulldust that gets sprayed around in every set of estimates. We get up there and we ask the same questions: when are you going to get a Bobcat and start turning over some soil, and when are we going to get graders in and when are we going to start building these huge infrastructure projects that you are good at talking about but do not deliver?

One can only say this, in all fairness: it is a well-known, proven fact, when it comes to infrastructure, that the previous, Labor, government was a leader of the pack, under the great leadership of the transport and planning minister, Anthony Albanese—Albo, as we all know him. What a leader. I have to tell you: I was at the Safety Summit the other day and I was listening to Albo speak and I am still inspired that the man has been in parliament for as long as he has and still has the passion for infrastructure, still has the passion for public transport, and absolutely has a passion for road safety. And I cannot wait for the next Labor government, because when we get in we will continue to invest heavily in infrastructure projects. We will continue to invest heavily in public transport. We will not be as misleading and as silly and off with the fairies as the Greens are—just imagine: we are all going to put a sidecar on our pushbikes and squeeze a couple more Greens in on top of each other—we are going to be sensible about it. We understand that freight has to move around this nation. We understand that people have to move around this nation. We also understand that public transport has to be safe, it has to be reliable and it has to be up there with best practice. We know all that. We also know that whatever we do we have to integrate all the facets of transport. It has to line up. And we do not go off into fairyland at elections and make all these weird promises and then come up with, 'Oh, sorry; we can't do it.'

So, Senator Smith, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity on this side of the chamber to actually correct some of the wrongs that you did espouse—and some of the language was a little—there was a little bit of argy-bargy, because I quite enjoy listening to Senator Smith, because he is a very intelligent person; there is absolutely no doubt about that. But he cannot fool those of us on this side of the chamber, who actually understand infrastructure, understand the need to move freight safely and to move it as sustainably as we can—

Senator Smith: I don't think that's what we—

Senator STERLE: So, thank you. On that, I would just make this very clear: we have a proven track record on the Labor side. No-one can even try to pretend that it is Labor that does not build public transport infrastructure, and we recognise that we have to move people around this nation safely.

Senator Back is jumping at the gate to make a contribution. He is like a greyhound. I was at the Dapto dogs the other night, when I put that $20 on the dud.

Senator Back: You should have backed me, son!

Senator STERLE: If he was jumping at the gate like Senator Back is, I would have been able to take the kids out for tea on Saturday night. But, on that note, I thank the Senate for its time and I shall now disappear off into the ether and see you next Monday.