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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 540


Senator LINES (Western AustraliaDeputy President and Chair of Committees) (17:03): I know that Senator Back and Senator Smith work very hard. They are on a number of Senate committees and they are from Western Australia. Most of you in this chamber know that it is a long flight and as senators we often are on the trot for three or four days in a row when we do our committee work. I can only conclude the fact that they have this bizarre idea of what is happening in Western Australia, looking at Mr Barnett through rose-coloured glasses, because they have been out of the state for quite some time because nothing they have said today is actually accurate. Senator Back was within the last seconds of his speech before he mentioned public transport. And do you know why, Mr Acting Deputy President Ketter? Because Mr Barnett's track record and, indeed, Mr Turnbull's track record—and, before him, Mr Abbott's track record—on public transport spending in WA is zero. They have done nothing. In fact, Liberal governments in WA have a history of broken promise after broken promise and of even closing down train lines.

The motion before us today is the failure of the Turnbull government to invest in public transport infrastructure across Australia. Senator Smith and Senator Back focused on Western Australia because Colin Barnett is in big trouble. He is the most unpopular Premier of all time. The other point that Senator Back talked about was—he tried to slip the West Australian debt under the carpet. The West Australian debt is so big, is so large and is so frightening you could not sweep it under anything if you tried. It is currently at $41 billion, all incurred by the Barnett government—every single cent of that. That is the legacy Mr Barnett will leave when he is swept out of office on 11 March. No wonder Senator Back and Senator Smith did not mention public transport, because it is a sorry story. Certainly it could be called, like Roe 8, a road to nowhere. That could be the mantra of the Turnbull government followed by a failure of the WA Barnett government in any kind of investment, whether it is road investment or public transport investment.

I want to put my bona fides on the table. This is my SmartRider card. I am a user of public transport in Western Australia, public transport that has, in the main, been put in place by Labor governments. Let me just go over the records of the Turnbull and, indeed, the Barnett governments. I want to start with Ellenbrook, which sits in the state seat of Swan Hills—there is a fabulous Labor candidate there by the name of Jess Shaw—but also sits in the federal seat of Pearce, which is held by Mr Christian Porter. Mr Christian Porter well and truly takes that seat for granted—I have never seen him at Ellenbrook—and his margin during the federal election was halved. Is it any wonder? Ellenbrook is not a new development, although there are still housing developments going up there; it has been around for quite some time and it is completely isolated as a suburb of Perth. Mr Barnett, when he came into power, made big promises—'We'll get a train line out to Ellenbrook'—copying the commitments that Labor had given. He was forced to follow on with that commitment.

To get to Ellenbrook, you have to go on very narrow old roads that once upon a time would not have been used very much, because Ellenbrook is adjacent to a pine forest and sits in what was formerly fairly rural land. We created this development, but sadly that is all we did. We developed housing development after housing development. There are two roads into Ellenbrook, single lane all the way. There are a number of roundabouts on those single-lane roads. Believe me: on the times that I have been out to Ellenbrook, it does not matter what time of the day you go out there. The tailbacks coming off those roundabouts are disgraceful.

So Mr Barnett, in a great flurry, said, 'Yes, yes, yes, I'll build a rail line to Ellenbrook.' Within six weeks of winning government, he had completely reneged on that promise. Some time later, he said he would do a fast transit lane out there. I am not quite sure how he was going to put a fast transit lane in on roads which are predominantly single lane, but anyone who has been stuck on Lord Street or the other roads leading out to Ellenbrook will just laugh at that commitment. But guess what: he did not even deliver that. That got cancelled quickly. Then he promised Ellenbrook, a fast-growing suburb, a high school. That has gone by the wayside as well.

I just want to share with you a story from a woman called Tiffany who lives in Ellenbrook, about the daily battle that she has to endure as she travels to work, because her only option is to use her car or sit on a bus—but that would equally mean getting caught up in the chaos of that single road in and out of Ellenbrook. She is an education assistant, and she travels from Ellenbrook to Redcliffe. That is similar to the journey that I do. I live in the adjoining suburb to Redcliffe, so I know the sorts of trials and tribulations that Tiffany endures. With only two roads leading in and out of Ellenbrook, the outcome of her drive to work is always the same: slow, long and irritating. The 48-kilometre journey takes up to two hours. This is not Western Sydney; this is Western Australia—Perth. It amounts to more than $200 every fortnight in fuel, and this is for an education assistant whose hourly rate is probably around $26. Sadly, this is not an uncommon story among Ellenbrook residents, and that is why so many of them want a rail line. Over the past nine years, the Barnett Liberal government has broken promise after promise on local transport to Ellenbrook. In 2008 it was the Ellenbrook rail line, and then it was the fast transit lane. Of course, all Tiffany wants to do is reduce her two-hour car journey to and from work every day.

Ellenbrook is so isolated. I will just say again that we have pine plantations at the western end and fairly rural communities around Ellenbrook. There was a very bad fire there in 2013, in the Gnangara pine plantations, and guess what: residents were unable to evacuate because those two roads became so congested with people trying to leave. But that did not spark Mr Barnett into action to keep his promise. He completely broke that promise to the voters of Ellenbrook, and they will remember that. I have to say that Mr Porter, as the federal member and a member of the Turnbull government, has also not been banging on the door and saying to the Prime Minister, 'We need to do something in Ellenbrook.'

But it does not stop there. That is the story of Ellenbrook. The other story, of course, is the MAX light rail project, another pie in the sky idea from the Barnett government. They were going to build a MAX light rail system that went across the north of the city. Great promises were made about the MAX light rail. It was going to ease city congestion. It was going to be wonderful. They promised that it would happen. Well, guess what: another broken promise, and that promise did not even have any funds committed from the federal government, because Mr Abbott, when he was Prime Minister, made it very clear that the Abbott government was not going to commit those funds to the MAX light rail project.

You might want to forgive the federal government for reneging on that. You might even want to forgive Mr Barnett for failing to invest in public transport into Ellenbrook or, indeed, public transport across the northern suburbs of Perth. But it does not stop there; it just goes on and on and on. This is a Liberal Party, as I said, with a history of closing rail lines. Under Mr Court they closed the Fremantle line. Who in their right mind would close the rail line from Perth to Fremantle? Well, the Liberals did it under Mr Court.

I used to live in the suburb of Byford. We had a rail link to Byford that I used to use as a young mum with two kids. There was a train twice a day. In those days, when my children were small, Byford was a very long way out, in the outer metropolitan area, and they closed that line. Now Byford is going to be another Ellenbrook unless something is done to make public transport accessible out there. Byford, a little bit like Ellenbrook, was formerly on the outskirts of the city, with lots of dairy farms. Those have now all been subdivided, so there is booming development in Byford, in those former dairy paddocks, and guess what: Mr Barnett has not provided one ounce of public transport. We will have another Ellenbrook on our hands if we are not careful.

Young people in Ellenbrook are trapped there on the weekends, with nothing to do. Students in Ellenbrook have to move closer to the city if they want to go to university, because, just as Tiffany travels each day for two hours to her workplace in Redcliffe, if you were going to university from Ellenbrook, your journey would probably be three hours by car. And goodness knows how long it would be if you had to use what limited public transport there is, because Mr Barnett and Mr Turnbull have absolutely failed to invest any money in public transport.

In Byford, there is this new development sitting on the former dairy farms. They have some of the largest primary school. With the development, every week, if you go out there along the Thomas Road, there are more and more houses, with more and more people moving out there because it is affordable. But there is no public transport.

I know that Mark McGowan, the Labor leader in Western Australia, has invested in public transport, and he has pledged to reopen the Byford line. You would not think that would be such a hard commitment to make. All the line infrastructure is still there because the trains that go down to Bunbury still use that line. It is not as if it has fallen into disrepair. It is perfectly able to be used. The trains go as far as Armadale, and Byford is the next stop. But there has been nothing from Mr Barnett. He does not have the foresight to do anything because he does not believe in public transport, and neither does the Turnbull government, so no commitments are being made there. If the Barnett government is re-elected, which I have to say at this stage there are very long odds against, the people of Byford will be left high and dry.

But it does not stop there. Belmont is a suburb adjoining mine. Yesterday in here I reported on the sudden closure of the Medicare office. It was closed by the Turnbull government—no notice, nothing. Belmont is a suburb that has a high population of people over the age of 70 and a higher than average population of families. If they need a full-service Medicare office, if they need to talk face-to-face with a person, they have to go to Cannington, 8.5 kilometres away. Guess what? There is no direct transport link. Once again, that is an absolute failure by Liberal governments. Both Mr Turnbull and Mr Barnett are failing to invest.

As a mum with kids or as a dad with kids, if you need to go and do face-to-face work with the Medicare office in Cannington, you could either make a two-bus journey or—wait for it—you could do two buses and a train. That is to travel 8.5 kilometres. What a joke. They are almost adjoining suburbs, yet you have to take this indirect route, round and round the tree, to travel 8.5 kilometres. Even if people have a car at their disposal, as certainly some of the senior Australians I spoke to do—who were very disgusted by the Turnbull government closing this Medicare office, on Medicare's birthday last week, I might add—they do not want to travel those 8.5 kilometres in their cars because, given that the public transport options are so bad, where you have the choice between a two-bus journey or a two-bus plus a train journey, the road is heavily congested. The roads between Belmont and Cannington are heavily congested because people have no option other than to get in their cars, just to travel 8.5 kilometres.

Let us look at the sort of investment Mr Turnbull or Mr Barnett have made in the seat of Belmont, which, again, sits in the federal seat of Swan, the seat that I live in: zilch. In fact, the big joke is that, time after time, the member for Swan tries to take credit for the Gateway project around the airport, which we all know was a Labor project, and he tries to take credit for the upgrade of the Great Eastern Highway, which again was a Labor investment—so much so that, during the federal election, when the member for Swan made these incorrect pronouncements once again, his own state Liberal members said, 'Actually, no, that was the Labor government that put those in place.' So we have this pretence going on that, somehow, the Turnbull government is interested in infrastructure in Western Australia. It is not. It has not spent a cent on public transport infrastructure in Western Australia, and all we have seen from Mr Barnett is failure, and broken promise after broken promise, on public transport.

Finally, there is, we think—we think; we do not know—a link being built out to the airport. I heard Senator Rice speak earlier about the embarrassment of Melbourne not having a train, and I agree with her; we should have a train out to our airport in Melbourne. Until recently, we did not even have a bus service out to the international airport in Western Australia, so, if you were a visitor and you wanted to use public transport, sorry, but you have to pay for a taxi, a private car or a private bus. For the last six months, we have had one bus going out to the airport, but it does this almost circular route, so you probably need to allow about two hours for your journey. That has been the sole public transport option delivered by the Barnett government in Western Australia. As for the airport link, I will not hold my breath. I will not hold my breath, because Mr Barnett has made a commitment for beyond his term of government about what might happen out at the airport in terms of trains. So I am not holding my breath on that one, because that could well be a white elephant in the unlikely event that the Barnett government gets re-elected, because you can only break promises so many times before people see you as just a complete waste, someone who squandered the boom and who racked up a $41 billion debt all of his own making—all his own making, nothing to do with Labor. That absolutely lies at the feet of Colin Barnett. It scares me as a Western Australian that we have this massive debt. It really does.

Labor has a plan for public transport, a plan for jobs, a plan for building train carriages locally and a plan for local jobs. Mr Barnett has nothing. He has a history of broken promises. He does not deserve to be re-elected on 11 March, and, certainly, at this rate he will not be.