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Wednesday, 27 November 1974
Page: 2840


The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

This Bill seeks to appropriate funds for allocation to the States under the Urban Public Transport Agreement for a further series of projects directed towards the upgrading of their urban public transport systems. The amount to be appropriated is $66. 1 lm of which $27.85m is expected to be allocated in 1974-75 and the

 

remainder during the balance of the program. The funds are additional to the $7 1.91m allocated under the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Act 1974. It means that in the first 2 years of the Australian Government's 5-year assistance program, $ 138.02m has been allocated to the States by way of grants to improve our major cities' transport systems. The series of projects approved for commencement in 1974-75 and details of the phasing of total expenditure are:

 

 

 

When this new program of projects is added to that approved in the attachment to the Urban Public Transport Agreement it will be seen that the Australian Government has agreed to support public transport improvement projects involving assistance of $ 138.02m. These projects cover the various modes and analysis ofthe programs approved to date by State and mode is as follows:

 

Our initial assistance program will enable the States to eliminate much of the ancient rolling stock which is still being used as part of our urban transport system. For example over 550 carriages in Sydney's urban passenger rail system are at least 45 years old and more than 500 of the Melbourne carriages are over 45 years old with some having been constructed in the last century. Many urban passenger buses are over 20 years old and half of Melbourne's tram fleet is over 40 years old. In this way we hope to achieve some immediate improvement in the quality of public transport. In the longer term we will be looking more to an overall system approach which integrates the various transport modes; with each performing the function to which it is best suited. Included in the provisions for this year are the first allocations for the cities of Newcastle, Wollongong and Geelong. In announcing the Urban Public Transport Assistance Program the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) indicated that based on comprehensive studies of their transport needs, assistance would be extended to cities with populations over 100,000 and to the corridors linking these cities to State capitals. Appropriate studies are in progress and it is expected that major projects for these areas will be included in the future assistance programs. However, in the meantime there are minor improvement projects which can be undertaken independent of such studies and $ 1 m has been provided for this purpose in 1 974-75.

When the Treasurer (Mr Crean) announced the first ever Australian Government contribution to urban public transport in his 1973 Budget Speech it was expected that the States would spend $46.64m during 1973-74, attracting Australian Government assistance of $3 1.09m. However the Australian Government was not able to appropriate these funds in that year. And the States have the honourable gentlemen opposite to thank for that situation. As the States respect this Government as one which will honour its promises some $ 18.46m was spent on the program during 1973-74. This promise was honoured when the Minister for Transport reintroduced the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill into the other House on 1 1 July. It is now enacted.

We expect to make payments to the States totalling $67.49m during 1974-75. This amount is made up of $ 12.32m being re-imbursement of monies expended by the States in 1973-74, $26.98m being the 1974-75 expenditure on projects approved for commencement last year, $27.85m for projects approved to commence in 1974-75 and $0.34m for planning and research projects undertaken in 1973-74. The Government is conscious of the requirement for the States to meet their contribution and this factor has been taken into account in formulating the extent of our assistance. We have been assured that the States are in a position to match our planned allocations in 1974-75. As I mentioned very limited progress was made under the scheme in 1973-74 because of delays in the provision of Australian Government funds. However, I would like to comment on the benefits of one project which has been implemented. The project to which I refer is the Adelaide Terrace bus way in Perth. It involved the construction of a segregated roadway for the exclusive use of buses on the approaches to the Causeway roundabout at the eastern end of Adelaide Terrace. Cost of this project was not high, at less than $20,000, yet during the p.m. peak period buses are taking up to 8 minutes less to cover this small section of their journey as compared with those vehicles that use the Adelaide Terrace roadway. One of the most effective means of encouraging additional patronage onto public transport will, I believe, be projects such as this where the benefits are obvious. What will attract people to public transport more than being forced to sit waiting in heavy traffic as public transport vehicle after public transport vehicle speeds past on their way to their destination.

I would now like to make a few comments on projects included in the 1974-75 assistance program. As I said earlier our initial program reflected an emphasis on new rolling stock. Our projects this year cover much more of the urban transport system. Workshop facilities have been included in the program as recognition that maintenance of systems is vital to their efficiency. Improvements to these facilities also take account of the human element of the systems by including appropriate amenities for employees. We in this Government do not believe that we could provide massive funds for improvements to the standard of service offered to the travelling public whilst at the same time continuing to have the people who operate these systems work under conditions that resemble nothing so much as a Dickensian 'work house'. Much has been said about the attitude of the people who operate public transport. Is it any wonder that morale is so low when conditions are so primitive? By supporting improvements to workshops and staff amenities the Australian Government believes that a significant step forward will be made in providing greater job satisfaction for our public transport employees.

Over recent times the Minister for Transport has received numerous representations concerning the problems being experienced by the private operators of urban public transport services. We are sympathetic to their problems and have noted the action taken by the Victorian Government to provide assistance to the private operators in Melbourne. The Minister for Transport does not believe that he could justify to our colleagues and to the Australian public that the Australian Government should take a similar initiative at this stage. Instead the Minister proposes to have a comprehensive investigation undertaken into the private operators industry. At the present time he is considering the terms of reference for this investigation and the Australian Government's policy to this industry will be determined following the completion of this study.

However, in the case of some private operators events have overtaken the Australian Government's approach. The Manly ferry and hydrofoil services were to be closed by Brambles and in Adelaide the majority of the private bus operators threatened to withdraw their services unless the State Government assumed responsibility for their services. Some 22 million passenger journeys were performed annually by these services. Rather than have these services disappear from the total urban transport system the respective States decided they must act urgently to acquire these services. To reduce the financial burden placed on the States by these 'rescue operations', the Australian Government has approved assistance to New South Wales and South Australia to defray the expense incurred in acquiring these services. I would add that in the South Australian case it was essential for the State Government to act rapidly to prevent the sale of buses interstate.

I would now like to comment on a few issues that have attracted a good deal of public attention in recent time. The Minister for Transport has often condemned increases in the fares on public transport and 1 do so again today. We had hoped that with the financial aid under the Urban Public Transport Agreement the States would have accepted the logic of keeping fares at a reasonable price. But no, we still find the Premier of New South Wales incorporating quite unsatisfactory increases in public transport fares in his Budget because he considers that the Australian Government is not providing sufficient assistance. I cannot agree. It is a fact that to increase public transport fares is to cause significant losses in patronage. I must applaud the actions of the Victorian Premier to keep fares as low as possible. It is a tragedy that this approach is not more widely adopted by the States.

Considerable comment has been made on the plans for the re-introduction of trams to central Sydney. The Minister for Transport endorses the concept of giving the centre of the city back to the people but is not yet persuaded that the tram is the optimum vehicle to provide this service. The Department of Transport is examining the report prepared by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board for the New South Wales Government on this proposal. The Australian Government's examination will also cover alternative means of providing this service. It may be worth while investigating whether electric buses or some similar vehicle should be used.

New South Wales has come under fire recently regarding ferry services on Sydney Harbour. I share the view expressed by the Minister for Transport that out natural highways should be utilised to the maximum extent practicable and would not therefore wish to see Sydney's ferry services wither away; as has happened to so many public transport services. Honourable senators will observe that assistance has been approved to enable the New South Wales Government to acquire the 4 hydrofoil and 3 conventional ferries which provided the Manly services. The future of one of the conventional ferries, the South Steyne' which has been damaged by fire, is uncertain and these seems to be a prima facie case for concern at the level of services provided to Manly. The Minister for Transport is therefore arranging for officials of his Department to discuss the overall question of a future strategy for ferry operations on Sydney Harbour with New South Wales officials. Subsequent discussions might eventually extend beyond the immediate question of public transport to that of freight movements.

This Government is not prepared to rely solely on the Urban Public Transport Assistance Scheme to upgrade public transport in our major cities. Complementary to the Urban Public Transport Assistance Scheme, the Government has initiated numerous activities which will all have a direct impact on the urban transport systems of our major cities. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has offered to construct, at no cost to New South Wales, a distinct railway system using the Australian urban passenger trainAUPT based on Parramatta and radiating to Hoxton Park, Castle Hill and through Carlingford to Epping. Agreement has not yet been reached but in anticipation of New South Wales accepting our offer $3. 5m has been provided in the Budget. On 13 September the Prime Minister wrote to the Premier of Victoria inviting him to consider the potential for a similar initiative in Melbourne.

The Australian urban passenger train is being developed so that Australians can have the best public transport vehicles possible. The Government has been concerned that the trains being acquired in recent times are not a great advance, technically, or in terms of passenger comfort, on those they are replacing. For this reason the Government, in co-operation with the States, has set up a design team which is developing the Australian urban passenger train, which, with modifications, will be able to run on all State urban systems. We intend that the new train will incorporate the best in proven rail technology. For the traveller this simply means high standards of comfort, safety and reliability and an attractive alternative to the automobile.

Good progress is being achieved with the AUPT. Stage 1 , a preliminary study on the possibilities of the AUPT has been successfully completed and stage II, the development of specifications for the train, has commenced. It is expected to have a prototype on the rails in 1 976. A mock-up of the train to gauge commuter reaction has met with most gratifying success. Some 80,000 persons visited the exhibit in Adelaide and 50,000 in Perth. In Melbourne each day about 10,000 people are inspecting the model. The purpose of exhibiting the display car in the various capital cities is to show people the different carriage layouts so that a market survey can be made to assess passenger preferences. We want the people to say what type of seating they want; whether or not they prefer air conditioning or natural ventilation; do they want more seats per train or more standing room. Public reactions will be taken into account in finalising designs. We have been gratified and encouraged by the reaction of the vast majority of visitors to date. This program also has another first in that train drivers and guards are being involved, through their unions, in the design of those compartments of the vehicle in which they must operate.

At the request of the Australian Transport Advisory Council the Department of Transport is examining the feasibility of developing a standard urban passenger bus. A basic problem is the differing legislation and regulations which apply to bus construction and operation in each of the States. With a view to developing a standard specification the Minister for Transport hopes to arrange for a conference of government and private operators and unions to be held to attempt to rationalise the requirements of each jurisdiction. The activities I have listed indicate the sincerity of this Government's determination to contribute to the quality of life in our major urban centres by improving the quality, capacity, efficiency and frequency of public transport services. We are not content merely to assist the States with finances which are desperately needed but where necessary we are also prepared to undertake projects ourselves which have the potential to vastly improve urban transport systems. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Young) adjourned.

FAMILY LAW BILL 1974 [No. 2] In Committee

Consideration resumed from 26 November.







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