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Public transport: the key to better cities: address to tourism and transport forum, Sydney
PUBLIC TRANSPORT - THE KEY TO BETTER CITIES
TOURISM AND TRANSPORT FORUM FOUR SEASONS HOTEL SYDNEY
Next time any of you decide to pay a visit to the Powerhouse Museum
just down the road from where we are now, it’s worth wandering into the
There, beautifully restored, is the only 19th century Sydney bus still in
It carried 24 passengers and serviced the eastern suburbs route with
two horses hauling the carriage up Oxford Street for the lucky residents
of Paddington and Woollahra.
Circular Quay to Woollahra cost tuppence, women generally sat inside
and if the carriage got too crowded, men were accommodated on the
Hundreds of buses just like this carried school children and shoppers
and commuters right around Sydney.
By 1910, the plodding pace of the horse buses, the increasing cost of
feed and intense competition from cable and electric trams brought the
horse-bus era to an end.
But what’s interesting about this particular omnibus is the time it took to
plod the route from the Quay to Woollahra - 40 minutes.
If you check the Sydney Buses web-site, you’ll see that the modern day
equivalent along that same route - the 333 express bendy-bus -
manages the same route in 36 minutes - a saving of just four minutes.
Of course Sydney is a far more complex and densely-populated city
these days and there are many more vehicles crowding the same
narrow transport corridors.
What this highlights, very powerfully, are the challenges that we all face
as decision makers about the giant task that lies ahead of us -
â¢ To improve the quality and speed of our public transport
â¢ To make it a genuine and attractive alternative to the car
â¢ To unclog our streets from the congestion that sucks so much
productive time from the lives of people living in our ever-crowded
â¢ and reign in the carbon emissions that pollute our air and reduce
the quality of life for all of us.
Public transport is and must become an even bigger part of the solution. It must be factored in at the very outset of every decision about new
urban developments, whether it be housing, hospitals, universities or
The Federal Labor Government strongly believes that infrastructure,
planning, investment and reform can - and must - support and
incorporate public transport.
This belief extends far beyond good intentions.
Even though the provision of public transport traditionally rests with the
states, the Federal Government has actively engaged in this agenda.
We have committed to funding a major public transport project in every
This Federal Labor Government has committed more in urban public
transport since 2007 than all previous Federal Governments combined
since Federation in 1901.
THE BENEFITS OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT
We can’t face the challenges ahead without facing the facts.
The facts provide some stark truths as to why the Federal Government
is now working actively to make our cities more productive, sustainable
Three out of four us live and work in one of our 18 major cities.
Eighty percent of our national wealth is generated in these cities.
Despite our “great wide land” persona, we are one of the most urbanised
populations on the planet.
I suspect that is why reports such as our two editions of the ‘State of
Australian Cities’ series have been collectively downloaded in excess of
1.3 million times.
I’m yet to find another Government report that draws such a crowd.
What this shows is an enormous hunger for knowledge about our cities -
how they compare, how they are changing, where they are failing.
Our next report, due out in October will have the benefit of the latest
Census data with several new categories, such as crime levels,
community safety perceptions and rising city temperatures.
Today I’m pleased to add to the debate with the launch of the
Australian Infrastructure Statistics Yearbook 2012 produced by the
Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics - BITRE -
and now available online.
This Yearbook has become a much anticipated, vital tool for industry,
academics and policy makers.
There is nothing else that offers such a comprehensive and reliable
statistical summary of Australia’s economic infrastructure.
This year’s edition paints an improving picture.
For instance, there has been a dramatic increase in private sector
investment in infrastructure - from 28 percent of all infrastructure
investment a decade ago, to 44 percent today.
This comes despite the greatest economic crisis the world has faced
since the Great Depression.
A few more quick figures.
The combined investment in infrastructure - both private and public - is
up 42 percent in real terms on the last full year of the Howard
â¢ Spending on roads and bridges - up 23 percent
â¢ Railways - 103 percent
â¢ Ports - 156 percent.
In fact Australia is investing $15.3 billion per year above and beyond
what was spent in 2006.
A nice set of figures, which translate into better roads, better rail lines,
better supply lines to our ports - in short, greater efficiency across the
national transport network.
This great investment is no accident.
Infrastructure Australia conservatively puts our infrastructure deficit at
No Government can pick up that load alone.
There is no magic pudding.
That’s why this Government has encouraged private sector investment.
Last year we introduced a new tax treatment for nationally-significant
infrastructure projects that allows early stage losses to be uplifted over
time and grants exemptions from tax rules which prevent tax losses
being realised when there is a change of ownership.
We also formed a working group of industry leaders which advised on
better ways to attract private finance to public infrastructure.
Just recently, we set aside $25 million for a NSW Government special
purpose vehicle to go to market on Sydney’s missing road links.
Today I am also releasing a second BITRE publication called
‘Understanding Australia’s Urban Railways’.
What it shows is that smart planning and design, backed with the
required infrastructure, can produce real results.
It highlights the example of Perth, where remarkable progress has been
made to make rail an attractive alternative to car travel.
Fast frequent services, good bus and car interchanges, and station
facilities, have all helped to draw patrons to rail.
The report highlights rail’s real strengths in long-distance urban travel,
and in travel that links our city centres to our growing suburbs.
Along with Perth, both Melbourne and Brisbane have experienced
significant patronage growth, the latter with the help of the new Gold
In Sydney, patronage dropped in the first half of the past decade but has
grown modestly since 05/06 and Adelaide’s patronage, which grew
earlier in the decade, has declined since 08/09.
Such valuable research helps guide our national decision-making - it
helps us to craft smarter policy and investment decisions.
SMARTER POLICY - PLANNING FOR OUR CITIES AND OUR
Let me turn to a key policy that will help shape the future of our cities -
Australia’s first National Urban Policy.
It is designed to target three goals - productivity, sustainability and
I’ve mentioned the role public transport can play in reducing harmful
But it can also improve public health outcomes, as most trips on the bus
or the train begin and end with walking or cycling.
Obviously, we recognise this must be encouraged.
Your discussions here today highlight the way in which this can be
achieved, in part, through the smarter design of our cities.
That’s why in addition to our National Urban Policy, we are working
through COAG with States and Territories to improve the standard of
their planning systems.
And it’s important this cooperative approach continue.
That is part of the reason that the Australian Government also convened
an urban policy forum - to advise the Government on the
implementation of our urban policy.
In short, to make sure we get it right.
The forum is working directly on two important pieces of work.
Firstly, helping craft a set of common indicators that cities can use to set
targets to improve productivity, sustainability and liveability.
And secondly, in the formulation of our active transport policy, improving
opportunities for pedestrians and cyclists.
Of course, consultation must be balanced with action.
That’s why one of the initiatives of the National Urban Policy to already
achieve tangible results is the Liveable Cities Program.
I recently announced that 25 innovative projects have secured funding -
and many of the successful projects promote smarter solutions to
One project in Parramatta is a walking and cycling network between key
Another is situated in the aptly named ‘Green Square’ south-east of here
- Australia’s first large scale low carbon tri-generation energy network.
Other projects around the nation will encourage people to walk between
local destinations by providing better pedestrian routes.
What these projects show is that the Australian Government has a
serious contribution to make in fostering new, innovative and tangible
transport approaches in our cities.
Last month, I visited Hobart’s waterfront to make the newest
announcement in the Liveable Cities program.
It is $50 million to remediate the Macquarie Point Railyards, an iconic
project that will transform Australia’s second oldest city, Hobart.
The Railyards will soon become redundant with the transfer of rail
activity to the Brighton Transport Hub.
This will free up some of the most magnificent waterfront land in the
country and allow Macquarie Point to reach its true potential.
Uses proposed for the site so far include a tourist and scientific centre
for Antarctic activity, better facilities for cruise ships and more five-star
hotel accommodation and medium-density housing.
It will unlock at least $1 billion worth of economic activity across the 8.4
hectare site and finally reconnect Hobart’s CBD with one of the country’s
most majestic waterways.
It is hard to overestimate the potential of this announcement and the
value of it for the people of Hobart and indeed the nation.
Macquarie Point can now become not just a generator of income and
jobs, but a remarkable new space for locals and visitors which - if done
well - can rival the most beautiful waterfront precincts in the world.
The closure of the railyards provides a golden opportunity for Hobart.
This Federal assistance means Hobart can capture that opportunity and
make it work not just for today, but for generations to come.
PAVING THE WAY FOR TRANSPORT
On the theme of investment - let me mention how some of the
Government’s broader investments will improve our national transport
Through our six-year $36 billion Nation Building Program we’ve made
And in this latest budget I announced the continuation of our successful
Black Spots and Roads to Recovery programs, and outlined our
investment priorities for the next phase of the Nation Building Program.
The Australian Government’s investments have helped fund innovative
projects to promote greater public transport use, such as the City Link
project in Perth.
We have invested $236 million - with matching funding from Western
Australia - to sink the Perth rail line in the city and unite the CBD with
The Gold Coast new light railway project is another great example of an
infrastructure project that will improve liveability.
We’ve almost completed the duplication of the Hume Highway.
We’re also taking a holistic approach to freeing up our urban roads, by
returning more freight to trains.
For example, the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal will be a case study in
how infrastructure can link our ports, drive productivity and improve
logistics, all the while creating long-term efficiencies, employment and
environmental benefits by reducing congestion.
It will remove 3,300 trucks each day off the road between Port Botany
and south western Sydney.
We are investing over $12 billion in rail and intermodal projects - that’s
ten times what the previous government invested.
We are also being smarter about our investments.
You can see this through the creation of Infrastructure Australia in 2008.
Since its inception Infrastructure Australia has created a priority pipeline
of projects, helping to develop a truly long-term infrastructure vision for
And we are following through.
Of the nine ready-to-proceed projects identified by Infrastructure
Australia in its 2009 Priority List, the Australian Government has
committed funding to every single one of them.
IA has also created a National Ports Strategy and a National Freight
Strategy, two critical pieces of work that when fully implemented, will
change the way we move goods and people around the nation.
And in September, IA is expected to release its National Public
Last week, IA released its 2012 Priority List with several new public
â¢ The Brisbane Cross River Rail
â¢ The Eastern Busway, again in Queensland, and
â¢ The first stage of a Melbourne Metro.
The Federal Government is committed to a far-reaching vision for a
more prosperous Australia - one that puts an improved transport system
and a smarter approach to cities at its heart.
Clearly there is much more that can and must be done.
I assure you from a federal perspective, we remain ready to tackle the