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Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Page: 250


Mr HAWKE (7:39 PM) —I commend the member for Fowler on his very fine remarks and I associate myself with those remarks. He is a fine person.

I turn tonight to what is still the most important issue in my electorate of Mitchell. In my first words in the 43rd Parliament I want to reflect the ongoing concern of my electorate about rail infrastructure in Sydney. When I think about the rail infrastructure promises which have come over many decades now from Labor state and federal governments, I also turn to the words of the Prime Minister in the last week of the election campaign which gave rise to yet another series of concerns about whether promises on rail will be met in Sydney. That is because we have had a decade of announcements about the Parramatta to Epping rail link and about the north-west rail line. Indeed, during the federal election campaign we were stunned in Sydney one day to hear that there would be a Parramatta to Epping rail link. I remind the House that this was first announced in 1998 with a completion date of 2006—so it was going to be finished four years ago.

In 2003, the Epping to Parramatta rail section was deemed too expensive and was cancelled. Then, of course, in the federal election campaign we heard that the federal government would contribute $2.1 billion for the rail link from Parramatta to Epping. The opposition rightly pointed out that this had been an announcement cobbled up on the back of a ballot paper and we learned subsequently that there was no modelling or planning or any other information provided to departments—in fact, the state departments were completely in the dark. When we looked for the detail of what would be regarded as a very important infrastructure project, there was none to be found.

My electorate has the most families in Australia with couples who have dependent children. We are one of the of the fastest-growing corridors in Australia and we have been waiting for a rail line. We also have the dubious distinction of being No. 1 in cars per household of any electorate in the country because there are no transport alternatives. In the north-west of Sydney we have been promised a rail line for just short of 15 years. It is a vital infrastructure project. Yesterday in her address outlining the government’s commitment, the Governor-General said:

… to this end, the government is investing $37 billion in transport infrastructure through the Nation Building Program over the six-year period to 2013-14. The government’s commitments include major urban rail projects in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, the most significant investment in public transport yet made by the Commonwealth.

I could not let this opportunity pass tonight without reflecting that my electorate has the worst transport alternatives of any area in this country today. It is one of the fastest growing areas of our country. It has the highest rate of families and car ownership and no public transport alternatives. Transport is the No. 1 concern and people in my electorate are rightly sick of being committed to about public transport alternatives. They are tired of promise after broken promise. We hear talk about carbon reduction and about doing practical things to stop climate change; yet successive Labor governments break promise after promise over real practical measures such as a rail line which would fix this issue. I note that the member for Parramatta is here tonight. I say to her that it would be great to hear her speak out in relation to getting rail infrastructure projects for Sydney because the No. 1 concern of people in north-west Sydney and in her electorate of Parramatta is improving transport alternatives in the Sydney hub.

Hearing the Governor-General outline the government’s plans was interesting. Couple it with, ‘All bets are off,’ as the Prime Minister said, or key government promises made before the election ‘no longer necessarily apply’ because of the new environment created by the hung parliament. The Prime Minister of the country outlined that key promises no longer apply. I put on the table tonight that my electorate and the people of Western Sydney and north-west Sydney expect this government to keep to the promise it committed to prior to the election to build the Parramatta to Epping rail link. People expect this government to deliver better rail infrastructure because it makes these announcements and it lauds them. If you announced you were going to build a main line, if you announced you were going to fund it and if you announced before the election that this was your top priority, then people in this country would expect you to go ahead and do it.

New South Wales Labor is facing a wipe-out at the next state election in March 2011 precisely because of this—it does not meet the commitments it gives repeatedly to electorates. That is one ingredient which is leading to that circumstance. I say to this government that the people of Mitchell expect better transport infrastructure. The federal government is planning it and I ask that it delivers it.