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Monday, 21 May 2018
Page: 3872

Ms CATHERINE KING (Ballarat) (11:08): I rise to support the motion put forward by the member for Gellibrand, and I commend him for bringing this motion forward in this place. The motion before us seeks to do two things. It acknowledges the key role of government in ensuring the productivity and liveability not just of our cities but of our regions as well. It notes the need for further investment in rail infrastructure in Melbourne's west, particularly as the proposed airport rail link holds great potential to improve the quality of life for many in the west of Melbourne but also in our regions.

We've heard from the member for Corio about the impact on Geelong. I want to talk about the impact on my electorate of Ballarat. It's really important that our regions aren't forgotten when it comes to infrastructure funding. That's particularly vital as the Victorian and federal governments start work towards the Melbourne airport railway link. Like regional centres all around Australia, residents of Ballarat rely on our transport links with major cities so that we can travel for work, for play and for study. It's these strong transport connections that make our regional centres such a terrific place to live. It is regions like Ballarat where you can enjoy the peace and pace of a regional lifestyle while still enjoying fantastic schools and health services and living a comfortable distance from Melbourne, if you are able to find work there as well. However, if we're able to continue to reduce the commuting distance between cities like mine—that is, Ballarat—we need to keep ahead of the growth. When you consider growth in Melbourne's west in particular, which has been highlighted in the recent infrastructure Australia report Future Cities: planning for our growing population, we see that we are beginning to run out of time.

Projects such as the Regional Rail Link have shown what a committed government can do for regional Australians. The previous Labor government put $3.2 billion into this project, helping untangle the regional trains as they came into Melbourne. Projects like this meant that we could rely on the trains to get us to work and home and improve the commute.

Regional Victorians do need more projects like this. There is an opportunity with the Melbourne Airport link to do more than just connect the CBD to the airport. Through proper planning we can connect the city with the airport, but we can also connect Ballarat and our other regional centres with the airport as well and we can better connect Ballarat with the CBD.

An alignment through Sunshine is certainly my preferred route. It's the preferred route of the Victorian government and, I think, pretty clearly anyone listening to this message will hear it's the preferred route of all of the Labor MPs here who represent those areas. The alignment through Sunshine will allow the new tracks to take strain off the existing western suburbs train network, already struggling to meet demand, and this will result in a superior service for residents in and through Melbourne's west and for those further beyond along the Ballarat line who come through that way. Commuters boarding trains in Wendouree, Ballarat, Ballan, Bacchus Marsh and, hopefully, eventually a new station at Warrenheip, will be able to reach their workplaces in Melbourne with far greater ease. Similarly, residents from the regions will also be able to change at Sunshine for airport services, better linking these towns with the nation's wider economy. That's a route in itself. Mostly now people have to either drive or catch the terrific shuttle bus service, but it takes between two and 2½ hours just to get to the airport, where a train service would be a much shorter and much easier commute for people to get out to the airport. The traffic congestion around Melbourne Airport is increasingly difficult for many of us to navigate, let alone the cost of long-term parking of cars at Melbourne airport. A train service would be hugely beneficial to the economy of my region.

It's not often that such a possibility arises from a single rail project, and, when it does, government needs to act to make the most of it. Sadly, unfortunately, this government, despite what it has said in many press releases, has not actually acted. In the days before the budget the government told the Victorian media it would invest $5 billion in the rail line to the airport, and the first the Victorian state government heard about it was through a letter from the Prime Minister's office that had arrived only after the plan had already been released to the media, so it didn't actually talk to the Victorian government about the preferred route. But what the budget papers clearly show is that this looks like it's going to be an equity contribution, which, frankly, is not going to stack up with this project. We know that public transport projects don't usually make money. Neither the cost of the construction nor the capital investment can be covered by operating revenue, and, frankly, I think the way in which the government has gone about putting this so-called project together has been selling the Victorian people short.

I want to reiterate my support for the Sunshine connection to the airport link, but we do actually need to see the money for this project.