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Monday, 21 May 2018
Page: 4079

Mr GILES (Scullin) (18:01): I would like to be able to say it's a pleasure to follow the member for Goldstein. I would like to—but I will say that it's a pleasure to speak on this matter that the member for Gellibrand has brought before the House. The position of the governments led by the now Prime Minister, the member for Wentworth, and his predecessor, the member for Warringah, can be characterised in terms of Melbourne's infrastructure needs as, first too little, and now too late. The member for Goldstein did talk, correctly, about some of the challenges facing Melbourne—challenges and opportunities generated by the extraordinary growth Melbourne is experiencing. He was right to point to balancing the opportunities that are connected to the benefits of agglomeration, making sure they are effectively harnessed, and the concerns about the lack of accessible transport options to people in outer suburbs. He should have gone on to talk about two other things: the concern that I have, as someone who represents an outer suburban constituency, about Melbourne drifting into two cities—a prosperous core and a series of outer suburbs where the benefits of access to meaningful employment and amenity are not presented. This is a challenge that is faced by other major cities but, in Melbourne it's been exacerbated by two things: one, the extraordinary growth I referred to previously; and secondly, decisions made by the national government which have not benefited Melburnians, particularly those in Melbourne's northern suburbs.

The member for Goldstein referred to the 'thorough, evidence based infrastructure agenda'. What a joke that is, as I'm sure my friend the member for Grayndler will take us to, if he hasn't already in the course of this debate. That is an assessment that is entirely at odds with the record of this government, which started by ripping up the architecture of a national cities policy and the supporting apparatus that could ensure that such policies would be delivered. One of the very first actions of this government was, of course, to end the Major Cities Unit. While the member for Goldstein talked glowingly about current support for passenger rail in Melbourne and regional Victoria, the former Prime Minister refused to fund any urban public transport. He completely walked away from this challenge. It's so rich for government members to talk about how we can harness the benefits of agglomeration in a knowledge-intensive global city like Melbourne at the same time as it is starved of the one way in which people get into those jobs of the future in and around the CBD, which is by heavy rail transport. The starving of funding for this infrastructure has not only had a huge impact on the lives of many commuters; it has stymied the growth, the productivity growth in particular, of Melbourne and, indeed, the Australian economy.

That's the government's record. I want to recognise a government member who has made a very significant impact on this area. She is not a Melburnian; she is from Brisbane. She is the member for Ryan, who bravely led debate from a conservative perspective as a former Brisbane City councillor and in this place. When it wasn't fashionable to talk about cities, the member for Ryan led the debate. She sought to build a bipartisan consensus, and I think she made real progress. But what's her reward been? Her reward has been to lose her preselection. It is incredibly disappointing for anyone who believes in the future articulation and development of the sort of urban policy that can allow all of our cities to thrive to see someone like the member for Ryan no longer in this place—someone who reached out to build consensus, to build the evidence base that is so critical to securing the sort of productivity growth and growth in liveability and sustainability that is essential in what is the world's most urbanised nation.

This motion particularly talks about the challenges and opportunities in Melbourne's west, and the previous speaker spoke glowingly of the federal budget's commitment to the suburbs that he represents. That's not a commitment that I can share in, because the communities that make up the Scullin electorate have not been the beneficiaries of any particular largesse from this government. That stands in stark contrast to the Andrews Labor government, which has committed to the Mernda rail extension, the largest investment in a passenger rail network extension in more than 50 years. We've seen extraordinary commitments to the northern roads package. These are the sorts of commitments that are city-shaping, that are doing the right thing in terms of liveability, sustainability and, of course, boosting productivity—boosting our national income in a sustainable way, investing in our people, their talents and skills.