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Monday, 12 October 2015
Page: 7394


Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (22:00): The opportunities in this country for accessing Commonwealth land transport funding have been flipped on their heads over the past few weeks. Cast your minds back to 2013, when then Prime Minister Tony Abbott made it clear that, in this country, if you wanted a land transport project funded by the Commonwealth government it had better be a road. It did not matter to Mr Abbott that we will be likely mining most of our roads for oil by the end of this century. It did not matter to Mr Abbott that Infrastructure Australia were at that time forecasting that, between 2011 and 2031, demand for passenger transport in Australia will rise by an average of 89 per cent across all Australian capital cities. Those matters were of no concern to Mr Abbott. He said that if you wanted land transport funding from the Commonwealth then you had better be asking to build roads, and so the state and territory governments came with pitch after pitch and project after project for roads.

Contrast that with what we have heard from our current Prime Minister, who in the last couple of weeks has said:

While I am a notorious fan of public transport—very fond of Melbourne trams in particular—

And I pause there to ask who isn't?—

I am completely agnostic about particular types of technology, types of transport.

Having safe, liveable cities that people can walk around feeling safe, people can move around freely, that is a huge economic asset.

He also said:

The key to a modern, liveable city … is very good connectivity. People have got to be able to move around and get to work, get to shop, get to connect with each other.

A city needs a good mix of transport infrastructure, so our approach should be, therefore, one that is completely agnostic to the type of infrastructure support …

Finally, he said:

We want to look at arrangements where we can partner the State governments or with city governments as shareholders, as investors.

We also have to look creatively at how we capture the value that arises from the increase in property values and the improvement in the utility of adjacent land from the building of infrastructure like this.

By 'infrastructure like this,' he was, of course, referring to Gold Coast light rail, which the government has announced, over the last 48 hours, will receive $95 million in funding.

I want to turn to my home town of Hobart, where a group of passionate Hobartians have been trying to get up Hobart light rail for a long period of time. Let me tell the Senate briefly about this project. It is a project that, ultimately, should go from the Hobart CBD right through to the booming dormitory suburb of Brighton. I have argued in the past that it should be funded in two stages: the first stage from the Hobart CBD to MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art; and the second stage onwards out from MONA, through Claremont and through Granton, across the causeway and the Bridgewater Bridge, through Bridgewater and into Brighton.

Stage 1 could be funded for $80 million to $100 million—that is, about the same amount of money that Mr Turnbull announced over the past day or so for Gold Coast light rail. Just imagine the transformative benefits to Hobart of this project. As I said, it is low-cost compared to other light rail projects, because the rail corridor is already there. Not only is the rail corridor already there; the embankment is already there. There would be no need for the kinds of difficult compulsory land acquisitions that in recent years we have seen plague light rail projects in many parts of Australia. The corridor is there and the embankment for the rails is already in place.

If we could get this project up, we would use electric trains powered by Tasmania's 100 per cent renewably generated, bringing emissions down and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions profile. We would see property values go up in and around the rail corridor. We would see infill development which, again, makes cities more livable and more sustainable. We would see a decrease in traffic congestion and a much reduced need for the hundreds of millions of dollars that, unfortunately, ideologically driven state and Commonwealth governments are right now proposing to spend on the Brooker Highway in Hobart

We would see an increase in health and wellbeing benefits for the people of Hobart and southern Tasmania, because more people would walk and cycle to the stations that would be associated with Hobart light rail. If we coupled Hobart light rail with the Battery Point walkway, which has been stage 1 approved by Hobart City Council, we would see a significant increase in liveability in Hobart. We would see a transformational benefit for Hobart that would truly help bring that city fair and square into the 21st century.

There are innovative funding models available. We can see things like land value capture, which has occurred in the United States, which is worth considering for projects such as this, whereby private sector funding is used to part fund a project, with input from public sources, with returns to the private sector generated by increased land values in the area. What have we got in Tasmania? We have a state government that has this project well and truly in the too-hard basket. We have a government down there, a Liberal government, that is ideologically wedded to road infrastructure. They have hived off this project to their newly created bureaucracy, Infrastructure Tasmania, which was making not very certain noises—last time I looked—that it would attempt to have its so-called review of this project done by the end of this calendar year.

I say to the Minister for Infrastructure, Rene Hidding, in Tasmania, I say to the Minister for State Growth and member for Denison, where this project would be located, Matthew Groom in Tasmania and I say to the Tasmanian Premier, Will Hodgman: strike now. Strike while the iron is hot. Strike while you have got a Prime Minister who is talking about the benefits of public transport, who is spruiking the benefits of public transport and who is reaching into the Commonwealth coffers and handing out cash right now for public transport projects. We have an opportunity to see this project get up and running. Put in a bid for stage 1, right now. The work has been done. The business case is complete. I funded it while I was Minister for Sustainable Transport in Tasmania during the previous term of government. The business case is complete. All the reviews that needed to be done have been done. The peer review of the business case is done. The work is complete. It just needs to be tied up with a ribbon and pretty little bow. And it needs to be shipped off to the Prime Minister's office, with a copy to Infrastructure Australia. Let's get this project moving for Tasmania. It would create jobs. It would create land value. It would bring our emissions down. There are environmental benefits. It would improve social inclusion in southern Tasmania—significant social benefits. It would see an increase in investment in infill development in Hobart—economic benefits for Tasmania. It is a triple bottom line win there for the taking. We are only waiting for this lazy state government to get off its hands, remove itself from its ideological obsession with roads, get with the times and put in a bid for funding for this exciting transformational project.

Senate adjourned at 22 : 10