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Wednesday, 16 September 2015
Page: 6969

Senator LUDLAM (Western AustraliaCo-Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens) (13:05): I rise this afternoon to put some brief thoughts on the record about the upcoming by-election in Canning in my home state of Western Australia. My thoughts are with everyone from the Australian Greens, our volunteer team, to everybody else who is putting in an effort, including those from other parties, a reasonably large field of independents and those who are showing that at least at that grassroots level our democracy has still got a bit of life in it yet, and to Dr Vanessa Rauland in particular—my friend and occasional colleague. On a lot of the issues I have worked on, I have learned a great deal from her over time. Her passion for low carbon cities, low carbon urban development—not as a kind of hairshirt that we have to collectively wear but as a way of making our cities and towns more vibrant, more economically productive, safer, cleaner, lower pollution environments and better places to live—is genuinely inspiring. It has been wonderful to see Dr Rauland move out of the small business role just briefly and onto the political stage to be able to throw those ideas into the field. Our thoughts are with you at this time.

I note for everybody engaged in the by-election campaign in Canning and for those from further afield who are not familiar with that part of town that Canning is a very large outer metro electorate to the south and eastern part of the City of Perth. The Perth metropolitan area stretches from two in a way quite different constituencies between the hub around Armadale in the hills, up the Darling escarpment, all the way around to the southern part of Mandurah, down on the coast, and the peri-urban hinterland in between.

It is an area that has been quite substantially left out of the national debate. As we found in the by-election last year, it is a really valuable way of putting local issues into a national context. One of those contexts is that the country has a different Prime Minister to the one it had when the by-election was called only a couple of weeks ago. Because of that, it is likely that the government under the new leadership of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will get a bit of a sugar hit and a bit of a bump in the polls. I think that is inevitable. It happens reasonably reliably after these sorts of changeovers happen. I would be asking people who are undecided—or who at least were undecided the last time the pollsters took a look around—in considering their vote to look at not just the style and whether there is a nicer smile or a better salesman but what is being sold.

I also want to acknowledge the work of the Australian Solar Council in sticking up for their members, principally small businesses, around the country who are trying to get the solar sector on its feet but also all of those who use their products to have, in effect, a home and power station.

One of the things we discovered is that 23 per cent of undecided voters said that renewables are their No. 1 issue of importance. It is really unusual to find the issue given such prominence. I think that was in part provoked by the fact that until very recently we had a climate change denying Prime Minister in office who led that culture from the top. He was not quite brave enough to call it crap as he once used to do but rather pretended and proceeded with a fig leaf, but that permeated the culture and, more importantly, the legislative agenda of the government, which was to as rapidly as possible try to kill the clean energy sector off, whether that be large-scale solar and wind energy developers in our regional hinterlands or the kind of people that the Australian Solar Council are speaking to in places such as Canning. So that is a quarter of undecided voters putting renewable energy as their No. 1 priority.

What we hear from Mr Turnbull is that the policy settings are not going to change. The government will attempt to do a better sales job, but the policies themselves are not going to change. Anybody who finds that mystifying I would invite to listen to the contribution that was given by Senator Macdonald not 20 minutes ago when he laid out in quite graphic detail exactly what the problem is and why it is unlikely that anything will change no matter who is the front man and providing the sales pitch.

The Barnett government is not much better. My colleague Robin Chapple MLC discovered in the fine print of their contract a week or two ago that anyone who wants to install photovoltaics will be signing an energy contract that says they will not install battery storage or an electric vehicle. It is unbelievable that that is what people are being forced to sign up to if they are putting PV on their roofs.

These are the issues, among many others, that are in play in the Canning by-election. We would ask that the people who are still considering where to park their vote whether they think climate change is a slow-motion disaster that we are leaving for our kids and grandkids, whether they think it is right upon us today as an urgent imperative that we need to deal with or whether they are grabbing it as an extraordinary opportunity to reshape our communities and improve the quality of life for people who are living particularly in outer metropolitan areas.

This is why I think it is interesting to be hearing voices from places such as Armadale, Mandurah, Boddington and some of the smaller settlements on the edge of the Perth metropolitan area. We look to advice from groups such as the National Growth Areas Alliance. That is an alliance of local governments that effectively take in the growth areas on the edges of all Australia's great capital cities. Eighty-three per cent of Perth employment is in the suburbs. So more than four out of five jobs are not in the central business district of Perth. I presume it is reasonably similar for other Australian capitals. Yet our public transport system and our infrastructure is all tremendously CBD centric. It is the outer metropolitan areas, even though they are growing very rapidly, that have missed out on services and infrastructure. I think that can be a real focus in a by-election such as that that is occurring in Canning at the moment.

There is overwhelming evidence that residents in the fast-growing outer suburbs lack access to the same jobs and services as those in the inner suburbs. That is really a question of opportunity, and it is something that we can do quite a bit about. There are congested and insufficient road networks and a total lack of public transport. There is a good rail service into Armadale and Mandurah, obviously, but most people do not live within an easy walk or bike ride of those railway stations. This is not to cast particular political rocks, because there was some attempt under the last government to deal with this issue. Bringing those jobs and services to outer metropolitan areas is not something that should not simply be left up to the market. We should not wait for people to move into so-called affordable houses on the far fringes of our metropolitan areas and then wait another 20 years for the jobs and the public transport to show up.

The National Growth Areas Alliance Bring the basics within reach report which was released reasonably recently told stories of outer suburban residents through its 'voices of our suburbs' project. These are voices that are often left out of political debate. But the by-election that is occurring in Canning at the moment is a wonderful opportunity to highlight those voices and listen to those people about the amount of time that it takes to commute to work and get the kids to school without the provision of public transport. They have been waiting for suburbs to be developed and sometimes waiting 20 years before basics services are provided. Better access to jobs, better access to health services, more local schools, better public transport, more leisure opportunities—these things should not be the province of the inner cities alone.

One of the projects that has looked at what this would look like in practice that I have most enjoyed working on with AUDRC and the Property Council over the last couple of years is called Transforming Perth, which is about doing infill well. It is about doing public transport centred urban development where there is growth, rather than simply spilling out over the periphery of Perth. The modelling that we have done shows that, just by developing not high-rise but two- or three-storey properties along public transport corridors, you can infill a quarter of a million diverse and affordable dwellings within the existing urban fabric of Perth. That is very consistent with what residents have asked for and what advocacy groups such as the National Growth Areas Alliance are asking for as well. It is a way of channelling urban growth but also a way of having services, such as childcare centres, places of employment, civic spaces and places for people to congregate, which have tended to be more in the inner city and established areas. There is no reason at all why we cannot breathe life back into some of the suburban areas that are so desperate for the services, infrastructure and employment hubs that others in inner cities enjoy.

I am looking forward to getting back to Western Australia. It is about this time in the cycle that I start to miss the West very much. I look forward to meeting with the election campaign team and Dr Rauland on Saturday to see what we can make of the by-election and to see how this most recent somewhat seismic, perhaps—although that is yet to be seen—political change that is happening here in Canberra affects people's views and lives on the ground.