Browsing articles in "Opinion Pieces"
Apr 14, 2012

Sydney needs Airport No.2 – Opinion – Grafton Daily Examiner

Nearly 330,000 people flew between Grafton, Ballina and Lismore airports to Sydney last year. Among these were local residents flying to Sydney for business, to visit friends and family, see medical specialists or en route to other towns, cities and countries.

They would also have included Sydneysiders doing business or just wanting to spend time on the beautiful beaches and the hinterland of the Northern Rivers and North Coast region.

All of these visits are good news for the local economy. They bring jobs, investment and they support tourism, retail and other industries in the Northern Rivers, the North Coast and Sydney.

Unfortunately, if some people have their way, aviation access to and from Sydney will become increasingly difficult for the people of regional NSW.

In a nutshell, Sydney Airport is full. All the tinkering in the world won’t change that.

Last month, I released a 3200- page independent report, commissioned by both the Federal and NSW governments, which made it clear that Sydney’s aviation infrastructure cannot cope with .Building a second too important into short-term, partisan future demand.

Sydney will need a second airport sooner rather than later.

I know this is an uncomfortable fact, but it cannot be ignored, particularly by people living in regional NSW.

Here is why. Right now, on weekdays, there are no landing or take-off slots left for new regional flights within NSW in 8 of the 17 hours the airport operates, namely between 6.30am and 11am and between 4pm and 8pm. None.

Half of each weekday, during the times people want to travel, is almost impossible for new or extra services to the state’s regional destinations.

The report makes it clear that the situation will worsen. This is a real handbrake on growth for regional communities.

Regional air services in NSW have grown by nearly 25% over the past five years. Sydney alone has seen a million more passengers from regional destinations over the last five years.

Sydney Airport is the linchpin, not just for the state aviation network, but for the nation. second airport for Sydney is national issue to drag partisan politics Anthony Albanese Access to Sydney is critical in supporting economic growth in regional communities on the North Coast.

Make no mistake, there are people, including those with a vested interest, who would be happy to stop smaller, regional planes from flying into and out of Sydney Airport.

Consider this: a regional flight, on average, carries 30 passengers, compared with 140 passengers for every domestic city flight. It is an easy calculation for those looking to maximise profits to simply get rid of smaller regional flights and concentrate on larger domestic and international aircraft.

As Transport Minister, I have ensured there is a ‘ring fence’ protecting regional air services.

The government has protected slots for regional flights so that they can’t be taken over by larger domestic and international services and we will continue to do so.

But we need to do more, particularly to ensure regional aviation can continue to grow.

Without action on a second airport, regional airlines will continue to feel the squeeze at the nation’s busiest airport.

The economic cost of doing nothing is substantial. International experience has shown that airports create 1000 jobs for every one million passengers.

In fact, if we don’t act, the nation will simply lose jobs and economic investment. By 2035, the cost to GDP of turning away flights will be $6 billion. By 2060 it will be nearly six times more.

Building a second airport for Sydney is too important a national issue to drag into short-term, partisan politics. It needs a mature bipartisan approach.

That is why I have already provided briefings through the Department of Infrastructure to members of Parliament from across the political spectrum.

Building a second airport also has the support of the business community, the airline industry, and the tourism industry.

This is not only about Sydney maintaining its status as Australia’s global city, but also about making sure all regional Australians continue to benefit from aviation access to Sydney.

 

Apr 14, 2012

Second Sydney Airport: A fair go for Regional Australia – Opinion – Tweed Daily News

Last year, more than 2.2 million people flew between Gold Coast Airport and Sydney.

Among these were local residents flying to Sydney for business, to visit friends and family, see medical specialists or en route to other towns, cities and countries.

The vast majority of these people, however, were holidaymakers wanting to spend time at the beaches, theme parks, historic communities and the hinterland of the NSW Far North Coast and the Gold Coast.

These visits are good news for the region’s economy. They bring jobs, investment and they support tourism, retail and other industries.

Unfortunately, if some people have their way, aviation access to and from Sydney will become increasingly difficult for the people of regional NSW.

In a nutshell, Sydney Airport is full.  All the tinkering in the world won’t change that.

Last month, I released a 3,200-page, independent report, commissioned by both the Federal and NSW governments, which made it clear that Sydney’s aviation infrastructure cannot cope with future demand.

Sydney will need a second airport sooner rather than later.

I know this is an uncomfortable fact but it cannot be ignored, particularly by people living in regional NSW.

Regional air services in NSW grew by nearly 25 per cent over the past five years.  Sydney alone has seen a million more passengers from regional destinations in that time.

Sydney Airport is the linchpin not just for the state aviation network but for the nation.  Access to Sydney is critical in supporting economic growth around the nation.

International experience shows that airports create 1,000 jobs for every million passengers. We stand to lose jobs and economic investment if we don’t act.

Sydney is also a hub. One out of two passengers at Gold Coast Airport is flying to Sydney. That means a delay in Sydney has a knock-on effect across the network. For example, by 2020, a two-hour delay at Sydney in the morning would affect more than 40 flights to and from the Gold Coast.

The joint study’s report makes it clear that we need to do more, particularly to ensure aviation continues to grow.

Building a second airport for Sydney is too important a national issue to drag into short-term, partisan politics.  It needs a mature bipartisan approach.

That is why I have already provided briefings through the Department of Infrastructure to Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum.

Building a second airport also has support from the business community, from the airline industry, from the tourism industry.

This is not only about Sydney maintaining its status as Australia’s global city but also about making sure the Far North Coast, the Gold Coast and all of regional Australia, continue to benefit from aviation access to Sydney.

Apr 14, 2012

The case for a second Sydney Airport – Opinion – Australian Financial Review

Facts don’t cease to exist because they are ignored, said Aldous Huxley.

That line should stay front of mind as debate continues over the need for a second airport for Sydney.  The uncomfortable fact, and it is one that can’t be ignored, is that Kingsford Smith Airport is full.  All the tinkering in the world won’t change that.  Nothing will make that reality go away.

Here is another uncomfortable fact: Kingsford Smith airport is small.  It was built in an age when aviation was new and planes were small and few.  Tullamarine in Melbourne is more than twice the size of Kingsford Smith.  Brisbane is three times the size.  Another fact: doing nothing is already costing the Australian economy.  In 2000, half of all international flights were through Sydney.  Today that figure has dropped to 41 percent.  And last year, Melbourne’s international traffic grew by nearly 10 percent, four times that of Sydney’s.  A failure to increase Sydney’s aviation capacity through a second airport will be a handbrake on future productivity.

These compelling facts are contained in the most comprehensive, independent study ever undertaken into Sydney’s aviation needs.  The joint 3,200 page Federal and NSW Government Report makes it absolutely clear that Sydney needs a second airport sooner rather than later.  Australians are a nation of flyers.  As an island continent with vast distances between our cities and regional towns, we need the convenience and speed of flight to connect us with each other and the rest of the world.

International experience shows airports create 1,000 jobs for every million passengers.  By 2035, the cost to national GDP of turning away flights will be $6 billion.  By 2060, it will be nearly six times more.  We will lose the chance to create 4,000 new jobs by 2035 and nearly 80,000 by 2060.

Passenger numbers will more than double to 87 million by 2035 and double again by 2060.  There is no way Kingsford Smith can absorb this growth.  The problem extends beyond the airport itself. In three years time, road congestion will be so severe queues will be up to four kilometres long.  This news won’t come as a shock to anyone who uses the roads in and around the airport even now.

The problem doesn’t stop with Sydney.  A delay in Sydney has a knock-on effect across the entire network.  By 2020, a two hour delay in the morning would flow on to at least 200 other flights around the country.  Regular schedules would take up to five hours to recover.  That means more people stuck at the airport or circling in the sky rather than at work or at home with their families.

This issue must be beyond short-term politics.  It needs a mature bipartisan approach. Sydney is our gateway to the nation and the world.  This joint report shows beyond doubt, we can afford to ignore these facts no longer.


Apr 10, 2012

Any more stalling and Sydney will nosedive – Opinion – Daily Telegraph

His is not quite a household name but anyone with a passing interest in aviation would have heard of Charles Ulm. An ANZAC and then fighter on the Western Front, Ulm later teamed up with the better-known Charles Kingsford Smith and was his co-pilot on the historic crossing of the Pacific in the Southern Cross. While Ulm never had an airport named after him, he did help carve his place in history with a remarkable collection of photographs, now held by the National Library of Australia.

The images reveal Ulm’s love of flying but for those grappling with the future of aviation in Sydney there’s a stand out. It is an aerial shot taken in 1928 of the famous Southern Cross coming into land at Mascot. There’s a hangar, a couple of sheds and a cleared space for a runway surrounded by acres of paddocks and market gardens.

Sydney today would be unrecognisable to Ulm. Not only has its population quadrupled, the city has now encroached and encircled those lazy paddocks. In the intervening eight decades, Kingsford Smith Airport has grown into the most economically important transport hub in Australia. The reality is that we are a nation of flyers. As an island continent with vast distances between our  cities and regional towns, we need the convenience and speed of flight to connect us with each other and the rest of the world.

Recently, the most comprehensive, independent study ever undertaken into Sydney’s aviation needs was released. The 3,200 page report commissioned by both the Federal and NSW Governments makes it clear that Sydney’s aviation infrastructure cannot cope with future demand. The report makes it absolutely clear that Sydney needs a second airport sooner rather than later. The economic costs of not acting are substantial.

Passenger numbers will more than double between now and 2035 (from 40 million to 87 million) and double again by 2060. In peak periods, demand for aircraft movements exceeds the legislated 80 movements cap per hour and this pressure will only get worse as each year passes. All the tinkering in the world will not absorb this growth in traffic.

Ulm’s tiny Fokker monoplane has long been superseded by modern passenger jets, but not even the carrying power of these comparative giants will be able to meet the demand. The fact is that Kingsford Smith Airport is physically small and is surrounded by densely packed suburbs. Melbourne airport is two and a half times bigger. Brisbane is three times bigger.

Sydney is a hub.  A delay in Sydney has a knock-on effect across the network. By 2020, a two hour delay at Sydney in the morning would flow-on to at least 200 other flights across the entire network.  Despite the speed and power of modern aircraft, airlines today must schedule 25 additional minutes to fly between Sydney and Melbourne  than they did in 1965. Throw fog, storms or any other delay into the equation and it’s even worse.

International experience shows that airports create 1,000 jobs for every million passengers. Australia will lose jobs and economic investment if we don’t act. Already Sydney is suffering. In 2000, half of all international flights arrived at and departed from Sydney. Now it’s 41 percent. Last year alone, Melbourne’s international traffic grew by 10 percent, four times more than that of Sydney.

This issue must be beyond short-term politics. It needs a mature bipartisan approach. In line with our long-standing position, I have made it clear the Government will not change the current cap or curfew at Sydney Airport and will ensure regional airlines can continue to use it.

The too-hard basket is no longer an option. Sydney is our gateway to the nation and the world and as this joint report shows beyond doubt, this city needs a second airport sooner rather than later.

Apr 9, 2012

The sad tale of Australian cities – Opinion – The Australian

Of all the statistics and figures detailed in China’s latest five-year plan, there is one absolute  stand-out. One night over this current five year period, more Chinese citizens will place their head down to sleep in a city than in the countryside. For a nation so steeped in an agrarian past, its transformation into a predominantly urban culture will, from that night on, be complete. China’s story is repeated across the globe. Urbanisation is continuing at a rapid pace as people crowd to cities for the wealth and opportunities they offer.

Here in Australia, we long ago made that transformation. We are among the most urbanised nations on earth with at least three-quarters of us living in major cities, and it is in our cities where 80 percent of our national wealth is generated. This month, the COAG Reform Council released an important report card into the state of our cities. This report card specifically analysed the planning systems that cities have in place for their futures. Subjecting the plans to this national scrutiny was something that all State and Territory leaders had signed up to at the COAG table. The review also reported on the many Commonwealth programs that directly involve cities.

When Labor was elected to office, it was clear that the former Coalition Government’s hands-off attitude to cities could go on no longer. While they might rank highly on world liveability rankings, our cities are under considerable strain. Failure to preserve infrastructure corridors, urban sprawl, vulnerability to dramatic weather events, demographic change, poor urban design, congestion and population growth are just some of them. That’s why the Labor Government is actively engaging with our 18 major cities. And that is why the Government released last year a comprehensive plan – Our Cities, Our Future – to make our cities more productive, sustainable and liveable.

So what did the COAG report card say about our cities? In short, ‘worrying’ according to the head of Infrastructure Australia, Sir Rod Eddington. “In many areas, current planning systems are only partially consistent with the criteria set out by the Council of Australian Governments. The report paints a compelling case for ongoing collaboration between governments when dealing with our cities,” Sir Rod said.

The Property Council’s Peter Verwer saw the review as laying “the foundation for a much-needed change in the way cities are planned and managed. Cities provide the surest pathway to sparking a productivity super cycle in Australia.” Verwer pointed out that the links between housing, employment opportunities and infrastructure are key to the planning of our cities.

While no State or Territory capital emerged with a perfect score, both Perth and Adelaide received higher overall rankings than the other capitals. The Western Australian Planning Commission was singled out as a useful mechanism for delivering integrated advice across the city landscape. No other cities have a similar body that can ‘speak’ for the entire city. That said, Adelaide’s plans were the best in the nation. They were public, involved the community in their development, were long-term and had measurable goals.

The Sydney Business Chamber’s Patricia Forsyth, urged the NSW Government to bring its planning systems together. She called for the rationalisation of Sydney’s ‘myriad planning authorities’ as the report emphasised ‘that land use, economic development, transport and infrastructure planning cannot exist in isolation’.

Neither of our two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, rated well. The report noted that both cities were reforming their planning systems, but were only partially consistent on most of the critical categories. Queensland’s planning system was described as ‘robust’ but lacked accountability and performance measurement systems.

The report saw a clear role for the Commonwealth to help create better cities. It urged that funding decisions, such as infrastructure, be made with a clear eye to the long term social, environmental and economic sustainability of cities. It believed the Commonwealth’s direct involvement in cities would become increasingly important, particularly with shared interests such as the management of airports and airport land. It called for a stronger all-of-government focus on cities and better coordination of programs.

Clearly, there is still a lot of work to do within and between all levels of Government. Perhaps the final word should go to the Planning Institute of Australia’s Kirsty Kelly who said the future of Australian cities is too important to be left to the whim of the political cycle: “Cities need bipartisan support and we are calling on all sides of politics to recognise their enormous value.”

 

Mar 23, 2012

Noalition Bowling – 0 to 301 – Opinion – The Australian

The US Republican Party has been dubbed the ‘Party of No’ for its program of perpetual obstruction.  Or, as former presidential hopeful Sarah Palin helpfully described it, the ‘Party of Hell No’. The Republican how-to manual seems to be firmly in the grasp of Tony Abbott as he sets out each day to rally his Noalition troops. There is nothing constructive in this manual. There is nothing in it about building a better Australia. Its sole instruction is to oppose everything and, hopefully, destroy the government in the process.  And, just like in the US, the conservative leader is aided by his friends outside the Parliament with very deep pockets.

It’s hard to imagine the despair then, at the conclusion of the autumn session, as Coalition troops head home for the recess. For the Gillard Labor Government has just achieved something of a milestone with the passing of the 300th bill through the House of Representatives. All the bluster, all the raucousness, all the desperate opposition to everything, has not actually translated into any parliamentary success for this Opposition which has failed to knock back one single bill.

Prime Minister Gillard promised the Australian people a year of delivery and that is what they have been given. Most recently, we passed the Mining Resources Rent Tax, spreading the benefits of the mining boom to everyday Australians. The money raised will fund a major tax break for Australia’s 2.7 million small businesses, cut company tax, give more  superannuation for all workers particularly the lowest paid, and fund critical new roads, bridges and rail lines for our mining regions.

We also passed legislation giving the nation’s truck drivers better protection and entitlements, something that’s been called for since 1979. This will cut the incentive to chase dangerous deadlines, making our roads safer not just for them but for the rest of us as well. And then there’s the means testing of private health insurance, a commonsense change that will mean working people will no longer be funding the medical insurance of people like me who can afford to pay our own way.

Sticking to his Noalition principles, Tony Abbott has taken on the historic mission of repealing just about every piece of Labor legislation. Goodbye mining tax, pension cuts, extra super for low paid workers. No more investment in clean energy technology, the end of the National Broadband Network, trade training centres and computers in schools. And that would only be the beginning.

As we advance our legislative program the Opposition’s tactics have become ever more desperate and disruptive. Already this year, 48 Coalition MPs have been thrown out of the House by the Speaker. The worst offenders have been Bronwyn Bishop and Joe Hockey (four times) closely followed by Christopher Pyne, George Christensen and Kelly O’Dwyer (three times).  We even had the spectacle of Tony Abbott’s chief of staff being threatened with expulsion following her vocal heckles from the staff benches.

Then there’s the near daily attempt by Tony Abbott to suspend standing orders. This action, intended for only the gravest matters, has been trivialised by this Leader of the Opposition who sees it as nothing more than a chance for a night-time news grab. But by cutting short Question Time, he avoids what has until now been the Opposition’s traditional job: holding the Government accountable.

His demands for suspensions have cost this 43rd Federal parliament 12 full question times that could have been spent challenging the Government on the economy, our health reform, infrastructure investment, anything really. Of the first 100 questions they have asked, there were only three on jobs, one on the surplus and one on the cost of living.

In a few months, this Government will reach its second birthday. The question all Australians should be asking is when will we see an Opposition that puts their interests first? When will we see an Opposition that treats the Parliament with respect? Shrill carping and scary slogans are no alternative to intelligent debate and policy. It’s time the Opposition did its job.

 

Feb 24, 2012

Pacific Highway should be above politics – Opinion – The Northern Star, Lismore

No other highway in the country has been the subject of so many promises over so many years. And no other highway has seen so many deaths – at last count 809 over the past two decades. In January, a young boy died in the most tragic fashion at Urunga when a B-double truck slammed into his family’s holiday home. And no-one could forget the two shocking bus crashes that happened in quick succession in 1989 leaving 56 people dead and 63 injured. 

The tragedy of so many lives lost on a dangerous, inadequate highway is a mark of profound political failure. The coronial inquiries that followed the bus accidents 23 years ago produced a long list of improvements to vehicle and road safety. Top of the list was the call for the Pacific Highway to be duplicated. 

I said in Federal Parliament last year that some things must be above politics and this highway is one of them. I also spoke of my personal connection to the highway. My name, Anthony, comes from the young cousin I never got to meet who was killed on the highway at Halfway Creek between Grafton and Coffs Harbour. His parents renamed their motel Anthony’s Motel and I was called Anthony in his memory. 

Both the Federal and NSW Governments support the completion of  duplication by 2016. This deadline was in fact set by the former Prime Minister John Howard yet when he left office, less than 40 percent was duplicated. Throughout the Howard years, the persistent call, backed by the then NSW Coalition, was for NSW State Labor to ‘match the Federal funding’. Here is a statement from John Howard in October 2007: “The Coalition Government is willing to provide our share of the additional funding needed to fully duplicate by 2016 if the NSW Government will match our funding commitment.” 

In fact during the period of the Howard Government, NSW Labor more than matched it, spending twice as much ($2.5 billion) compared with the Federal Coalition’s $1.3 billion. The loudest calls during the Howard years for matched NSW/ Federal funding were from the current NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay. 

In October 2007 on ABC News Mr Gay urged the then NSW Labor Treasurer to say: “Yes I will match that [Federal] money and save the lives of people in NSW that have to use this highway.”  Or this from his Federal colleague Luke Hartsuyker in February 2006: “The Pacific Highway is a State road, designed, built, owned and maintained by the NSW Government.” 

There are no end of examples of who said what when. And it is always easy to be bold from the comfortable sidelines of Opposition. But the documented reality is that the current Federal Government has already committed three times more ($4.1 billion) than the former Howard Government ($1.3 billion) during its almost 12 years at the helm. Had the Howard Government made a similar commitment to this, the Pacific Highway would today be a modern, duplicated road. 

Right now, 1,600 construction staff are at work on the highway. There’s the Ballina, Bulahdelah and Kempsey bypasses, duplication of the road between Sapphire and Woolgoolga and upgrading and realignment of the road at Banora Point. Work is beginning to duplicate the road between Tintenbar and Ewingsdale, and at Devils Pulpit.  By mid-year, we will have selected the company to build the section of the Kempsey bypass that includes Clybucca, the site of Australia’s worst single vehicle crash 23 years ago. 

A fully-duplicated highway will boost productivity and most importantly be safer for the thousands of travellers and locals who use it each day. Already work has cut travel times from Newcastle to Queensland by 2.5 hours. 

The Federal Government is doing a lot but more needs to be done. This can only happen in partnership with the State Government. The community wants us to stop the politics and get on with shared funding to achieve our 2016 deadline. Government is much harder than Opposition. It is also where you can make a difference with action, not just words.

 

Feb 20, 2012

Long dangerous road to fair go for truckies – Opinion – Daily Telegraph

Facts are stubborn but statistics are more pliable, said the master of the great one-liner, Mark Twain. That’s why when it comes to truck accidents the figures might help, but they don’t really tell the story. They do tell us that truck driving is the most dangerous industry in Australia – by a factor of ten. They also tell us the cost of these deaths to the country is about $2 billion per year. And that in the 12 months until June last year, there were at least 210 fatal crashes involving trucks.

But if you really want to get a feeling for the pressures facing Australia’s truck drivers, it helps to hear it from the driver’s own mouth. Andrew told the NSW Industrial Commission: “When I was required to perform excessive hours I would sometimes experience hallucinations. I would see trees turning into machinery. On one occasion I held up the highway in Grafton while waiting for a truck which was not there to do a three point turn (I was radioed by drivers behind me asking why I had stopped).” Or Robert, who has driven the Pacific Highway for 22 years: “I have been sacked for refusing to perform a load on a b-double, which would have made the load illegal and oversize. I had asked the same client for two weeks off to have my steer tyres replaced. They said ‘no’ but then I had the drivers’ side steer-tyre blow out at 100 km/hr when I was fully loaded. It is sheer luck no-one was killed.”

There have been countless parliamentary enquiries over more than a decade which have all come to the same conclusion: the nation’s truck drivers deserve ‘safe rates’. This simply means a fair wage that would remove the incentive for drivers to resort to unsafe practices behind the wheel. Almost 30 percent of owner drivers are paid below the award rate. Many say low earnings are forcing them to compromise on repairs and maintenance. 

As Australian’s queue at the check-out, most wouldn’t give a thought to the vast fleet of workers that bring the products to our supermarket aisles. Visitors to Australia marvel at the quality and variety of produce that lands each day on our shop shelves. But it is the truck drivers who drive often long distances through the night to make this happen. The trucking industry is highly competitive and there is ample evidence to show that under-cutting is commonplace and that drivers sometimes speed and resort to drugs to meet deadlines. Reports also show some drivers ‘fiddle’ the log books. Says one: “I was doing a run from Darwin to Toowoomba. They told me to load (unpaid) six hours before the log book would allow. I was told that was the deal – take it or leave it. I had to take it.”

The Federal Government believes every worker has the right to a safe place of work. In the case of truck drivers, it is not only their lives at stake – all of us share the same roads. The statistics here do tell a powerful story. While heavy trucks account for 2.5 percent of all vehicle registrations and 7.5 percent of vehicle-kilometres travelled, they are involved in 15 percent of all fatal crashes. The Government’s official record-keepers, the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, say speed, drugs, alcohol and fatigue are often to blame.

Last week, a House of Representatives committee met to examine a Bill that I tabled in the Parliament last November which will bring safety and fairness to the daily lives of the nation’s truck drivers. The committee includes representative from all parties and will report back by the end of the month. It is my fervent hope that the Parliament will support this piece of commonsense, fair and long-overdue legislation.

If the law is passed, a road safety remuneration tribunal will be established with powers to intervene and set conditions that ensure safe driving practices. It will begin work on 1 July 2012 and will include members from Fair Work Australia along with independent work, health and safety experts.

One of the first things for the tribunal to address will be waiting times. And here is one final statistic. It is not uncommon for drivers to wait up to ten hours to load and unload their truck. This waiting time is not paid and it can’t be classed as an official rest break, further forcing them to speed and drive tired to make up time. I don’t think any Australian would think this was fair. Or safe.

Ends…

Feb 17, 2012

Perth facing the future as Australia’s magnet – Opinion – West Australian

Perth is a city of opportunity, blessed by the triple fortune of natural beauty, a Mediterranean climate and the wealth buried beneath its State’s topsoil. With glimmering beaches and a picture postcard river flowing through its heart, it is easy to see why Perth is a magnet for Australians seeking the good life. But we now know a whole lot more about the city of Perth.

For instance, its people love their bedrooms with more per household (3.2) than anywhere else in Australia. With only 2.5 people per home, that’s a lot of spare rooms. They also prefer a house to a flat. No other city in the nation has fewer people living in a flat. It also costs a lot to build a new home in Perth, far outstripping other major cities.

Perth is extremely liveable, coming ninth on the influential Economist Intelligence Unit ranking of 140 world cities. However, it retains a love affair with the car with 80 percent of commuting trips by private vehicle. That said, with the opening of new lines, rail patronage is growing at a remarkable 8.2 percent, well ahead of even Singapore and Hong Kong. People are also hopping on their bikes with three million trips to and from the CBD, a 300 percent rise since 1998.

These facts are contained in a unique publication – The State of Australian Cities 2011. It provides a snapshot of our major cities, defined as those with populations above 100,000.  What this and future editions serve to do is to enable us to compare our cities and check progress over time, towards becoming more productive, sustainable and liveable.

Australia’s cities generate 80 percent of our national wealth and are home to three out of every four of us. The charming perception of us as a nation of stoic miners and bushies could hardly be more misplaced. Since 2007 the Australian Government has begun re-engaging with our cities because they face unprecedented pressures – population growth, housing affordability, growing congestion and urban sprawl are just some of them.

The State of Australia Cities shows that while Perth is the fastest growing capital city in the country it lags well behind in several key areas. Recycling rates are the lowest of any capital city and the people of Perth produce more than double the waste of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Waste committed to landfill is so big, it rivals Sydney and Melbourne.

The Federal Government is investing $3.7 billion over six years for historic changes to transport infrastructure across WA. There are major upgrades to the Great Eastern Highway, the road network around the airport (the Gateway Project), and reuniting the CBD with Northbridge by sinking the rail line.

Following a COAG agreement, all major cities are finalising plans showing how they are preparing for the future. Federal infrastructure funding will depend on how well they address nine areas of concern, include land-release with a balance of in-fill, preserving corridors at transport gateways and addressing the needs of an ageing population.  We live in the world’s most competitive and fastest growing region. Our cities must be ready to seize the opportunities that come with that.

 

Jan 30, 2012

2012 – A year of significance for the nation’s railways – Opinion – Track & Signal magazine

2012 marks the centenary of a significant year in the creation of the Australian nation.

With the Federation still in its infancy and Australians still clinging to old colonial loyalties, the Labor government of Andrew Fisher, the former Scottish coalminer in his second term as prime minister, set about unifying the continent and its people.

With vision, courage and purpose, the Fisher Labor Government created an unparalleled legacy of national institutions without which Australia’s economic and social development would not have been so assured and so rapid.

On May 23, the Chicago-based architect Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion won the international competition to design and oversee construction of Australia’s new capital city, Canberra.  After years of delay and interstate rivalry, Fisher was finally able to declare: “The wrangle about the home of the government of Australia is over.  The city is to be built, and the Commonwealth will build it.

This significant milestone was quickly followed with the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank and the opening of its first branch on July 15 in Melbourne.  Opposed by the conservatives and predicted to fail, it quickly gained the confidence of its shareholders, the Australian people, and is today the nation’s second largest publicly listed company and one of the world’s ‘safest’ financial institutions.

But Andrew Fisher’s ‘nation-building’ drive didn’t stop there.  He then turned his attention to one of his great passions, railways, and set his sights on closing the vast ‘tyranny of distance’ separating Western Australia from the eastern states.

This great nation work,” as he called it, was “an urgent necessity for reasons of economy, transport and effective defence.

So on 12 September, Fisher and his ministers gathered amidst the celebrations at Port Augusta to watch the Governor-General turn the first sod on the eastern section of what would become known as the Trans-Australia Railway.  When completed five years later (1917) at a cost of more than £4 million, the line covered a distance of 1,711 kilometres from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie and boasts the world’s longest stretch of dead-straight track (478 kilometres).

For the first time, there was now an overland route connecting east with west, a transformative achievement which both literally and symbolically united the Australian continent.

While Fisher’s ultimate ambition for this massive engineering project were never fully realised – he believed, as had happened in the United States, his new railway would open up the interior, even claiming the so-called desert just needed water to become “…equal to the best of the other lands…” – the railway he built a century ago continues to serve our nation today.

In fact it currently carries about 80 per cent of the freight which moves between Australia’s east and west coasts.

Like the Snowy Mountain Scheme, the Trans-Australian Railway stands as a lasting legacy of its visionary proponent and a permanent reminder of our nation’s resourcefulness, ingenuity and ability to think big.

While the challenges confronting this Government differ from those faced by our Labor predecessors, the Party’s ‘nation building’ mission remains constant: to build a prosperous, inclusive and fair society for all.

And like 1912, 2012 is set to be a big one for rail in Australia.

As well as finalising arrangements for the introduction in 2013 of historic reforms which will the replace existing state-based regimes with a single national rail safety regulator and one set of nation-wide laws, we will continue the rollout our massive $12.2 billion capital works program.

Most notably, we expect major construction to get underway on:

  • The nation’s biggest ever urban rail project – the $4.3 billion Regional Rail Link through Melbourne’s western suburbs;
  • The long-awaited Moreton Bay Rail Link in Brisbane’s northern suburbs,
    a $1.15 billion project first proposed back in 1895.  Once completed in 2016, the new 12.6 kilometre line will connect the Redcliffe Peninsula to the existing urban rail network.
  • The Northern Sydney Freight Corridor Upgrade, a $1.1 billion project which continues the modernisation of the Interstate Rail Network by upgrading the section through Sydney’s northern suburbs to Newcastle.  Once completed in 2016, the new infrastructure will speed up the movement of trains through the City and take up to 200,000 trucks a year off its roads.
  • Upgrade and duplication of the line from the Hunter Valley over the Liverpool Range, a $284 million project which will support the long term growth of the region’s mining industry.

At the other end of the construction cycle, we expect work to finish on the following projects:

  • Port Botany Line Upgrade (Stage 1) – $21.1 million;
  • Upgrades at Geelong Port and along the line between Melbourne and Adelaide – $50 million;
  • Re-sleepering of the line between Broken Hill and Parkes – $253 million;
  • Extension of seven passing loops on the line between Melbourne and Adelaide – $76 million;
  • Re-railing of the line between Whyalla and Broken Hill as well as the line from Cootamundra to Parkes – $312 million;
  • Re-railing of the line from Albury to Geelong via Melbourne – $110 million;
  • Restoration and upgrade of Western Australia’s Grain Rail Network – $292.2 million;
  • Extension of Adelaide’s urban rail network from Noarlunga to Seaford – $291.2 million.

 

As we begin a new year, our ambition for rail remains unchanged: to restore it to its rightful place at the heart of the nation’s transport system.  Like Andrew Fisher, this Labor Government understands the economic, social and environmental dividends which come from investing in rail.

That to us is what ‘nation building’ is all about: putting the resources of government to work building the physical infrastructure and collective institutions which will both spur economic development and share its benefits across the entire community.

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

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