Mar 27, 2015

Outer suburbs need national leadership

Tony Abbott’s absurd refusal to invest in public transport is short-changing Australian cities and damaging quality of life for Australian families living in the outer suburbs.

Too many outer suburban areas in Australia have little or no access to public transport. Residents of these areas spend too long in their cars each day travelling to and from work.

As the National Growth Areas Alliance noted this week when calling for more public transport funding, four million Australians live in outer suburban areas, where population growth is double the national rate.

Increasing numbers of Australians are living in drive-in/drive-out suburbs where they can afford housing but where local job opportunities are limited.

It is imperative that the government act to connect outer suburban communities to public transport at the earliest possible stage of their development.

This will not happen under Mr Abbott’s roads only policy.

Since taking office in 2013, Mr Abbott has refused to invest a cent in urban public transport and scrapped planned investments in major urban rail projects including the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Link.

He has since shifted the money into the development of new toll roads without even seeking the advice of the independent Infrastructure Australia to determine whether they represent value for money.

Mr Abbott’s prejudice against public transport will worsen traffic congestion and inhibit national economic productivity and jobs growth.

It will also consign millions of Australians to life in drive-in/drive-out suburbs where there are few jobs and no public transport.

The National Growth Areas Alliance’s call for more public transport investment must be taken seriously, given it represents 24 local government authorities that cover some of the nation’s fastest growing outer suburban areas.

Because the alliance’s members run local government in the outer suburbs, they have a first-hand understanding of the pressures in their communities.

Labor believes in investing in an integrated transport system that includes roads and public transport.

Labor also believes all major projects should be subject to proper cost-benefit analysis so Australians can be assured their taxes are not being wasted on dud projects.

Although Mr Abbott committed to the same evidence-based approach in Opposition, in government he has invested billions of dollars in untested road projects using money that had been earmarked for public transport.