Commuters living in the outer suburbs of Australia’s big cities should expect to be stuck in their cars for longer in coming years due to Tony Abbott’s chronic neglect of public transport and cuts to road funding.
The man who promised to focus on infrastructure ahead of his election in 2013 has done nothing to help Australia’s long-suffering commuters, many of whom live in drive-in, drive-out suburbs where they can afford housing but where there are no jobs.
Mr Abbott’s only response to this growing problem has been to make it worse by cutting all investment in new public transport projects, cutting funding for important road projects like Melbourne’s M80 and reducing road maintenance spending with $1 billion in cuts to Financial Assistance Grants to councils.
The net result will be more traffic congestion and longer commuting journeys.
People who live in outer suburbs deserve the same access to services, including education and training, as all other Australians. Yet Mr Abbott’s refusal to invest in public transport will leave many people increasingly isolated from services and jobs.
It will also affect the nation’s economic productivity and jobs growth.
There is no logical reason for this neglect, which is based in Mr Abbott’s personal contempt for public transport, which he believes Australians do not use.
He outlined his bizarre view in his 2009 political manifesto Battlelines, in which he wrote:
Mostly there just aren’t enough people wanting to go from a particular place to a particular destination at a particular time to justify any vehicle larger than a car and cars need roads.
Adding to the absurdity of this position, Mr Abbott has been unable to deliver on his promises of “bulldozers and cranes’’ working on major new road projects within his first year in office.
In fact, one of his priority projects – the East-West Link, has been exposed as a poorly thought out white elephant that would have returned only 45 cents for every dollar invested, according to the former Victorian Liberal Government’s own documents, which have now been released.
His other big project – the Westconnex road project in Sydney – was the subject of a recent report by the NSW Auditor-General expressing concerns about the rigour of the planning process.
More than a year into his term of office there are no cranes or bulldozers at work – just plenty of bulldust as Mr Abbott struggles to explain his failures.
Labor believes in investing in both roads and rail to deliver integrated urban transport systems that ensure our cities are more productive, sustainable and liveable.