PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA: Mr TUDGE (Aston) (10.21 pm)—In question time on Thursday, 28 October the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport was asked questions about the Moreton Bay rail link in Brisbane and the Epping to Parramatta rail link in Sydney.
In the minister’s response, he outlined the reasons that the federal government decided to make these rail links a priority. I raise this because the reasons the minister gave for prioritising these rail links are equally applicable to the planned Rowville rail link in my electorate. I would like to demonstrate this to the House.
I have spoken before in this House about the Rowville rail link. The plan is for it to extend 12.3 kilometres from Huntingdale Station to Stud Park in Rowville via Monash University. The Minister for Transport described the Moreton Bay rail link as ‘a great project that will open up public transport travel for the people of Redcliffe Peninsula’. I am sure that this is the case, but I ask: why are the people of Redcliffe Peninsula any more deserving than the people of Rowville and its neighbouring suburbs?
The minister said that the Moreton Bay rail link would ease urban congestion. Well, so would the Rowville rail link. In fact, the Knox City Council pre-feasibility study found that a Rowville rail link would take the equivalent of one entire lane of traffic off the Monash Freeway. This freeway serves the entirety of Melbourne’s south-east and is renowned for congestion and delays. In fact I have heard it nicknamed ‘the south-eastern car park’ on occasion.
The minister then said that the Moreton Bay rail link would cut travel time to Brisbane’s CBD to just 45 minutes. Well, the Knox council study predicted a Rowville rail link would cut travel times to Melbourne’s CBD to just 30 minutes.
The minister told the parliament that the Epping-Parramatta link was important because it would connect ‘people in Western Sydney to Macquarie University’. Again, the Rowville rail link would connect people in outereastern Melbourne to Australia’s largest university, Monash University, which currently has no rail connection.
The minister told the parliament that the Moreton Bay rail link was important because it had been ‘talked about’ since 1895. Rowville rail link has not been talked about for that long but it has been talked about since 1969. Every argument that the minister has put in relation to the Moreton Bay rail link or the Epping-Parramatta link equally applies to the Rowville rail link. I believe that it should therefore be equally
prioritised by this government. The minister says:
If we are serious about tackling issues such as urban congestion and the quality of life in our cities, we have to make sure that we back up that commitment with real dollars
The Rudd-Gillard government has backed up this commitment with real dollars in relation to the rail links I have referred to in Brisbane and Sydney, but Melbourne’s east has not seen one dollar for rail from this government.
Why has Melbourne’s east, particularly its outer east with its stifling congestion, been left off the list?
Why won’t this government commit to the Rowville rail link?
The only explanation is that this government seems to assess whether or not to put federal dollars into urban rail extensions not on the basis of need or cost but on the basis of how many marginal seats the project would serve. We could see at least a feasibility study into the Rowville rail link very soon, with the Victorian state opposition having committed $2 million in the leadup to the state election this Saturday to conduct the feasibility study should it win the upcoming election. This is a very positive development. I am confident that a full feasibility study will come out with a positive result. If it does then I hope the government will apply the same logic to the Rowville rail link that it used to justify the Moreton Bay rail link and the Epping-Parramatta rail link. The Rowville rail link will take cars off our roads, ease congestion and increase commuter choice, and it would be a very good asset for outer-eastern Melbourne.