Wednesday, June 29, 2016

2016 Federal election Public Transport funding commitments

The federal election campaign has been running for months, and the nation heads to the polling booth on July 2nd only a few days away. Many campaign specific commitments have been made across all policy areas. Transport infrastructure and public transport commitments are of great interest to the members of ACT Light Rail, and the existing users of public transport in Canberra.

This article looks at the election commitments from the three major parties involved in the election campaign, focussed on public transport in Canberra. It has been delayed somewhat by the late release of the ALP policy. This morning the ALP released their Infrastructure Policy (see here), part of their 100 positive policies for their federal election campaign. It was the last of the major parties to release an infrastructure policy, the Liberals released their policy (see here) and the Greens released their Infrastructure policy (see here) some weeks ago

The main focus of ACT Light Rail is public transport infrastructure in the Capital region, and programs and funding to expand the role that better public transport plays in city building, better regional access and community cohesion. Public transport cannot stand alone, it is intrinsically linked to other policy areas such as planning and development. Transport policy needs the same focus.

Let us examine each Public Transport or Infrastructure policy or funding commitment and see what Canberra's voters have to choose from.
Labors Infrastructure policy
The Australian Labor Party
As part of the 100 Positive Policies campaign, the ALP today released the 'Labor Infrastructure Policy'. Public transport is a key area of their policy, and is mentioned on Page 3 ahead of roads. It contains good news for public transport - in every state except for Canberra.

This policy offers nothing for public transport in Canberra. ACT Light Rail contacted each of the ALP's federal representatives or Canberra and asked for details about commitments to light rail. A spokesman for Andrew Leigh MP advised that the government commitment of $67 million is still in place and that Canberra would retain that funding if the ALP formed government.

The local ALP have invested a great deal of political capital in the Capital Metro Stage One light rail project and this lack of federal Labor support is very concerning.

Liberal Party
The Liberal Party policy on public transport can be found buried in their infrastructure policy titled 'Building Australia's Infrastructure' found here. Public transport warrants one paragraph in the foreword of a policy that then focusses very much on roads. Although it promotes public transport projects in other states, There is no mention of Canberra specific public transport project in it at all.

This is odd, as the federal Liberal government is contributing $60 million dollars from the Asset Recycling incentive scheme, and at the 2016 Budget announced it would increase that by ten percent with an extra $6.6 million dollars.

Senator Zed Seselja recently promised to relocate a federal agency to the Gungahlin Town Centre if he was returned. That commitment supports the business case for light rail, as it demonstrates that providing better public transport attracts employment.

Further adding to the unusual nature of the Liberals federal election campaign is an active effort in their advertising to encourage people who support light rail to vote for the Greens or the Labor Party. The Liberals are telling Canberra voters that if they want light rail, they should vote Greens or Labor at the federal election, and if you oppose public transport then vote Liberal.

Liberal Sentaor Zed Seselja explicitly endorses the Greens policy saying “It is a clear choice on Saturday, voting for the Greens is voting for light rail.”
The message being if you want light rail - don't vote Liberal?
Not all Canberra Liberals share this view. Robert Gunning, candidate for Fenner, says that "While he acknowledges it is a "possibility" he could pick up votes from light-rail opponents wanting to register their anger with Labor, he doesn't expect it to have a big impact.

As the delivery of Capital Metro Stage One is a territory funded and administered program, it is not clear how the light rail project can be influenced by a vote to the Greens or labor instead of the Liberals. It is almost as if the Liberals are in a schizophrenic policy position with the Federal Liberals promoting light rail in Canberra, and the Canberra Liberals campaigning against it. 

The Greens

Of the major parties, the Greens offer the most compelling policy for better public transport in the ACT. Their policy 'Building our Green transport future' found here says they will invest $400 million in a second stage of light rail in Canberra.
The Greens policy extends beyond light rail stage two construction to promise to invest in and encourage low emission bus fleets and local manufacturing of light rail vehicles. They also commit to making bus priority a feature on main roads. These are sound public transport election commitments.

These specific public transport commitments as part of the 2016 federal election are consistent with the Greens Sustainable Planning and Transport policy (found here).

Overview of federal election commitments

The Greens provide the only concrete public transport commitment for Canberra voters from any major party at this federal election. They commit $400 million for light rail stage two in Canberra.

The ALP and Liberals do not make any Canberra specific public transport commitments. The federal Liberal government commitment of $67 million is still in place, and a spokesman for Andrew Leigh MP maintains that the local ALP representatives would retain that funding if the ALP formed government.

ACT Light Rail do not suggest or direct that you vote for any specific party or person, the information in this article is to aid your decision making process before you exercise your democratic right at the July 2nd federal election.

As well as this website, the facebook group 'Light Rail for Canberra' carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news. 

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