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Estimates Reply - Deputy Premier

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Tags: Infrastructure, Transport, Traffic Congestion, Hobart Light Rail

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Deputy Chair, I rise to make a brief contribution on the transport and infrastructure and defence industries, as well as Trade sections of this minister's portfolio. As I was having the soul-crushing experience of sitting at the Estimates table across from the Treasurer, I did not have the pleasure of scrutinising the Education minister's budget. What I will say, having gone back through the Hansard, I appreciate that this minister, who has been in parliament for a long time, makes a genuine effort to answer questions truthfully, to not fob off questions and seems to genuinely enjoy - as much as any sane person can - the Estimates experience.

I wanted to talk about an issue raised at the table that is of enormous concern to the people of Clark, Franklin and southern Tasmania in Lyons, which is the growing congestion problem we have in and around Hobart. The real concern, and it is manifest in this Budget, is that there continues to be a really negligent underspend of public transport and congestion solutions while the Treasurer wins the day in Cabinet; 'I can allocate $1.6 billion towards the construction of new roads', which we know will do nothing to ease congestion for the people who live in and around Hobart and it will do nothing to lift productivity, which is the impact of congestion on the economy.

We have $1 million in the Budget for feasibility studies into busting congestion. Well, big deal. We know what the problem is. We have lived it. We are living it and $1 million for feasibility studies is the Government's way of saying they are not going to do anything about congestion at the moment, we are going to do another study into the previous studies, we will come back to you later when we finish the study into the previous studies.

Unfortunately, so little funding has been allocated toward pedestrian, cycling, ferry and other public transport that the only conclusion to draw is that it has been deprioritised by this Government. In the Budget, $2 million is allocated as part of a grant-matching program for southern councils to build cycling infrastructure but, again, that is a small allocation. It is a little over double what the Government has spent taking legal cases to the High Court or spending money trying to reopen tracks in the Tarkine, which are through priceless Aboriginal heritage. We have $2 million for southern councils to bid into a cycling infrastructure fund that is a bit over double what the Government has already spent on futile political legal bids. It is a real concern. A fifth lane coming on the Southern Outlet and it is a bit like saying to a person who has a weight problem that I will tell you how to deal with this weight problem; we will give you a bigger belt because the person with the weight problem does not do anything to deal with the nub of the issue. If you build an extra lane on the Southern Outlet you will have, as the minister knows, are more cars on the Southern Outlet when what we need to be doing is engaging in mode shift.

This work has been done by the RACT. It is really profound work; the Greater Hobart Mobility Vision. They looked at four different scenarios with which you would turn Hobart into a genuinely liveable 21st century city, where passenger, active transport and liveability are prioritised. The blueprint or the greenprint, whichever way you want to look at it, has been provided by the RACT. I pay tribute to Harvey Lennon, the former CEO of RACT and who has now left RACT. He took it upon himself to recognise that the RACT has a social responsibility to contribute to public policy development in Tasmania. As an organisation that has as its core objective safer roads for cars, that is a big departure from the RACTs history and previous work but they delivered this mobility vision. It paints the picture of a really exciting possible future for Hobart, which is unarguably the most beautiful capital city in the country and it should have contemporary 21st century transport.

We strongly encourage this minister, with three years until the next election, to engage with the Treasurer and your Cabinet colleagues on whoever the expenditure review committee of Cabinet is and make sure you secure some of that $1.6 billion dedicated to roads and bridges into 21st century infrastructure cycleways, pedestrian ways and the Battery Point walkway. Get the work started on light rail. Put more money into Metro and get the ferries on the river. I know that this minister believes in those ferries. I know that. Before he leaves this job, he wants to have delivered a passenger ferry service on the Derwent. That is what this great river and this beautiful city needs. We wish him all the best but he needs to throw his weight around in the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet which, I presume, given he is the transport and infrastructure minister, he is on.

We also asked questions about defence spending. It is the same basic theme that I took to the table last year, which is, why are we developing industries where the product of that industry is sold to a country that kills people or is engaged in wars in the region that are killing innocent civilians? We produce materials and products that go to Saudi Arabia, that are part of a defence industry which is trading with an oppressive regime in the Middle East. When women, who are totally second class citizens and oppressed in Saudi Arabia, try to flee the country, the Saudi government comes after them by tracking their cell phone data. The same Saudi government which now has an 18year old child on death row for criticising the regime when they were 13.

We need to think very carefully about the kind of industries we are investing in for the future; the kind of industries that we are training our bright young people up to go into. There has to be an ethical foundation for industries that government supports. If Government is putting significant resources into developing defence industries that fuel the war machine and contribute to the death of civilians, then we do not have an ethical leg to stand on.

Mr Rockliff - It is not about weaponry. It is more about protecting armed forces.

Ms O'CONNOR - Only Australian armed forces?

Mr Rockliff - That is my understanding.

Ms O'CONNOR - You are defence minister. You should know in detail.

Mr Rockliff - For example, our Maritime College and the partnership we have developed with South Australia is important.

Ms O'CONNOR - I understand that and I think it was a mistake of party politics that we have to compete with the facility in South Australia because the Australian Maritime College has a longstanding reputation, as you know, minister, over decades of training some of the best seamen and women in the world. It should never have come to that where the defence minister's home state is the beneficiary of what is pork barrelling at the expense of Tasmania's excellent maritime college.

I also asked the minister a question, and this has come up in conversations with the minister about the plans for Devonport Airport. We had the Coordinator-General at the table, Chair, as you would be aware because I think you were at the table too but I can't be certain because you did hop around a bit, by necessity. The issue had been raised with us by people who work inside the aviation industry, who had seen officials from a Chinese airline at Tasport's property in Devonport Airport had raised it with us, and we respectfully raised it with the minister to find out what was going on because it is public property.

It is TasPort's facility and we should know if there are negotiations between an agent of the Government of Tasmania, which unfortunately the Coordinator-General is, and an agent of the Chinese government, which China Southern is. Because of the intelligence laws that were passed by the Chinese government in 2017, which require every Chinese company to comply with the intelligence laws of the Chinese government and if the Chinese government asks that Chinese company to take a certain action or to provide a certain amount of information then there is a requirement on that company to provide that information. There needs to be a lot more transparency about this potential deal at Devonport Airport because, as we know, the Chinese government is an oppressive totalitarian regime which is locking up its own people in the millions.