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Estimates Reply – Ferguson

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 20 June 2023

Tags: Infrastructure, Treasury, Public Transport, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Chair, I rise to speak principally about the Transport and Infrastructure components of Mr Ferguson's Estimates and endorse and echo the frustrations expressed by my colleague, Dr Woodruff, who did an outstanding job in Treasury and Finance.

Thank you, Mr Winter, for your backhanded compliment. We do work very hard in Estimates week. There are two of us and there are two committees. We just do our very best. I made the decision to attend Mr Barnett's Estimates, which related to state development therefore the stadium and housing, which is in absolute crisis as a result of nine years under the Liberals.

We would have liked to have asked extra questions on the gambling industry reforms.. In some ways it is done and dusted as an issue because both the Liberal and Labor parties voted for that industry bill. We simply encourage Mr Ferguson to hold true to his word to make sure that harm minimisation and the card-based play system, caps on spending does become the policy.

I was particularly interested to represent constituents in Clark who want to see the rail corridor activated with light rail. I had in my hand the report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was commissioned by the Government to do an assessment of the comparative benefits of light rail or a busway. The minister was not hearing what PricewaterhouseCoopers and commonsense tells you. The PwC report on the transport mode says that the difference is that by 2027 there will be 174 houses and 37 jobs from bus rapid transport, but from light rail 776 houses and 180 jobs. Exponentially it increases over time. The minister confirmed that it is this Government's intention to rip up the rail line. We talked about the experience of the people of Perth who had a busway through the southern suburbs in the middle of the highway. It was carrying about 14 000 a day. They took out the busway put in light rail and it now carries 55 000 a day.

We think the Government is making a big mistake in moving to a daggy, low-cost busway. Buses are not always a transport mode of choice. There is a spark effect that comes with a rail line that has been demonstrated in research, in consultant's reports to government, that would most certainly lead to increased patronage of a light rail line and activation along that transport corridor, which has been stagnating for nine years under the Liberals.

Could the minister, when he responds, provide some clarity on what the impact on the bike track would be during construction of the proposed busway and ripping up the tracks, and also the impact on the bike track if the sewerage pipeline from Macquarie Point and Selfs Point is constructed.

We had an interesting discussion about Aboriginal heritage, and reflected on a couple Estimates ago where the Greens busted the Government not doing appropriate Aboriginal assessment or mitigation at Eaglehawk Neck. Thankfully a solution was found. We are very concerned to make sure that the extra works for Kingston bypass, I think it is on Algona Road, also have an appropriate and thorough Aboriginal heritage assessment undertaken on them.

Unfortunately, because the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has made a hash of his portfolio, as we understand it the Aboriginal Heritage Council at the moment is not quorate, which means that it cannot undertaken these assessments. We encourage Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to start saying sorry more and fix that problem he has with his palawa-pakana stakeholders.

We had some questions about the lack of investment in modern transport and electrification of the transport system. It is clear that nine years in, this is a very low priority for Government in arguably and on the data one of Australia's most congested capital cities. It has something to do with the topography of the city, but it also has a lot to do with decisions made by Government not to invest in active and passenger transport and electrification of the system.

When I talked to the minister about Climate Tasmania's report and the questions over the fact that we are the only state or territory without a purchase-price incentive or a subsidy rebate or a loan for electric vehicle update, the minister went on an interesting and quite unscientific tangent:

We will not be forcing industry to cut emissions. We will not be penalising them. But we will be working with the industry and looking for opportunities to work together to reduce emissions as the state continues to do very well in our targeted net zero position.

I was today years old when I heard this minister in here have another crack at the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, talk about what a disaster it was, when the evidence is there was a transition fund, there was dignity for industry players, and from 2013 our emissions profile is very clear that it is a result of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement forests that were saved that we are now net zero. I said, well thank you, Tasmanian Forest Agreement. Then this minister, who is obviously an intelligent man, said we are in a strong position in large part because of our renewable energy credentials. Of course, our renewable energy credentials have contributed to our emissions profile. You only have to look at the greenhouse account and, if you are being honest with yourself, to understand that we are net zero now because of forests that were not logged from 2012. So, this minister, again it is that casual regard for facts. The facts are that he can crow about our net zero profile because of something that he constantly condemns.

We gleaned from the deputy secretary, Mr Swain, an understanding that work on modernising our transport systems and infrastructure is dragging. We have Mr Swain saying:

In relation to the transport sector plan, we are working closely with ReCFIT to support the development of that sector plan. What we have started to do is deal with the stocktake across the activities of the department and to look at everything we are doing in relation to sustainability.

I said: 'You've just started it?' Mr Swain said: 'No, we've been doing that for about a year'. Oh great, that is so inspiring. As a resident of nipaluna/Hobart who shares the frustrations of many locals after nine years of the Liberals, when we can see no evidence of a commitment to or investment in modernising our city's transport and infrastructure, it is deeply frustrating to know that work on sustainability in the transport system is taking so long.

I would like to understand also from the minister, and I do not know if that came up in the questions because I was not there to be able to ask it, but we asked for some information on PricewaterhouseCoopers tenders. The question was to the minister about how many tenders has Government commissioned from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the disgraced consultancy, and what was the value of those tenders? We do not have the value equation here. The minister came into the House, tabled a list of PwC contracts from Government. There were about 20 in all, so PwC is doing very well out of this Government. We still do not understand what the value of those contracts are. If we have to put a question on notice to get that information, we will. Perhaps the minister could get up and, off his own bat, provide the information that parliament asked of him in the previous sitting week. We encourage this minister to modernise, to get with the times.

The Derwent ferry service is very good. We would like to see it expand. However, it is only one part of an integrated and sustainable transport system for Tasmania. We are very concerned that this minister and this Government do not understand the need to modernise our beautiful cities and towns and make sure we have the EV charging infrastructure in place that we need.