Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 4:20pmSpeaker:
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- I think, and I am sure many other Victorians think, that the east-west toll road is the stupidest project in Victoria's history. I am yet to hear anybody explain, in debate today or at any other time, how connecting three congested freeways to each other cures congestion. There is not a single fact that has been put forward today that has suggested this will do anything other than increase the amount of traffic pouring on and off toll road ramps into the inner city; but if you tease out some of the propositions put forward by the government in its introduction, you find those answers. These sorts of things will not be in the cheat sheets that have been handed out to government members, but the fact is that the government's so-called freight plan is a plan to massively increase truck traffic and will see rail's share of the freight task decline over time.
We are told that this thing is going to pull traffic off suburban streets but somehow make traffic flow more freely. There are constant references to a second river crossing when we have already got seven of them, including an expanded West Gate and a bunch of rail bridges that probably carry more people in morning peak than the West Gate Bridge does. It is a completely incoherent mess and an albatross around the government's neck.
Everywhere I go, from one end of the state to the other, from the bush to the burbs to the inner city, I talk to people who agree that the $18 billion thrown into this proposal to turn the city into a set of giant on and off ramps is a complete waste of money, and it could be -- --
Mr Koch -- You're only talking to your own.
Mr BARBER -- No, Mr Koch, I just go door to door in Warrnambool and in Frankston. I was in Ballan on Saturday, going door to door -- just a random selection of doors. Basically it is as follows: the Pope is Catholic, the sun rises in the east and this road tunnel is a complete waste of money. It could not be clearer. It is an albatross around the government's neck.
Honourable members interjecting.
Mr BARBER -- I was at a sausage sizzle in the main street of Ballan, Mr Koch. You do not have to push people very hard to think up something they can have in their community that would leave quite a bit of change out of $18 billion. We see again in the government's proposition that the government wound up all these self-interest groups and told them, 'It's a toll road or nothing. What do you reckon?'. They said, 'Oh, we're all in favour of a toll road'. But take any one of those groups -- --
Honourable members interjecting.
Mr BARBER -- The usual mates you see at the club: the Property Council of Victoria, the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the same set of recycled, self-interest groups.
However, get them alone and they will say, 'Okay, if I had my druthers, I would like to see business tax reform or more investment in education or clearing the congestion on Victoria's roads by buying more trains or development in renewables, for example -- get the price of energy down'. If you take those business groups or their subsectors aside and ask them what it is that they really want that they can afford for $15 billion, they will tell you that it is not a toll road. The toll road is simply the lowest common denominator that this government could think up when it found itself in a tight spot after changing leaders, and it wanted to come up with a circuit-breaker or a game-changer or whatever piece of spewing rhetoric came out there before.
Mr Ramsay interjected.
Mr BARBER -- Mr Ramsay brings up the Eastern Freeway. That brings me back to the other reason voters are so against this proposal.
The promised investment in public transport that Mr Ramsay's party made in the run-up to the 2010 election never happened. Everybody understands that a railway line down the middle of the Eastern Freeway with perhaps 800 people per train coming in would shift more people in seconds than an entire lane on a freeway could do in an hour. The government promised the Doncaster railway; it delivered a toll road. It remains to be seen. I guess the government is racing ahead in great haste to sign the contracts so that it can have some kind of symbolic, ribbon-cutting shovel going into the earth of some piece of public park that will no longer exist.
It seems that the government's political position is pretty dire. If the recently published opinion polls are anything to go by, this government -- the ruling party, the Liberals -- is in a lot of trouble. I saw that it was 61-39 two-party preferred in Victoria, and what was it yesterday in the Nielsen poll? It was 65-35 two-party preferred.
The federal Liberal Party is polling 29 per cent of the primary vote in Victoria, with the Greens on 15 per cent. We are going to have to revisit this whole question of who is a major party and who is a minor party at that rate. I say again: it is an albatross around the government's neck. People get it right across Victoria. Every one of them, motorist or public transport user, understands that that kind of money could build us a world-beating public transport system that would clear the congestion off our roads, move people efficiently at all hours of the day and still leave us with some change left over for schools and hospitals.
The Labor Party is very strong on its rhetoric against this tunnel after it flipped and then flopped and then flipped again and came back to a position of seemingly opposing the eastern bit of the project. Now I would say it is more dismissing the western half than opposing it. I certainly would not want to anticipate debate. I am going to need to stop there because -- --
Mr Ramsay -- Hear, hear!
Mr BARBER -- I finally have Mr Ramsay's approval, which is something I have been questing after for three and a half years! There is a bill in this Parliament, and I would really like if we could move onto it and deal with it as quickly as possible because it is in fact something more than a rhetorical debate proposition; it is a bill that will facilitate the east-west road tunnel by providing for the fruit and vegetable wholesale market in the port area to be turned into a giant construction base and depot for the east-west road tunnel. The vote on that bill will be very interesting because it is very clear that the intention of the provisions within that bill are to facilitate the construction of the east-west road tunnel.
I could go on debating this topic for a very long time. We have debated this topic for a very long time. It has been subjected to a huge amount of publicity, and the public simply has worked out in pretty short order that this is a bad project for Victoria and that there are many better projects that the money could be spent on. That is why the Greens consistently, from the beginning, have opposed the proposal to keep building more roads, none of which ever cure congestion and all of which then lead to demand for another massive, expensive, polluting road to be built. Therefore we will oppose the motion.
Read the original Hansard transcript including the orginating motion - scroll to page 16