1 year ago




12 SENATE Tuesday, 14 February 2017 in a democracy that is what we must honour, that is what we must respect: if a majority of people are in favour, they will vote accordingly. Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (13:36): In the explanation he gave to the Senate this morning, Senator Cormann failed in his obligation and in his duty to this place. His explanation did not go to his failure to table documents and that demonstrates the spurious nature of the business case that the government continues to hide. Senator Cormann, because he is a minister, can use his ministerial capacity to table whatever he likes. But instead of tabling the facts that might have outlined a business case for this parliament to see, what he instead tabled and spoke to was government advertising. He spoke to government advertising, not to the business case that he was asked for. That is the nature of the information that Senator Cormann tabled in this place. The business case has been hidden from this place and from public view under cabinet in confidence and by, I would argue, falsely using cabinet processes to channel documents through cabinet. So what we have here is Senator Cormann speaking not to the facts but to taxpayer funded advertising as a way of trying to mount a facts based argument about this project. It is an appalling abuse of his place in this chamber. There is only one way to stop the Roe 8 project and that is for a Labor government to be elected in Western Australia on 11 March. Again, what we see here is the state government trying to counter what is a very legitimate expression of concern from the Western Australian community about this project. The government knows it is on the back foot when it comes to this project. The Western Australian community is very concerned about the wetlands, very concerned about the sustainability of this project and very concerned about the environmental abuses that are occurring. So we have Minister Cormann tabling advertising in place of a business case while at the same time the government denying Senator Cormann leave to table his very much more fact based documents that actually outline the evidence of the environmental abuses that are taking place. I think that is an appalling act of the government. What we saw in his contribution today was Senator Back confirming the fact that this is indeed a road to nowhere. He talked about the building of Roe 8 and what was, in his view, the wrong decision to cancel the Stephenson project. We saw the cancellation of the Stephenson project bring back a range of areas that are now firmly residential. The government is not revisiting that issue, as Senator Back confirmed. What, in effect, this means is that this project is indeed a road to nowhere, as confirmed by Senator Back today. Again, instead of tabling any business case or cost-benefit analysis, what we had was reference to government advertising by Senator Cormann, which indeed makes a complete mockery, I think, of his obligations to this place. Instead, what he spoke to was a bunch of government advertising—what a joke; that is an absolute joke. I would like to thank Senator Ludlam for bringing this question before the chamber today and for asking for these documents. What we have though from the government is a complete failure in its responsibility, and a complete failure of Minister Frydenberg to investigate these breaches of environmental law. So, sadly, the only way forward on this project is really to get the message out to voters that the only way to stop this project is to have people vote Labor on 11March. We have had from the Hanson party a rejection of this project. But, sadly, if we are going to see a preference deal between the Western Australian Liberals and Pauline Hanson's One Nation, a vote for the Hanson party will be a vote for this project, contrary to their own policy. It is really important that we take the time to explain this to voters because I know that Western Australian voters are against this. We have strong environmental sentiments in Western Australia where we see these wetlands as precious environmental assets. The irony of Senator Back's comments when he talked about these road projects having been proposed for many decades was that some of our best environmental assets—and this is true of all of our cities—are the bits of land that were proposed for roads and therefore no other construction or development took place on them. It is only in hindsight that we have seen that these environmental assets should not be roads but they should be protected and maintained as environmental assets, and Roe 8 very much falls into this category. I would really like to commend my colleague Anthony Albanese for the approach that he takes to these issues, which, as Senator Ludlam highlighted, is transparent. It is about Infrastructure Australia having a proper analysis of these kinds of projects and through that in Western Australia we have seen Perth Citylink, NorthLink, Great Eastern Highway, NorthLink and the Great Northern Highway upgrades. What we also see is support for the state Labor plan for Metronet, where we should be taking funds from Roe 8 and delivering it to our public transport system in Western Australia to make it better. In thanking Senator Ludlam for bringing this motion before the Senate, I really want to highlight the contempt that Senator Cormann is showing this place. The only way to resolve this issue is to vote Labor on 11 March. Senator RICE (Victoria) (13:44): I also want to thank my colleague Senator Ludlam for his dogged determination on this issue because this is about transparency and accountability. It is providing information that CHAMBER

Tuesday, 14 February 2017 SENATE 13 the community needs, that we as senators need to make decisions on what major infrastructure projects should go ahead and are in the interests of the community. Without this information we cannot make that judgement. I listened to Senator Cormann's response this afternoon as to why the government is claiming this information is not available. He said that there was harm to public interest, that they were cabinet-in-confidence decisions and that it was commercial and sensitive information. Frankly, these excuses do not hold water at all. The bulk of Senator Cormann's very longwinded contribution today was basically flights of fancy, overblown rhetoric and far-fetched opinions that have no relationship whatsoever to the truth of what this major road would mean to Perth. In summary, I think Senator Cormann was influenced by the fact that it was Valentine's Day, and the government and he were doing their best to show their undying love for toll roads: Roses are red. Violets are blue. We love toll roads And so should you. That really was the substance of what we heard from Senator Cormann. What we know is if there were transparency, if we had had this information before us, if the business case were available—as it should be for all Australians to be able to interrogate—it would become very clear that these projects, these massive toll roads, just do not add up. Without that information, and with the excuses being proffered by the government that 'No, we can't have this information because it's cabinet-in-confidence, because it's commercial and sensitive,' what that means is that every major project like this across the country cannot be subject to public scrutiny. Every one of them is seen to be commercial-in-confidence or cabinet-in-confidence—'No, we cannot share that information with you.' That means that these projects get to proceed without the spotlight of public scrutiny and without the justification to try to say why this is a good project and why it adds up. We know why that is the case. We know why there is secrecy. It is because these projects do not add up. If you had that scrutiny and shone a spotlight on why this road is being proposed, it would be very clear that it does not add up economically or environmentally. The major reason these roads are being proposed is to try to tackle congestion; it is very clear, when you look at information—where it is available—that it just does not work. These projects are just not effective in that fundamental aim that they have of tackling congestion. The evidence around the world shows that trying to tackle congestion in big cities just by building new roads is like trying to tackle obesity by loosening your belt. Those roads just fill up with cars and trucks, and you end up exactly where you were a few years down the track, but you have wasted billions of dollars along the way. But we know that we have state and federal Liberal governments—and, sadly, many state Labor governments as well—who are in the thrall of the toll road companies and are continuing to do their bidding. It is not just in Perth with Roe 8; we have seen it in Victoria with the East West Link, where when we finally managed to get the information out because of people within the bureaucracy whistleblowing and saying this information needs to be in the public domain, we saw that the cost-benefit analysis meant that for every dollar you spent you got only 50c back in economic benefit. That was the reality of what came out when we put the East West Link under the sort of scrutiny that Roe 8 needs to be put under. We have the Auditor-General's report on WestConnex coming out today, and I am pretty confident that it is not going to give it a clean bill of health. Then we have the state Labor government in Victoria that similarly is refusing to release the business case for the deal that they are doing with Transurban on the Western Distributor, because they know that if a spotlight could be shone on these roads, it would be pretty clear that they are not the answer. We have a solution. Transport planners across the country and around the world know that what we need to do to create liveable and healthy cities that people really want to live in is to shift the balance. We need to have much more investment in public transport, much more investment in freight rail and much more investment in cycling and walking facilities so that people have a choice to get out of their cars. We do not need to be moving all this freight on toll roads; we could be getting it onto rail. What we as a parliament need to do, and what governments need to do, is to redress that balance, changing and shifting away from the failures of the last 50 years. Not releasing this information and continuing down the road of Roe 8 is a continuation of our policy failure. In conclusion, I think we need to keep the pressure up to get this information out so that we can see for ourselves that the supposed benefits of this road just are not worth the costs. When all that information is out on the table, it will be very clear that the right direction is not building massive polluting tollways; it is investing in public transport, in walking and cycling and in healthy, more sustainable and more liveable cities. Senator LINES (Western Australia—Deputy President and Chair of Committees) (13:50): I too rise to speak about Senator Ludlam's take note motion around Roe 8. I too listened really carefully to Minister Cormann, a CHAMBER

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