Hunter Public Transport
A speech outlining the devastating effects of cutting the rail line into Newcastle for many members of the Maitland community.
Imagine for a moment that you are a 93-year-old woman and you live alone. You live in the same house that you lived in with your husband, who has since passed away. You are a passionate woman, still with the strong accent you brought with you on a ship when you first came to Australia many years ago. You fight isolation every day of your life. You do not live in the village that you were
born in; you are on your own. You force yourself to go out and spend time in the community, having coffee, seeing your doctor, doing a bit of shopping. You are proud of the beautiful trench coat that you wear to your local member's office. You bought it many years ago because you know that quality never goes out of style. It is true: It never does. You have a few friends who are still alive and you like to go out. Until 26 December last year you could leave your house to spend time with them. You could catch the train to Newcastle to walk along the foreshore and perhaps have some fish and chips from that iconic Newcastle restaurant Scratchleys. You catch a bus from the train station, but it is getting harder each day. Now you have to wait for a bus to come and pick you up from Hamilton. Imagine for a moment you are 15-year-old boy from Thornton. On those hot humid Maitland summer days you long to catch a wave at Newcastle beach. Your parents work really hard at a small business and sometimes on weekends and during the holidays they do not have time to drive you to the beach. You think about how good it would be to take your surfboard down to Newcastle Beach. But now your surfboard is not always allowed on the bus that you have to catch from Hamilton—nor is your bike. You stop going because it is awkward getting caught out in Hamilton with a surfboard or a bike. You cannot take those on the bus. Imagine for a moment you are married, you live in Telarah and you and your partner are both lucky enough, under this Government, still to have jobs in the mines. At the end of a long week, you get some days off together. At times like this, you used to take a night off without the kids to go to a restaurant along the Newcastle foreshore. You may get a pizza at Blue Water Pizza or you may eat at Silo. Perhaps you would have listened to live music at The Brewery, before things got a bit rough there. Not wanting to drink and drive, of course, you used to catch the train back to Telarah station and then take a taxi ride to your house. Now, you are scared of missing the connection, getting stuck at Hamilton and being stuck with a $100 taxi bill. I have been a passionate defender of public transport for over 16 years. Although I do not have any government contracts to provide bus services, I have been to State and national conferences on buses and public transport once or twice a year every year for the last 16 years. Most of the speakers at these conferences have reiterated the vital importance of public transport for socio-economic development and as a social determinant of health. Distinguished transport and sociology academics such as Janet and Jon Stanley from Monash University and David Hensher from the University of Sydney Institute of Transport and Logistics have been working on these issues. More recently I spoke to the Chief Executive of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, who was very surprised that a government would ever consider replacing a heavy rail line with light rail outside the rail corridor. To be clear, Labor started the revitalisation of Newcastle with the law courts precinct and the relocation of 5,000 to 6,000 university spaces in the vicinity of Civic Station. The new Museum of Newcastle is located at Civic Station, which is also known as the museum station. The many restaurants along the foreshore are within a five-minute walk of Civic Station and there is a major shopping and residential development slated for the area. The rail line into Newcastle is about giving people in Maitland the opportunity to directly connect with the major CBD in our region, and then on to Sydney. It is about connectivity, transport and, ultimately, people. I take this opportunity to thank Save our Rail, particularly Kim Cross and Joan Dawson, for their long-term and sustained efforts in maintaining their campaign to save our rail. The Government has unlawfully ripped up essential rail infrastructure, without putting any alternative in place. For all his talk of mandates, the Premier has been very silent since the election on the rail line. He said the election was a referendum on the rail line. That is what the Premier promised. He implemented one of his mandates yesterday; he should implement this one. The Government should look at the swings against members in country seats, where it lost up to 20 per cent of the votes. The member for Upper Hunter, in particular, should think about that.