Transport Administration Amendment (Authority to Close Railway Lines) Bill
In speaking to the Transport Administration Amendment (Authority to Close Railway Lines) Bill 2016, I will address some of the issues that the member for Ku-ring-gai raised in this speech. He mentioned that consultation takes place before State significant projects can be started. In the eyes of the community it is important that actions speak louder than words. We must consider this legislation and judge the Government on what has happened, not on broken promises that have been made in our electorates. This process was completely reversed in Newcastle. UrbanGrowth has now completed its consultations, but it was well after the decision was made to remove the rail line into Newcastle. We still do not have a clearly defined plan for what will replace the rail line and nor have we seen the State significant development that will replace it. Going on past events, it is false to say that a consultation process will happen in line with a planned State significant development. The admission by the member for Ku-ring-gai about the current legal uncertainty refers to the action taken by this Government to close this line, which was challenged successfully in the Court of Appeal. The Government lost because it realised that it could not ram through the closure of the line without changing the legislation. In this bill we see an attempt to take away the decision-making right of communities from Port Stephens in the north to Kiama in the south. The bill will allow the Minister for Transport to make decisions about the transport network that serves those communities in every aspect of people's daily lives. It is assumed that once the Government has decided the infrastructure will be a significant development then the local community should have no say in how transport is organised. If we want the community to be involved in State significant planning then we have to wonder why the Government is afraid to debate it in this place. TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Adam Marshall): Order! The member for Kiama will cease interjecting. The member for Maitland will be heard in silence. Ms JENNY AITCHISON: Why is the Government afraid to debate State significant development in this place? The elected representatives in this State should have a say in those decisions. Two Newcastle by-elections were fought on the rail line, as were the 2011 and 2015 State elections. On every occasion candidates who were proponents for maintaining the rail line into Newcastle were elected. I note that the member for Upper Hunter is in the Chamber. His predecessor always supported the retention of the rail line. There was a 22 per cent swing against the member for Upper Hunter when he failed to represent his community on this issue. This is a real concern. After a court case, two by-elections and an election the views of the people are still being ignored by the Government. The Government is not happy to take this to the upper House again because it has performed the biggest confidence trick ever on the Shooters and Fishers Party members in that place, who thought they could negotiate a better outcome and went for the extra money to agree to truncate the rail line. The question has to be why, on Wednesday 9 March 2016, more than a year after that rail line was truncated by this Government, against the law of the land at the time and most certainly against the wishes of the majority of that community, we do not have replacement light rail. Mr Michael Johnsen: Point of order: I ask that the member be directed to return to the subject matter before the House. TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Adam Marshall): Order! There is no point of order. The member is being relevant to the short title of the bill. Mr Alister Henskens: She is debating the wrong bill. TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Adam Marshall): Order! If the member for Ku-ring-gai wishes to canvass the ruling of the Chair he may do so by way of substantive motion, not by interjecting. The member for Maitland has the call. Ms JENNY AITCHISON: Thank you, Mr Temporary Speaker, for that ruling. The reality that the member for Upper Hunter does not want to face is that he did not back his community then, and now he is part of the cabal that votes— Mr Gareth Ward: Point of order: Tedious repetition. We have heard this. The member should come up with some new material. TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Adam Marshall): Order! There is no point of order. The member for Maitland has the call. Ms JENNY AITCHISON: The member for Upper Hunter has joined the cabal that wants to legislate to impose this kind of arrangement on everyone from Port Stephens in the north, to Kiama in the south and out to Wollondilly and the Hawkesbury. The Government wants to take control of transport away from those communities. That is a disgrace. I note that the member for Upper Hunter did not speak in the debate on the closure of the rail line. I would like to know where the Minister for Transport is. He is not in the Chamber. We are here to represent the views of our communities and he cannot be bothered to show his face in this place. Meanwhile, he rides roughshod over the community and allows the continuation of a city-centric transport focus. Regional communities will not be able to rely on their local elected members to represent them in Parliament over the loss of essential rail infrastructure. That is a disgrace. I am very concerned about the implications of this legislation. I spoke in debate on the previous bill that dealt with the removal of the rail line in Newcastle. Members may checkHansard if they do not remember. I said then that it was an attack on democracy in this State and an attack on the sovereignty of communities that rely on public transport. TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Adam Marshall): Order! Members on both sides of the Chamber will come to order. Ms JENNY AITCHISON: Mr Temporary Speaker, I will be seeking an extension of time because much of my time has been taken up by interjections from Government members who are not representing their communities as they should be. The Government does not seem to understand that transport is a vital component of planning. It has to be taken into consideration. It is all very well to say, "Build it and they will come," but if there are no rail lines how will they get there? That is a real concern. Members of my community should be able to use public transport to attend appointments with specialists, government agencies and courts. [Extension of time agreed to.] I will talk about the whole concept— Mr Mark Coure: Just talk about the bill. TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Adam Marshall): Order! The member for Maitland has the call. Ms JENNY AITCHISON: I am appalled at the behaviour of members on the opposite side of this Chamber. TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Adam Marshall): Order! The Chair will maintain order in the House. Ms JENNY AITCHISON: They have failed to represent their communities. Now, when I stand up to speak for my community, which is affected by this bill, they interject. Maitland is mentioned in this bill. It has already lost a train connection to Newcastle. I do not want my community to lose more transport without anyone having the chance to argue about it. I would not believe any of the Government's reassurances on this matter. I remember that the Government said last time it would keep the rail line and it broke its promise on that. Why would I trust the Government? I return to the importance of rail lines to economic prosperity and development. Research shows that where there is strong rail infrastructure communities are resilient to economic downturn. That is the lived experience of our communities. My community is being saved at the moment by Stockland, which is building a $372 million facility. That will create some 3,000 jobs for my community. That is a great project. Prior to that, the Hunter region had the highest level of unemployment in the State, at 9 per cent. The truncation of rail lines, cutting transport, affects people's access to employment. The Government needs to understand that planning and transport considerations must be taken in concert. The Government must think about the services that people need. It has a privatisation agenda for transport for Newcastle and there is no connectivity with the rest of the region. There is no transport plan for the greater Newcastle region. There is a Hunter plan and a Hunter city plan but neither of them mentions transport issues. The biggest concern for me is that the Government has no vision for the Hunter but is dabbling from Sydney. The member for Upper Hunter and the rest of the Government members support integral transport decisions that change the lives of everyone in our community without making any reference to the community or to the Parliament. Government members just want to be cowboys. Mr Michael Johnsen: Point of order: The member should be brought back on track. TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Adam Marshall): Order! I remind all members that, while latitude is granted in second reading debates, members should confine their marks to the leave of the bill, contained in the short title of the bill. The member for Maitland has been generally relevant to the bill, but there has been discourse across the Chamber. I encourage the member for Maitland not to entertain the interjections from Government members and I ask Government members not to interject. Ms JENNY AITCHISON: The member for Ku-ring-gai talked about rural communities being protected. I have two words to say in relation to that: Dungog and Muswellbrook. Ask those communities whether they felt they were protected by the truncation of the Newcastle rail line. The answer would be a clear no. I look forward very much to the 2019 election, when that matter will be discussed and voted on by the community. I will conclude by talking about vision. This Government should have a vision. If we going to legislate on vision, on transport and on building a new city and the greater Hunter community—all those things that Government members say they want to talk about—why is it that the first thing they come up with is that they are going to close railway lines? That is what is in this legislation. It is all about wrecking. There is nothing in this legislation about building transport. It comes back to the fundamental issue that they are pulling it down and they are not rebuilding.