I speak in debate on the Transport Administration Amendment (Authority to Close Railway Lines) Bill 2016. This bill authorises the Government or rail infrastructure owners to close railways lines without the passage of legislation through this Parliament. I strongly oppose the bill.
The last thing this State needs is to further surrender control of our transport infrastructure without the transparency the community deserves and rightly expects.
It is clear that the Government does not want to go through the inconvenience of getting parliamentary approval to close our railway lines because of the debacle we saw in Newcastle, where they closed the line despite fierce community opposition. Now the Government wants a free pass when it comes to closing the Rozelle railyards, despite knowing the community does not want it or need it.
Rather than engage in meaningful consultation and put in place an evidence-based policy, this bill will allow the Government to push ahead and close whatever railway lines it wishes.
With no scrutiny or proper process it could close any line from Newcastle in the north, to Wollongong in the south, to the Blue Mountains in the west and at Rozelle in the inner city the railway from Balmain Road, Lilyfield, to Victoria Road, Rozelle.
Had this legislation already been in place the Dulwich Hill goods line could have been sold off and we would never have had the Inner West Light Rail Extension. That great Labor initiative, which progressed through successive parliaments, transformed a freight line into a highly utilised world-class public transport option. It is used by thousands of inner-west commuters and is now so popular that the Government is regularly adding more services to it.
Transforming this once-disused rail line represents innovative policy-making, which was made better through transparency, consultation and parliamentary process.
There are many possibilities for further innovation when it comes to our transport and freight lines; for example, the Greenway project, a meandering cyclepath incorporating current rail corridors—a project planned and budgeted for by Labor, but postponed and then scrapped by this Coalition Government.
But none of this will be possible if we sell off our rail lines, shut down public debate and abandon parliamentary scrutiny. This is a blunt, simplistic approach which will deny our communities a say.
With this bill this Government is turning its back on innovation.
It is a short-sighted approach that will put Sydney behind.
There are great examples across the world of innovative reuses of rail corridors: the High Line in New York—2.3 kilometres of linear park built above Manhattan on the old West Side line—and, just this week, the City of Vancouver purchased the Arbutus line, a disused rail line owned by Canadian Pacific, to build a greenway for cyclists and pedestrians, at a cost of $55 million.
These are innovative reuses by creative governments engaging their communities, creating great multiuse public spaces and propelling their global cities forward.
Instead, New South Wales has a short-sighted government, devoid of imagination, intent on selling off anything it can and letting in the developers and its mates with their ideas and letting them rip.
The community is right to be wary that this bill will make it easier for the Government to rip into the Rozelle goods yards to build its newest WestConnex spaghetti junction.
The community is right to suspect a government that has botched public consultation and dodged transparency again and again with the WestConnex project.
The Government fails to understand that the community has its number - the community understands that this is a government that fails when it comes to proper consultation, that it is a government that will always put developer and private interests before the interests of the community, and that it is a government that will do whatever it can to remove transparency and parliamentary oversight when it comes to ripping out our rail lines.
This bill is short-sighted and anti-community and is yet another hand up to the Baird Government's developer and private sector mates. I strongly oppose the bill.