Support for Transport Legislation

(10.41am 7 September 2011, Parliament House, Sydney)

I have long called for coordinated transport planning, and I support the creation of Transport for NSW under the Transport Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. Transport for NSW is the new body set to coordinate delivery of all transport services and develop transport planning and policy. After years of neglect, transport reform is urgently needed to secure Sydney's economic, social and environmental performance. Transport is one of the major issues facing our city, and the problem is rapidly becoming worse. Already, traffic congestion is having a severe economic impact, with last year's State of Australian Cities report projecting an unavoidable congestion cost for Sydney of $4.8 billion—up from $3.5 billion in 2005. The projection for Sydney in 2020 is closer to $8 billion if it is business as usual, so clearly it cannot be business as usual.

As Infrastructure Australia noted in its last annual report, Australia's productivity has slowed "as a direct result of infrastructure shortfalls". Without transport reform, Sydney will not be able to compete effectively with other cities in the Asia-Pacific region such as Singapore and Shanghai. Already we are struggling to keep up with other States and we cannot risk lagging at a global level. A major challenge for Transport for NSW will be to break the stranglehold roads planning has had on past budgets and move towards providing more transport options. I welcome comments from the Minister for Roads and Ports in the other place that cyclists and pedestrians will be considered customers under this bill and that Transport for NSW will need to service those road users. I hope this will lead to more bike and pedestrian friendly infrastructure investment.

Evidence shows that if walking and cycling are safe and easy, people will use these options for shorter trips, freeing up space on roads for people who have to drive and public transport services for people who come from outer areas. The City of Sydney's separated cycleway is already seeing a massive increase in bicycle trips, with travel in the local government area morning peak increasing by an average of 60 per cent over the past year. I have long advocated a light rail link to connect the Barangaroo development to the centre of the city. As I think I have said previously in the Chamber, the City of Sydney recently committed $180 million to upgrade George Street to complement the light rail project. Light rail can be a stimulus to transform the way people use our city. It is a global city of Australia and it represents in just the central business district 25 per cent of the State's gross domestic product. It is critical that we promote the way people use the city.

We need to provide stronger pedestrian connections, because there are more than 600,000 people in that central business district each day as pedestrians. We need a greater range of recreational and retail options, and reduced noise and pollution along this important central city spine. It is essential for the economic viability of the city. The light rail service should also extend to the sporting stadia at Moore Park, where often on weekends we can have 60,000 people wanting to descend on that area. The Melbourne Cricket Ground can clear its stadium in 20 minutes; it takes hours to clear the Moore Park stadia. So it is vital that light rail is introduced as quickly as possible into this precinct, and also to go up Parramatta Road to the University of Sydney would be another important part of the light rail network.

I welcome the Government's commitment to starting construction of new light rail in the current term of government, with new routes through the city centre to Barangaroo, to Moore Park and beyond. While the budget delivered yesterday includes funding for an expanded light rail network, the $103 million allocation pales in comparison to Pacific Highway funding of $1 billion. I also maintain that there should be one Minister for all transport planning responsible for roads, cycling infrastructure and mass transit. I now refer to another part of the bill that is of concern to many of my constituents who have contacted my electorate office, and that is the treatment of staff currently working in a transport agency who will transfer to Transport for NSW. I do not support the changes that would have removed the existing protections and entitlements of these staff who will only have been guaranteed retention of their salary and superannuation, with potential loss to other conditions.

A number of transport agency staff have contacted my office and they are concerned. I believe it is unfair to make them do the same work under lesser conditions. So I support the Opposition amendments passed in the other place to ensure that the conditions and entitlements of any staff member transferred to Transport for NSW are preserved. In conclusion, I support the bill in its current form. I commend the Minister for Transport. Many people are optimistic about Transport for NSW because of the Minister's ability and her commitment. Certainly, as the Lord Mayor of Sydney I look forward to working with her on improving transport for a global city.