This morning, Chief Minister Andrew Barr issued an entire media release attacking the Liberals over their stance on light rail and public transport ahead of an assembly motion vote on the issue today.
It asked, “Will the Liberals reaffirm their commitment to congestion?” and described the Canberra Liberals as “becoming increasingly isolated with their backward-looking position on transport in Canberra”.
Mr Barr said today presented “a line in the sand moment where the Liberals can either choose to join the rest of Canberra in the 21st century and support an assembly motion in favour of public transport. Or they can vote against it and come clean to Canberrans that they are the party that is hardwired to choke our streets with congestion.”
Opposition transport spokesman Alistair Coe was swift to respond.
“This is a desperate and inaccurate attempt by Andrew Barr to divert attention away from his unpopular $1 billion light rail project,” he said.
“The Canberra Liberals are big believers in a comprehensive public transport system centred on an improved bus system. The MRCagney report released yesterday also highlighted how badly the government has let ACTION languish, particularly since diverting funding and attention to light rail. Since 2011, public transport patronage to get to work has dropped from 7.8 percent to 6.9 percent because of the lack of investment, leading to more congestion.
“Let’s remember on the point of congestion that Andrew Barr’s Green Minister Shane Rattenbury raised concerns about the duplication of Cotter Road. We all know that congestion would worsen if the government had his anti-road agenda implemented.”
Mr Barr’s statement continued, saying the Federal Liberals think the ACT Opposition’s position is “economic lunacy”.
“Their political ‘friends’ at every level reject their position on public transport,” he wrote.
“Unlike the ACT Opposition leader, the new Liberal Prime Minister loves public transport. The Liberal leader over the border is investing in public transport, including light rail, which the Canberra Liberals hate. It’s worth remembering these are the most extreme conservative Liberals in the country. They make Tony Abbott look moderate.”
He said that if the Liberals cared about the city’s residents, they’d support a public transport network that met Canberrans’ needs now and over the next 25 years.
“They will support the reallocation of 1.2 million annual bus kilometres freed up by stage 1 of the light rail network to improve the Canberra-wide bus service; and they will support the government to investigate potential partnership opportunities with the Commonwealth Government for high priority light rail corridors. That’s our plan.
“If they vote against this motion, it’s the clearest admission yet that they have no plan for transport – that they are committed to congestion.
“The message I received loud and clear during my recent trip to the United States was that governments must act early to avoid future congestion problems. It is much harder, more time consuming and far more costly to act when the roads are already congested. We have the opportunity to build an efficient and affordable public transport network for the future of our city. This government will seize it.”