Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Lifestyle

Watch RSM Canberra's Andrew Sykes budget analysis. Click here.

RiotACT Face Off: A mandate for light rail?

By Charlotte Harper - 10 February 2016 146

Corbell vs Coe

Our occasional Face-off series is back to look at one of the most-debated issues around town right now. Plenty of RiotACT readers already have a view on this question, but we decided to give Simon Corbell and Alistair Coe the opportunity to set out their opposing views on what has become a key issue leading into the ACT election later this year:

Does the ACT Government have a mandate to commence construction of its planned light rail network in June?

Simon Corbell, Minister for Capital Metro:

When construction starts on the first stage of light rail in Canberra in June it will be the culmination of nearly four years of work that started with an ACT Labor election commitment prior to the last ACT election.

On 21 September 2012 I stood on Northbourne Avenue with then chief minister Katy Gallagher and made a commitment that if we won the election we would proceed with light rail from Gungahlin to City during our next term.

Our official, publicly released policy document stated that we committed to “establish the ACT’s first large-scale private sector partnership to plan, finance and develop the first stage of a Light Rail Network” with “construction estimated to commence in 2016”.

We provided an estimate for the capital cost of the project, which would be delivered as a PPP and therefore not paid for until after the forward estimates period.

The commitment was clear, we would sign a PPP to start construction in 2016, which is exactly what we are doing.

Any argument to the contrary by the opposition is either mischievous or misinformed.

Meanwhile the Liberals are trying desperately to make this year’s election one about light rail, maybe because they have very little else to offer the people of Canberra.

They ignorantly claim that it is the government’s only priority. In reality the government’s priorities rightly lie in health and education, where we spend more than half of the ACT’s budget every year. In terms of expenditure, light rail is only a small part of the government’s plans. Over the life of the light rail contract, which includes design and construction as well as maintenance and operation for 20 years, the government will spend less than 1 percent of total expenditure on light rail. In the same time we will spend 35 times as much on health and 25 times as much on education.

Alistair Coe, Shadow Minister for Transport:

It’s absolute folly that the ACT Government has a mandate to proceed with light rail before this year’s ACT Election. Prior to the 2012 ACT Election the Labor Party took a $30 million commitment to Canberrans for concept and design work on light rail. That’s all.

The only reason we are in the position we are today, on the cusp of burdening generations of Canberrans with paying back hundreds of millions of dollars for a project that doesn’t stack up, is because after the 2012 Election, Labor slapped together a deal with the sole Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury to build light rail. In return he guaranteed his support for a Labor government.

Since then and with no mandate, the Government has run a spending spree on light rail, not because it’s the best thing for Canberra, but simply to stay in power.

Last week the Labor Party and the Greens confirmed they will hold Canberrans for ransom, by choosing an international consortium to whom Canberra will have a 25-year debt. This is completely unfair and undemocratic. Given how unpopular light rail is in Canberra, the only fair thing for the government to do is take the issue to the 2016 Election. Let Canberrans decide.

This is the biggest infrastructure project in the history of the ACT yet very few will benefit. The Government did not get a mandate to build this project at the 2012 Election, and, we are only months away from the 2016 Election.

Only the Canberra Liberals are giving Canberrans a choice on light rail. The Labor Party and Greens are dictating that it must happen and are preparing to waste hundreds of millions of dollars on their back-room deal.

If you have a suggestion for a Face-off topic or participant, please let us know in the comments below.

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
146 Responses to
RiotACT Face Off: A mandate for light rail?
1
wildturkeycanoe 8:32 am
10 Feb 16
#

In a CT article dated October 14 2012,yes Labor did promise to “plan, finance and develop the first stage of a Light Rail Network”, but with a costing estimate of $30million. There were no figures of near a billion dollars mentioned because they had no idea what it would cost. Neither did the voters, who may have ticked a different box had they been aware of the impact on rates to pay for it. Any party can make promises of gold plated highways to win votes, but until actual costs are made public that is deception.
They also promised to “Upgrade and duplicate Ashley Drive between Erindale Drive and Johnson Drive – $19.6 million”. That cost has now blown out to $24.6 million, a mere 8%. What of the billion dollar tram, will it also need an extra 80 million or more before completion?
They promised to “Encourage and reward good drivers by providing a 20 per cent discount on licence renewals”, yet we see in the new budget a 3% rise in renewals instead.
Belconnen High was promised 28 million for upgrades, but they only got 18mill in the new budget.
Hospital beds budgets were slashed from $60 mill at Calvary, to only $40 million across all hospitals.

Can they be trusted to deliver on this tram project with figures quoted? I seriously doubt it.
Broken promises need be pointed out so that voters can decide who to trust in the next term of government. What else have Labor reneged on?

2
rubaiyat 11:37 am
10 Feb 16
#

So the “fiscally responsible” opposition will show us how that is done by canceling the contract at any cost?

Didn’t they also say this would cost billions, or was that billions with them in charge?

3
Mysteryman 12:04 pm
10 Feb 16
#

wildturkeycanoe said :

In a CT article dated October 14 2012,yes Labor did promise to “plan, finance and develop the first stage of a Light Rail Network”, but with a costing estimate of $30million. There were no figures of near a billion dollars mentioned because they had no idea what it would cost. Neither did the voters, who may have ticked a different box had they been aware of the impact on rates to pay for it. Any party can make promises of gold plated highways to win votes, but until actual costs are made public that is deception.
They also promised to “Upgrade and duplicate Ashley Drive between Erindale Drive and Johnson Drive – $19.6 million”. That cost has now blown out to $24.6 million, a mere 8%. What of the billion dollar tram, will it also need an extra 80 million or more before completion?
They promised to “Encourage and reward good drivers by providing a 20 per cent discount on licence renewals”, yet we see in the new budget a 3% rise in renewals instead.
Belconnen High was promised 28 million for upgrades, but they only got 18mill in the new budget.
Hospital beds budgets were slashed from $60 mill at Calvary, to only $40 million across all hospitals.

Can they be trusted to deliver on this tram project with figures quoted? I seriously doubt it.
Broken promises need be pointed out so that voters can decide who to trust in the next term of government. What else have Labor reneged on?

I see they’re already working on the pathetic solution to the Barton Hwy/Gundaroo Road roundabout. How many traffic lights, 9? All because $30m was too expensive for the correct solution – a flyover. What a stupid decision that was. Perhaps if they hadn’t recurring, increasing budget deficits in the area of $400m-$600m (which started well before the Mr Fluffy loan) they would have had the money to spend on doing the job properly. Seems like it should be a priority considering the sheer volume of people that use that intersection (another result of poor ACT Labor planning).

4
dungfungus 12:19 pm
10 Feb 16
#

wildturkeycanoe said :

In a CT article dated October 14 2012,yes Labor did promise to “plan, finance and develop the first stage of a Light Rail Network”, but with a costing estimate of $30million. There were no figures of near a billion dollars mentioned because they had no idea what it would cost. Neither did the voters, who may have ticked a different box had they been aware of the impact on rates to pay for it. Any party can make promises of gold plated highways to win votes, but until actual costs are made public that is deception.
They also promised to “Upgrade and duplicate Ashley Drive between Erindale Drive and Johnson Drive – $19.6 million”. That cost has now blown out to $24.6 million, a mere 8%. What of the billion dollar tram, will it also need an extra 80 million or more before completion?
They promised to “Encourage and reward good drivers by providing a 20 per cent discount on licence renewals”, yet we see in the new budget a 3% rise in renewals instead.
Belconnen High was promised 28 million for upgrades, but they only got 18mill in the new budget.
Hospital beds budgets were slashed from $60 mill at Calvary, to only $40 million across all hospitals.

Can they be trusted to deliver on this tram project with figures quoted? I seriously doubt it.
Broken promises need be pointed out so that voters can decide who to trust in the next term of government. What else have Labor reneged on?

Closing the Mugga Lane landfill.

5
dungfungus 12:41 pm
10 Feb 16
#

The vague light rail proposal was dependent on Labor winning the election which they failed to do.
Sure, they “formed a government” with a Green light rail junkie but that wasn’t a public undertaking before the election.
It’s really a “Clayton’s mandate” at best.

6
miz 1:06 pm
10 Feb 16
#

It’s like ‘Making a Murderer’ – people in power using singlemindedness as a cover for lack of evidence.

7
LOF 1:32 pm
10 Feb 16
#

Generally I think the Labor government have done a good job for Canberra but I’m not in agreement with them on light rail. I find it hard to believe there will be the critical mass necessary to make this project a success or to justify it. It is commonsense to assume I think, that use of the line will be limited to those who are in spitting distance of it and who will use it and maybe the occasional use for big events on the northside.

Instead why havn’t we seen any progression of the fast train between Sydney and Canberra? I can hardly believe I’m living in a first world country sometimes where the only choice is being cooped up like a chicken on the bus or the agonizingly slow train. A fast train would bring huge benefits to the economy in the ACT and would be much more widely used than light rail. But I guess the kicker is that it would require agreement and cooperation with state and federal partners and we all know how that usually ends up.

8
Garfield 2:03 pm
10 Feb 16
#

I’ve talked to people who remember Labor announcing $30m to investigate light rail, but no commitment to spend many hundreds of millions to start construction prior to the 2016 election. It may have been in the fine print but they didn’t widely advertise that part of it.

On the other hand we have Coe saying it should only cost something like $25m to cancel the contract.

http://canberraliberals.org.au/2015/04/corbell-sells-out-the-act-for-light-rail-contracts/

That was and still is a laughable proposition considering that Canberra’s light rail was and still is scheduled to start construction months prior to the 2016 election, while the Melbourne project had only just been signed. He obviously believes it or he wouldn’t have made the extraordinary commitment to scrap the project regardless of cost. It’s possible that in a choice between a white elephant and no infrastructure at a cost of many millions of dollars, finishing the elephant may be the better choice.

I don’t believe the light rail business case stacks up, with many of the benefits coming to the light rail corridor set to come at a cost to other parts of Canberra and those costs have not been factored into the business case. I also don’t believe that Coe would make a good minister, let alone deputy chief minister for the ACT. I get the impression he doesn’t really understand what he’s doing and having him in a position of power in government could come at a cost that more than offsets any savings on cancelling light rail.

Its a wonderful choice that opponents of light rail will be facing come October.

9
pajs 2:17 pm
10 Feb 16
#

Do the ACT Liberals still have a policy to get rid of the in-bound Barry Drive bus lane and open it up to general traffic?

10
gooterz 2:23 pm
10 Feb 16
#

Early Elections!!!!!!

11
Charlotte Harper 2:30 pm
10 Feb 16
#

The only way the election date can change is if the PM chooses to hold the Federal election on the day currently scheduled for the ACT poll, in which case ACT would move to first Saturday in December. In fact, one could imagine Labor/Greens lobbying tram fan Turnbull to schedule the clash to give them more time for light rail construction before the election. Not that Prime Ministers make decisions about election timing based on such lobbying, of course.

12
Charlotte Harper 2:32 pm
10 Feb 16
#

I’ve emailed them to ask and will post reply here.

13
dungfungus 3:13 pm
10 Feb 16
#

LOF said :

Generally I think the Labor government have done a good job for Canberra but I’m not in agreement with them on light rail. I find it hard to believe there will be the critical mass necessary to make this project a success or to justify it. It is commonsense to assume I think, that use of the line will be limited to those who are in spitting distance of it and who will use it and maybe the occasional use for big events on the northside.

Instead why havn’t we seen any progression of the fast train between Sydney and Canberra? I can hardly believe I’m living in a first world country sometimes where the only choice is being cooped up like a chicken on the bus or the agonizingly slow train. A fast train would bring huge benefits to the economy in the ACT and would be much more widely used than light rail. But I guess the kicker is that it would require agreement and cooperation with state and federal partners and we all know how that usually ends up.

Please name two huge benefits a fast train would bring to the ACT? This is Australia, not Europe or China.

14
gooterz 3:32 pm
10 Feb 16
#

Charlotte Harper said :

The only way the election date can change is if the PM chooses to hold the Federal election on the day currently scheduled for the ACT poll, in which case ACT would move to first Saturday in December. In fact, one could imagine Labor/Greens lobbying tram fan Turnbull to schedule the clash to give them more time for light rail construction before the election. Not that Prime Ministers make decisions about election timing based on such lobbying, of course.

Not quite.

Given that if Labor win they’ll continue to build the tram. Having an election right now would mean that for the next for years we’ll have stable government to build the tram. If libs win then we’ll save ourselves an armload in exit clauses from the contract.

One way to trigger an election is a vote of no confidence, which if Barr thought “hey I’m going to win government easy, lets get this election out of the way and go sign contracts” he could ask the members to vote no confidence purely to bring about an election. Election being held in March.
We previously had 3 year terms which would have been much better as we would be just coming out of an election and have 2.5 years to govern and build the tram.

Otherwise he takes the risk of going to the election just after signing contracts and everyone finds out how disrupted their lives now are as a result of the construction work planned.

15
Michael33 4:06 pm
10 Feb 16
#

Coe’s response, as well as wildturkeycanoe’s, is a joke right? As in most things related to politics, straw man arguments are used extensively, to the detriment of the public and to the detriment of the credibility of those who use them. If the CEO of a public company made such misleading statements to the market, you’d see them copping a significant civil penalty as well as risk a stint in the big house.

“Prior to the 2012 ACT Election the Labor Party took a $30 million commitment to Canberrans for concept and design work on light rail. That’s all”.

It says $614 million in the policy statement. $30 million was clearly explained as an immediate commitment (most likely to be funded from the next budget) to get things rolling. Where else does a government get money to spend except from the public coffers?

1 2 3 10

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

Search across the site