Former Liberals MLA Brendan Smyth has talked of the benefits of light rail for Canberra on the eve of an election campaign focused largely on his former party’s plan to cancel contracts for the public transport initiative.
Mr Smyth was asked about light rail during the last Government press conference before the caretaker period. He appeared with ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr at Canberra Airport to launch a document called “Canberra’s International Engagement Strategy”.
ABC journalist Narda Gilmore asked Mr Smyth about the importance of infrastructure, specifically light rail, to his new office’s international engagement strategy, given page 13 of the document sets out a plan to “facilitate the infrastructure for an international city with projects including the Light Rail Masterplan and the City-to-the-Lake Vision”.
Having earlier noted that much of the document had been completed before he took up his appointment as Commissioner for International Engagement, Mr Smyth said light rail was a policy of the Government and great cities had good public transport.
“The Government is delivering that through its light rail initiative, but it’s beyond the light rail,” he said, going on to list examples from hotels to sporting facilities and paving.
Asked whether he felt comfortable selling light rail, the former Liberal MLA and ex-Leader of the Opposition smiled.
“As a Federal public servant more than 20 years ago, I worked for the Hawke and then the Keating Labor governments. As a public servant, you sell the policies of the government of the day,” he said.
“And I do remind you that in 2008, the Canberra Liberals had a policy concerning light rail.
“I’m not going to get into the politics of it, that’s not my job, I’m a public servant, but a long-term advocate that good public transport needs to work, so that the people we attract know that they can get around.”
Mr Smyth said that he expected to see examples of good infrastructure during his occasional travel to cities overseas and would be bringing ideas back to the Government for consideration.
Fairfax journalist Kirsten Lawson then asked him to “tell us something great about light rail”.
“There are many advantages to light rail, and I’m sure if you go back to the clips from the Chief Minister and Mr Corbell and Mr Rattenbury, you’ll have oodles of information to sell the light rail,” Mr Smyth said.
“The point about light rail is making sure that you connect people, connect them quickly so that they have options.”
He said buses didn’t work for some people, and others would only use the car.
“But it’s about having a series of options … we need to make sure that we as a city offer those options.”
Asked whether he’d sought assurance from Liberals Leader Jeremy Hanson that his new job would be safe if they won the election, Mr Smyth said he recalled Mr Hanson saying he looked forward to working with him in the future, and Mr Smyth himself looked forward to working with whoever is in office after the election.
“We’ve had a number of conversations since I left the Assembly, but they’re between Jeremy and I,” Mr Smyth said.
“He said on the day that the job would continue so I see no reason to doubt his word.”