MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (4.36): I rise to support Mr Coe's motion today. It is quite concerning to me that the government is planning to spend at least $614 million on a light rail system that will only service a very small portion of our population and a very small area. As a member for Brindabella, I must pass on the many, many comments I have received from my constituents who will be paying for light rail but in no way seeing the benefit of it.
I am concerned that the ACT government's own figures demonstrate that there would be a better economic return for bus rapid transport than there would be for the
implementation of light rail. I support the call today for the light rail project to be abandoned and for the ACT government to not spend over $600 million they do not have on a system that their own figures show would not provide the greatest economic benefit to our city.
There is a time and a place for light rail, but we do not currently have the population to justify this. We do not have the density and the research does not support it. Now is not the time, and the short run between the city and Gungahlin is not the place. When you are thinking of dollars of this magnitude, we have to think about what else $600 million-plus could be spent on. Think of our education system, the health system or providing more affordable housing. We could create a very effective and efficient rapid bus transport system. The fact is, though, we do not have $600 million to throw around.
What else does it mean? It means that we will have a significant interest bill to cover every year, which could be in excess of $25 million per annum. Then we must also think of what else we could spend $25 million per year on. I am concerned that the government is supporting light rail at any cost. The government wants the residents of the ACT to pay for this light rail network at any cost. They do not know the operational costs once it is completed, nor does it seem to matter to them how much the costs might blow out on this project.
They have said it themselves; this government will push forward with this project at any cost. Madam Deputy Speaker, that is of grave concern to me. I am here to represent my constituents. Just last night at the Tuggeranong Community Council there was a show of hands to determine support for light rail, and the great majority did not support it. This was only a straw poll, not a scientific survey of any sort. Nevertheless, it is indicative of the people that I talk with each day.
I cannot support light rail at this time in Canberra if I am to do the best by my constituents. I support Mr Coe 100 per cent in his motion today. It is time we focused on doing the best things for the residents of Canberra.