Joanne Ryan MP
Federal Member for Lalor
Joanne Ryan MP

Transport funding cuts in Lalor

In the election campaign I told the people in the electorate of Lalor that I would come to Canberra to represent them—that I would come to Canberra to fight for them. And that is what I will do tonight. Tonight I speak about an issue in my electorate that is progressively worsening. It is traffic congestion, road safety and the cost of travel.

Now, I could talk for days about the endless number of measures in the Abbott government's budget that scream bad news for Lalor families. But today I would like to focus on three in particular: the decision to cut funding to local government under the Financial Assistance Grants, the decision in this place yesterday to stop debate and block a motion to ensure Roads to Recovery funding, and the petrol tax.

Our local population growth is amongst the fastest across Australia and is projected to continue on that steep curve. Stop at any street corner in Lalor and ask a local about transport and you will hear a tale of woe, whether that be public or private. On roads you will hear about travel times to work on congested freeways and buses that do not meet trains due to congestion. You will hear about 45-minute journeys to travel 10 kilometres within the city on the school run or to get to work. You will hear about where country roads now take city traffic and hundreds of trucks a day.

This cruel budget of lies has dealt families a significant blow by cutting funding to Wyndham City Council under the Financial Assistance Grants program. The local council uses this funding to invest in local roads and other significant priority projects. It is deplorable to see the Abbott government move to reduce funding for local roads. In the case of Wyndham council more than $3.36 million has been cut for local roads and other priority projects over the next three years.

But then yesterday this government added insult to injury; they added salt to the wounds of the people of Lalor. They failed to make certain that $350 million in Roads to Recovery funding would be provided to local governments across the country as well. After what we thought was Minister Truss's inept handling of the legislative program—I know, hard to imagine unless you heard the Treasurer recently say that changes to pensions would be taken to an election when in fact the legislation had passed the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate. We thought Minister Truss had a similar brain fade; we thought he had forgotten to introduce legislation to ensure the Roads to Recovery Program funding beyond 30 June, but it seems not. No, yesterday, when Mr Albanese put up a private members bill to help them out and ensure the funding, those opposite gagged debate and voted it down. The Abbott government's significant, now double-barrelled, cuts to local councils will rip another $3 million away from our local governments and local roads. The result will be felt by local commuters who continue to battle road congestion across Lalor. These programs make local roads safer by improving conditions and easing congestion.

When Labor were in government, we knew the importance of investing in our transport system. We funded the Regional Rail Link with $3.225 billion from our Nation Building Program. We committed significant funding to a number of major infrastructure projects along the Western Highway and the Western Ring Road. Both the Wyndham City Council and Hobsons Bay City Council received unprecedented funding from the Roads to Recovery and financial assistance grants programs. The contrast between Labor and the coalition could not be more stark.

And this scenario gets even worse when you add in the petrol tax and the out-of-touch Treasurer. Not only will the congestion worsen and see commuters across Lalor battling traffic for longer, they will be paying more for the privilege. Joe Hockey's recent comments that the 'poorest people either do not have cars or actually do not drive' is a slap in the face to the 50,000 Lalor residents travelling to work each day. Almost 60 per cent of Lalor families have two or more vehicles in the home and the average distance for 60 per cent of Lalor residents' who drive to work is 25 kilometres a day—day in day out. That is a remarkable number of people travelling a remarkable distance—one of the highest in the country. High petrol costs impact heavily on the family budget in Lalor, especially for locals who travel further to work than most other Australians. Our Treasurer is simply out of touch.


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