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10 September 2019

Second Reading debate: Rail Safety Legislation Amendment (National Services Delivery and Related Reforms) Bill 2019

It pleases me to rise on the Rail Safety Legislation Amendment (National Services Delivery and Related Reforms) Bill 2019, particularly following on from the minister. I have got a lot to say about some of the things she claims that she is doing, certainly up my way on the Warrnambool line, but we will get to that soon.

The main purpose of the bill is to amend the Rail Safety National Law Application Act 2013 to provide safety for all rail infrastructure and rolling stock operations and to provide for the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator to be the sole rail regulator. But really what really stands out to me is that in the minister’s second-reading speech she claimed that:

The Andrews Government is addressing gaps and building capacity in our rail system through the Big Build and is investing in new rolling stock to improve reliability, operational efficiencies and the quality of public transport services.

The minister also said:

Victorians deserve a safe, efficient and reliable rail system that gets them to work and play, facilitates the movement of freight, supports economic development and improves social mobility and inclusiveness.

We have just heard Minister Allan talk about what the government is doing. Let me tell you, there is no new rolling stock for the Warrnambool line, just vague promises of works paving the way for the VLocitys. No commitments to when, despite the Premier indicating it would be when the work is finished. Now they are just saying they will run to Warrnambool eventually, with no firm time lines for the work. What really got me was that when the minister talked about a previous service on this line I think she called it the wrong name. I did not hear her say ‘west coast rail’, but it was called West Coast Railway. I remember very clearly because I used to be on West Coast Railway back in the days when it took 3 hours to get to Melbourne by train. Most times when I use the train from Warrnambool now it takes a good 4.5 hours. In fact it has taken 5 hours in the past. It is certainly very rare to get to Melbourne either by car or by rail in 3 hours, so we are definitely going backwards as a state under this government.

The minister continued to talk about how well they are doing. Well, in the last decade the Warrnambool line has only been on time 12 times. They cannot even meet their own punctuality target of 92 per cent when they have only met it 12 times. What is the minister’s point? I am getting people coming to my office all the time telling us that West Coast Railway actually worked really well and V/Line—the evidence is here—are not meeting the targets because the minister is not investing. We have people coming onto the train who get there and have booked a seat and are disabled, and there are no disabled services for them, so they are put in a taxi and sent to Melbourne that way. It is very degrading for people who need to plan and need to understand what their day entails to get to appointments on time when they cannot rely on the train.

Victoria is not that big. We cannot keep making places further and further away by making the distances longer to travel when we have got the capacity as a human society to get much faster. But, no, this government is just getting slower. The minister raved and raved and raved about how much work has been done, but clearly, just like the Premier, she is focused on Melbourne and is completely missing the beat, particularly up in the South-West Coast area. We have got rolling stock from the 1980s with a minimal number of carriages with suitable disability access or disabled facilities, and the disability access toilets are often out of order. I have told the story in this Parliament before of a young man having to be carried by his father through several carriages because there was no wheelchair access, and then the toilet was actually out of order.

It cannot get much worse than that—oh no, actually it can. There was a lady who got stuck in the toilet in the Warrnambool station because it said that it was wheelchair accessible, but it was not. The sign was not up to the standard of today. It was appalling actually. Anyway, I have talked a lot about disability access and it is just a disgrace that it is not prioritised.

That is without talking about how often the train breaks down and we have to get buses. I remember being on the train once. I arrived and jumped on the bus instead of the train that I was booked on. I booked on my mobile phone; they had my mobile phone number so you would hope that they could notify you as they do for the metropolitan services, but no. I was on the bus and I said to the bus driver, ‘How do you work going back and forth?’, and he said, ‘Oh, I drove up so I’ll be back tonight’, so they actually had 4 hours notice for the guy to be able to get up to us to be able to drive the bus back to Melbourne but could not notify the passengers. I am sorry, the minister is completely wrong when she is raving about how well this government is doing. The truth of the matter is our local federal member Dan Tehan was the one who secured the $104 million—the Andrews Labor government had put $10 million in—and that was secured some 18 months ago. Works are still not completed and what has been done has resulted in the train not improving, as we can see from the failure to meet the punctuality target.

But the minister’s really big omission was to completely miss talking about the botched rail project, the Murray Basin rail project. She has run out of money. We as a state in the time of the Napthine government gave $220 million and that was matched by the federal government with $220 million, so $440 million has been put into this project and she is now having to admit that it is actually making some freight journeys longer because of the poor level of work that has been done. They are actually going slower. The government now is looking to blame everyone for their stuff-up, and I wonder if something about this bill is actually more about off-loading the responsibility because we certainly did not hear the minister taking responsibility and saying, ‘Yes, we’ve stuffed up and we’ll fix it’. No, no—rather than take $220 million, which is the cost of one rail crossing in Melbourne, and fix the project, she is prepared to leave it in a worse state than when she started.

We have got the port of Portland that will be incredibly disadvantaged because there is already a $5 per tonne of grain disparity between the Geelong and Melbourne ports to the Portland port. The whole idea was to have competition. The Maroona line is now not even on the agenda, so it is time the government started to face up to the fact that they have stuffed up and they should fix it.

One point I also want to make about this bill is that it does talk about the tourist rail, which my colleague the member for Bulleen described quite articulately in his contribution to the debate. I note that we have in Portland the Portland cable tram service. It is a tourist service that is completely run by volunteers, many of whom are quite elderly community members—and young. I met a young boy last year who is 18 and has been doing it for, I think, two years. They take the tourists around to experience the tramway and it is really, really great for Portland. I hope the government does take a bit of time to look past the tram tracks of Melbourne to the tram tracks of Portland and respect and honour the work that is being done there that brings money into the local economy and therefore into the state coffers and help out these amazing volunteers who are giving enormous amounts of time. They are happy to do so, but not to have to beg for support from the government. They do need some investment made and I hope that Jacinta Allan, after that appalling—

A member interjected.

The Minister for Transport Infrastructure, sorry. You are quite right, thank you for that correction. I hope that the minister, after that appalling presentation where she focused on saying that they were investing right across the state—she even had the audacity to mention Warrnambool when Warrnambool is absolutely failing when it comes to rail—and she will not use the money that the federal government have given in an efficient way to actually improve the rail system. Even in Melbourne, the times that all these improvements are supposedly helping with are actually slower times.

So we have a botched Murray Basin rail project where the minister is completely ignoring her responsibility to fix what she has stuffed up. That is where she needs to begin and to realise that the potential of the regions is to be able to make them connected and by making sure that travel times are shortened, not lengthened. She needs to stop wasting taxpayers money on services where she is just buying in replacement transport to Melbourne like taxis and buses, which is probably very good for those two industries but not so great for the taxpayer. If you have got a breakdown and you get a call saying, ‘Hey, we need five, six, seven buses in Warrnambool’, I can only imagine the opportunity that provides to make a fair bit of money as a bus operator but at the expense, I am sorry, of the taxpayer. This has been going on for far too long. You do not keep investing in something that is stuffed. Those trains are pretty much buggered, so it is time to invest and that is where the minister says she is. Put your money where your mouth is and get some new trains for the Warrnambool line.