8 November, 2016
I rise to add to the debate on the Transport Integration Amendment (Head, Transport for Victoria and Other Governance Reforms) Bill 2016. It is fair to say that this is a very important bill to debate in this place, because it sums up, on so many levels, what this government is actually about and the way that the Labor government actually operates. This is not a government that is concerned with real people or real outcomes or the world outside Spring Street. It is a government that honestly believes if you get the spin right, if you make an announcement, then the job is done. This is a government that believes that reorganising the public service is the same as delivering outcomes in the suburbs, across metropolitan Melbourne and indeed in regional areas. It just shows us how disconnected from reality this government is, because the only people that benefit from anything this government does are the printers and the sign-writers who get new work every time a new branch of the public service is created or rearranged.
Labor said in their platform in 2014 that they would:
Ensure that responsibility for a whole-of-government approach to reducing congestion is assigned to a single government agency.
We have seen since then the western distributor authority, the Level Crossing Removal Authority, the metro authority, the Victorian School Building Authority and now Transport for Victoria. It is hardly a single government authority that will deal with all these issues. Indeed it is creating agencies so fast that anyone with shares in logo development companies would be doing pretty well under this government. This bill creates the granddaddy of them all — a whole new bureaucracy on top of an existing bureaucracy. It is a bureaucracy that will not ease 1 minute of congestion, will not make one extra train run on time, will not repair 1 metre of country roads and will not improve one Victorian's life.
What will it do? It will allow the government to hold a few press conferences, put some new sexy logos out there, get a few glossy brochures out there and that is about it. As long as it can have a press conference, this government does not really care about too much else. It thinks that once it has done that, then the job is done. But the job is not done. There is a lot of work to do in this area, and the government is just not looking at that work and not looking hard enough to ease the frustrations of the average Victorian. We can see in part 3 of the bill that that is exactly the case, because this part does not seek to replace any agencies or create a more streamlined organisation. Instead it just amends their roles, in effect changing their reporting chains — and that is pretty much all.
Let us consider VicRoads, the agency where the public has the most direct interaction with the government on transport matters. Service at VicRoads is not something that the average person usually talks about in any great terms. This bill will certainly not change their frontline services at all. In fact VicRoads is not even mentioned in this bill. That is how little this bill has to do with the frontline services that matter to Victorians when they interact with the government on transport issues.
But VicRoads services do require a mention. We see here the continuation of the lack of interest that the minister has in how VicRoads interacts with the general population. I refer the house to a press release put out by the now Minister for Roads and Road Safety back in March 2012. He was very upset. He blamed the Baillieu government. He was very verbose. He said:
VicRoads now close at 4.30 p.m., or 30 minutes earlier, and has reduced its weekend hours.
Clearly this poorly thought-out decision will result in longer lines, poor service and more time taken out of people's working day.
Four years later, with VicRoads being under the authority of the minister for the last two years, we see that 38 of 39 centres still close at 4.30 p.m., no centre at all is open on a Saturday or Sunday and four centres in rural areas close for lunch. While there was a lot of ranting and raving from the member for Narre Warren North back in 2012 when he was in opposition, after two years in government, with VicRoads being under his control, we have not seen any of those issues change. Indeed he seems quite content to let the level of service that he railed against so much when he was in opposition continue under his watch. It is another broken promise from Labor. It is another broken promise from the minister. But it again demonstrates that the Andrews government has no real interest in helping motorists or Victorians. It is just interested in changing the logos.
We see congestion building up on Hoddle Street on a daily basis, we see Punt Road full of congestion, the failure of the Westgate distributor that was dumped shortly after this government came to power, the east–west link contract ripped up with $1.2 billion down the drain and congestion getting no better at all. All we have to show for that — all this congestion, all the frustrations that Melburnians experience on a daily basis — is this transport bill, which is really just for show. We know this is for show, because we have already lived through it with Infrastructure Victoria.
Infrastructure Victoria is another agency which was created with an additional $10 million of resources and staff. We confirmed through the questions on notice process that not a single existing position in the department was closed down or moved across because Infrastructure Victoria was taking those issues on. Just as Transport for Victoria will no doubt create more staff on top of existing staff, the same applies to Infrastructure Victoria, which frankly in many ways is a waste of time. As much as I support the CEO and the board, and I think their intentions are very honourable, we know now that the government basically will just cherrypick from their plan. Gavin Jennings in the other place said Infrastructure Victoria would take the politics out of infrastructure, but all the short-term or medium-term decisions on infrastructure were made before Infrastructure Victoria even existed. With the advent of the draft report that Infrastructure Victoria put out recently, the government cherrypicked bits and pieces from the plan. Infrastructure Victoria was just a way of delaying decisions by the government, and Transport for Victoria will just be another way of delaying fixing the congestion on our roads.
Importantly, when it comes to structure, clause 3 inserts new section 64A, subsection (3) of which confirms that the head of Transport for Victoria will be accountable and responsible to the head of the department. That is really what this bill is about, another layer of middle management without any independence at all and answerable to the department anyway. We have seen the public service blow out under this government. In the Australian of 26 May this year it was reported, and I quote:
Weeks after the Victorian government delivered its budget it has failed to explain how many extra public servants it will hire, despite a huge blowout in forecast employee expenses.
Treasurer Tim Pallas forecast a $3.6 billion jump in employment costs in the public sector over the four years of the state budget …
This particular bill will bring in a new bureaucracy that will only add to the very big, very expensive bill that Victorians are going to be paying every single day.
Part 4 of the bill relates to the ongoing public ownership of V/Line and dealing with the corporate governance structure. That is really the bill in a nutshell — just tinkering with legal necessities at the edges rather than doing the hard work and rather than doing something useful that helps Victorians. I have heard the Premier many times compare his plans for the Melbourne Metro with the metro systems that you see in London and New York. Anyone who has been to London and New York or who has lived in either of those cities knows that Melbourne Metro is going to be nothing like those two examples. To say that this government is going to be delivering something that is comparable to those two systems is simply laughable. In those cases we are talking about networks of many, many stations and great efficiency. The fact that we are building a couple of extra stations and basically an underground tramline here in Victoria shows the government has a complete lack of understanding of what an integrated transport system is all about.
I do want to point out that Transport for London, which was created in the year 2000 by the Greater London Authority Act 1999, did consolidate services and bring management closer to the people. The Victorian government is seeking to emulate what happened under Transport for London with this bill and with this new agency, but it does not bring the sorts of things that Transport for London brought to the people who live in London such as better consolidation of timetables between linking services. Of course the crowning achievement of Transport for London was the introduction of the Oyster card. It is worth bringing that up because it was launched in 2003. It works flawlessly. It was done with a 17-year contract at an initial cost of only £100 million.
Over 43 million Oyster cards have been issued so far, and even tourists in London find the system easy and intuitive to use. It is the antithesis of myki, which to date has cost us over $1.5 billion. If Transport for Victoria had been around when myki was being looked at, we might have had a better outcome than we did under the previous Labor government. With the current government, we just have a nightmare. The word 'myki' is a joke to most Victorians and most Melburnians, and as far as tourists are concerned, they do not have a clue how to use it because it is so difficult. As the member for Ovens Valley said, it is very difficult to get a myki card in regional Victoria.
In short, this bill will not fix any of the issues that I have raised. It will not fix congestion because the culture of this government is that it cannot manage a project, it cannot manage money and nothing will change at all. The government will put out a lot of glossy brochures, but at the end of the day Labor cannot manage money and Labor cannot manage major projects. In the end this is a bill with 100-odd pages that will not improve services, but it will waste money, it will create some new logos and frankly that is a perfect summary of what this government is all about.