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Scott speaks in Parliament to give his reply to the Labor State Government’s 2015/16 budget

‘I rise to deliver my budget reply. Let me begin by recalling the legacy of Labor’s last period in office. This is particularly important because the transport minister in the last Labor government is now the Labor Premier. This legacy is her legacy. Under Labor we saw a disaster in public transport.’

Hansard Thursday 16 July 2015

Mr EMERSON (Indooroopilly—LNP) (4.10 pm): I rise to deliver my budget reply. Let me begin by recalling the legacy of Labor’s last period in office. This is particularly important because the transport minister in the last Labor government is now the Labor Premier. This legacy is her legacy. Under Labor we saw a disaster in public transport.

An opposition member: A train wreck!

Mr EMERSON: A train wreck. I take the interjection. Fares for trains, buses and ferries became some of the most expensive fares, not just in Australia but in the world. Labor put in place a policy of 15 per cent annual fare increases. When Annastacia Palaszczuk became transport minister, in one of her first commitments in that role she promised to review the fare increases, but all she did was then put them up again by 15 per cent. All up, fares went up under Labor by more than a massive 50 per cent in just three years. As public transport affordability plummeted under Labor it had an obvious impact. Patronage also began to plummet as Labor’s fare policy drove commuters away from public transport. It has even been suggested that it may have been Labor’s plan all along to drive people away from public transport so that there would not be the need for the additional spending on transport infrastructure. While fares were being hiked up 15 per cent year after year after year, reliability on public transport was falling. Under transport minister Palaszczuk, the on-time running performance of Queensland Rail trains hit a three-year low. People were not getting to work or school on time or getting back home on time. That also drove people away from public transport as commuters concluded that it was not reliable.

But it was not just public transport users that were targeted by Labor. Motorists were also being hit under Labor. Members should not forget that the Labor transport minister was Annastacia Palaszczuk. Like the massive increases in public transport fares, vehicle registration also went through the roof. Under Labor, car registration went up 30 per cent in just four years, public transport fares went up 50 per cent in three years and registration went up 30 per cent in just four years. The RACQ found that, under Labor, Queensland had become the most expensive state to own and run a motor vehicle. But even if people could afford to run a car there was a failure to appropriately invest in roads to drive them on. For instance, again the RACQ concluded that, by the end of Labor’s term in office, Queensland’s major road corridor, the Bruce Highway, was in crisis. It warned that, after years of neglect, without urgent investment 400 people would be killed on the Bruce Highway over the next decade. But even when Labor did invest in infrastructure, it bungled it. ABS figures show that the increase in the cost of delivering roads in Queensland had outstripped the rest of Australia in the 16 Jul 2015 Appropriation (Parliament) Bill; Appropriation Bill 1465 preceding decade and that Labor was failing to deliver roads in Queensland efficiently and effectively. In relation to the Gold Coast light rail, a flawed business case meant that Queenslanders would have to pay an extra $300 million for the project. On the Springfield rail line, a failure to provide adequate park-and-ride spaces was something that was condemned even by Labor’s own member for Bundamba, who urged the then transport minister to rectify the situation and she refused. Members should not forget that those opposite also ordered trains that were too big for tunnels and trains without seats. This is Labor’s legacy—the legacy of the transport minister, the now Premier of Queensland.

Despite getting a report in 2008 saying that a new inner-city rail river crossing was needed, four years later it had produced a plan that was unfunded and would see more than 100 homes and businesses being razed. In fact, during the election campaign in the lead-up to the 2012 election the cost of Labor’s plan varied by $2 billion. At one point the transport minister said it was $8.3 billion, then went on Steve Austin’s program on ABC Radio and claimed that it was $7 billion. Then days out it was $6.3 billion. Most embarrassing of all, a year ago in last year’s budget reply the then opposition leader, now Premier, had to come back into the parliament after midnight and apologise to parliament for misleading it by claiming falsely in her budget in reply speech that Labor’s plan had been fully costed and funded. She was forced to come back and apologise, because she had made false claims about a bungled Labor project. That is Labor’s legacy in transport and roads: inaction, bungles and massive cost-of-living hikes.

That is the legacy that we inherited in government in 2012. What did we do about it? On fares, we ended Labor’s 15 per cent annual fare hikes. We halved them, as we promised because Labor had already factored them into the budget, and then we went further. Last year, for the first time in Queensland’s history we saw a statewide cut to public transport fares of five per cent. That is the first time that had happened in Queensland’s history. This year, there was a freeze on public transport fares. The contrast could not be clearer: 15 per cent annual fare increases under Labor; a cut to public transport fares statewide for the first time in Queensland’s history under the LNP. We also brought in the incredibly successful free trips after nine journeys that benefit 80,000 commuters a week. After patronage on rail starting to plummet under Labor’s policy of fares going up every year by 15 per cent, last year, under those policies of the LNP, for the first time we saw patronage increase.

On car registration, in contrast again to Labor’s increase of 30 per cent in just four years for car registration, the LNP froze family car registration for the three years we were in office, as we promised at the election. Sadly, we have seen that policy change now under the current government. We delivered record spending on the Bruce Highway. We had a 10-year plan to bring it out of the crisis. We had the lowest road toll in Queensland’s history on the back of a record $350 million Road Safety Action Plan.

In terms of trains, we concluded a $4.4 billion new-generation rolling stock plan that will deliver 75 new six-car trains, an expansion of existing fleet and the retirement of old rolling stock. What do we get from this budget? So far in this budget we have seen fares going up again. Last year, the LNP cut fares and we froze them for this year, but now we see fares going up again. The bad old days of Labor are back. What is happening with rego? Last time under Labor there was a 30 per cent increase in just four years. Under the LNP there was a freeze on family car registration. Now we are back to the bad old days of Labor with a 3½ per cent increase for car rego, which is 2½ times the current inflation rate of 1.4 per cent. Rego is going back up again.

In this budget there are no new projects, although there is a lot of credit claiming for LNP projects. We have even heard the Treasurer say that early spending on the new-generation rolling stock would see all 75 trains delivered by December 2018. Of course, that same passage was in the last year’s budget because they were going to be delivered by December 2018.

Mr Minnikin: Tell him he’s loco.

Mr EMERSON: I take the interjection from the member for Chatsworth. He is on fire today. We hear the minister claiming credit for new-generation rolling stock and claiming credit for the Toowoomba second range crossing, which is a project that federal Labor refused to back and state Labor refused to back when last in office. They are claiming credit for LNP projects on the Warrego. We worked on those projects with local LNP members. By fighting for and working with their local communities, they have put pressure on this government to maintain those LNP projects. The upgrade of the Gateway North was an LNP project claimed by Labor as part of its Infrastructure Plan that we have seen in this budget. The upgrade of the Bruce Highway—

Mr Byrne interjected.

-1466 Appropriation (Parliament) Bill; Appropriation Bill 16 Jul 2015

 Mr EMERSON: I take the interjection from the member for Rockhampton who will say the Yeppen South project is a Labor project, but who started it? The LNP! I remember being up there to start the project. I am sure the member for Rockhampton will applaud the LNP’s vision and commitment to his electorate for the Yeppen South project, which provides extra capacity, extra safety and extra flood mitigation on the Bruce Highway, which is the corridor of commerce that is so necessary for Queensland. There was record spending on the Bruce Highway by the LNP after years of neglect by Labor.

The LNP has already promised to freeze family car rego at the rate of inflation going forward. In stark contrast, we saw every Labor member of this House vote to put rego up 2½ times the inflation rate. It is particularly extraordinary when we hear rural and regional Labor members of parliament say they want to put rego up 2½ times the inflation rate, because people in their electorates do not have ready access to public transport and the car, often a V8 four-wheel drive, is so necessary. To see rego increased must send shivers through those people who remember what it was like under Labor last time when fares kept going up.

This is a failed budget. It fails on infrastructure by not providing for new projects but merely continuing LNP projects. We put in place great projects, but the budget does not do anything more. It increases public transport fares and car rego. Interestingly, according to the budget, the reliability of trains is forecast to fall. Under previous transport minister Palaszczuk, we had a three-year low in reliability. Under the LNP we achieved the highest on-time running and reliability of any train system in Australia and this budget forecasts that it will fall again. That is what this budget is about. It is a failed Labor budget for Queensland.

In my own electorate, because of the hard work of the community that I have worked with to pressure the government, we will see some projects continue, including the upgrade of the Graceville train station and the Indooroopilly cycle bridge. However, there are no significant new projects or funding. This government is simply continuing good LNP projects. I do commend the government for continuing the flashing school lights program that our government introduced. The previous government talked about it, but never implemented it. Across every electorate in this state, we introduced flashing school lights. I thank the government for continuing that project, because it is so important for safety around our schools. As the local member, I will be fighting for more money for flashing school lights and other projects in my electorate. I conclude by stressing that this is a failed Labor budget that does not provide new infrastructure, but only provides increased cost-of-living pressures for Queenslanders.