Someone’s gotta go!

gottago.jpgAfter numerous failings by this state government with regard to transport, someone needs the chop.

Recent disclosures and announcements clearly show the government has no long-term, integrated strategy for transport in this state.

It is bad enough the Federal Government is not funding any rail projects in this term and believe “roads are the way of the future” (Abbott), but this state government goes from one bad idea to another that has no coherence whatsoever. Its catalogue of mistakes includes:

  • The Auditor General’s report, which states: “Main Roads does not have a clear process to prioritise funding for congestion projects, although major projects are assessed by Main Roads and DoT on financial and other broad factors. This means that although projects may achieve their intended local outcomes, they may not have been the most effective or efficient choices overall. In 2013, Main Roads developed a Traffic Congestion Management Strategy, which identified 49 projects and initiatives to address congestion but it is not clear how these were selected, or how they were prioritised.”

The report highlights the absence of a timetable or funding for any of the proposed projects, yet we continue to experience the worsening congestion in the ever-expanding metropolitan area.

For our regional members, there is no additional funding for their roads, which are being churned up by trucks carting the extra grain not transported on the now-closed, tier 3 lines. There was $200 million allocated to upgrade them, but by the end of this harvest, the roads will be back to their original state and continue to deteriorate.

  • Minister Nalder’s announcement that their key project to ease congestion (which had already been deferred by three years), MAX Light Rail, is likely to be dumped by cabinet early next year in favour of rapid transit buses due to potentially halving the cost of infrastructure to implement it compared to the Max light rail project.

However, there was no independent estimate or analogy of the pros and cons, safety, environment, ease of use, etc.

  • The Port’s 2012 Strategic Governance Review. With ports already choking and bottlenecked, there has been a consolidation of authorities to manage ports, but not one project for a new port to be built anywhere in the state.
  • The controversy around the secret deal the Public Transport Authority (PTA) did with Brookfield, changing the terms of the dodgy 49-year lease Brookfield has for the freight network which got taxpayers (via the PTA) to put in $300 million into Brookfield’s coffers to keep the tier 3 lines open for two years and carry out work on the other narrow gauge lines, but allowing Brookfield to close the tier 3 lines as long as they give 15% return on any profits only from the remaining narrow gauge lines, paid back to the PTA, in 2017, 2020 and 2023. Those figures will be provided by Brookfield! Despite this, the minister said he knew nothing about it, and subsequently corrected it. There is likely more to come with the government seriously considering toll roads.

While it might sound simple to get rid of an incompetent minister, another challenge has been the appointment of Mr Reece Waldock, CEO, PTA, since 2003.

In 2010, a further decision was made to integrate three departments – the PTA, Department of Main roads and Department of Transport (covering policy and planning development) by the then Liberal coalition government, which led to the creation of a Director General position, who answers directly to the minister. Mr Waldock was appointed to that position while maintaining his of CEO role. Since that time, and during 2012 and 2013, that department has spent in excess of $3 million on consulting.

This current madness and lack of direction has to stop.

At least the two previous ministers Mactiernan and Buswell understood their portfolio and knew the importance of an integrated transport system and how to give direction.

This is not a personal issue; it is a competency issue – a minister who exhibits neither direction nor understanding of his portfolio, with a clear catalogue of historical failures.