SPEAKING ON A BILL | TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE

Mr Melhem: I also rise to speak on this motion. I was going to speak on it earlier this morning but I got the timing wrong. I knew I would get my opportunity again. I just want to echo the words of Ms Garrett, who elegantly described how this government is going about doing its business in delivering again and again and again for Victorians. We were elected in 2014 on a platform of doing things, of getting the state moving, of getting things done and of investing in infrastructure to help mums and dads be able to travel in the morning and take the kids to school or go to work without being held up at railway crossings or by congested roads and be able to get better access to public transport. I was part of that, which was Project 10 000. That was an ambitious project. A lot of people thought, ‘I think these people are dreaming. These people are dreaming about wanting to go and remove all these level crossings. These people are dreaming about delivering all these project. Where are they going to find the money? Are they really going to deliver? Are they really going to deliver on these commitments or is it just an election commitment and then when they get into government they forget about it? Is it just a ploy to get elected?’. Guess what? This government is led by Premier Daniel Andrews, who is well known for doing what he says he will do. He does deliver on his commitments and we have delivered on every commitment we said we were going to deliver in 2014, and we repeated the same thing in 2018.

The motion talks about a number of areas, mainly about infrastructure investment and projects with a focus on the 2019–20 budget. The suburban transport blitz—I know sometimes I hear on talkback radio people getting annoyed about being held up or having to change the way they travel on public transport. We decided to do things in the most efficient manner, for example, where it is important to actually do a construction blitz for a week or two weeks, particularly during school holidays and off-peak times, trying to utilise the most efficient time. That means it has caused inconvenience for public transport users, but 99 per cent of the people I speak to or even listen to on talkback shows or radio understand why we are doing it. They are prepared to put up with the short-term pain for the medium-to-long-term gain. I think that is very important as we are delivering these projects in the most effective and efficient way.

Time is of the essence because we are playing catch-up after a number of years. Melbourne has been in the last decade or so the most livable city in the world, although I know we lost that ranking just a few weeks ago and have fallen to number two. It is still a great position to be in, but there is a lot of pressure on our city and on our state with the significant growth in population. That is why we have the unprecedented investment in infrastructure in Victoria. It is the biggest ever in the history of the state. In fact what we are investing in Victoria is way, way beyond what the federal government is investing for the whole country. I think just before the last federal election they were looking at a $100 million investment in infrastructure for the whole country. We are investing that in one state, and that is over a period of 10 years. I think that is a credit to the leadership of Premier Andrews for basically having that commitment to actually invest in these big projects.

The North East Link I think is a project that is long overdue. It is $15.8 billion that will be spent on that project to basically finally complete the ring-road, connecting the whole state. The West Gate Freeway will now be connected with the Eastern Freeway, EastLink and then Peninsula Link, so basically we complete that ring. It is probably not a perfect ring, but it is a ring—maybe it sort of has to deviate a bit, but we are finally completing that project. It has been talked about for the last 20 or 25 years—well, we will finally finish that project. Also, during the last four or five years we have completed the duplication or the extension of part of the M80 between the Tullamarine Freeway and Bulla Road. That was a bottleneck. I remember I had to go through that on most days in the early mornings or in the afternoon. That has finally been completed. That was supposed to have been completed six or seven years ago but the previous coalition state government decided to take the money and divert it to the never-never for the east–west link. But when we first got in in 2014 we made sure that project was back on track, and we have completed it.

Now it does not matter what time of the day you travel, the traffic runs smoothly unless there is an accident on that road. In the absence of any accidents or traffic hazards, travelling on the M80 in that part of my electorate is now an easy way to travel in comparison to years ago. Another part of Ms Stitt’s motion relates to the removal of level crossings. What a success that has been. It is a project that probably should have been carried out 50 to 70 years ago. Nonetheless, we are doing it. We have completed 30 and there are another 25 to go, and they are the 25 we committed to as we went to the last election. It is part of the 2019–20 budget to go through them. The additional 25 level crossing removals sites are at: Argyle Avenue in Chelsea; Camms Road, Cranbourne; Cardinia Road, Pakenham; Chelsea Road, Chelsea; Cramer Street, Preston; Evans Road, Lyndhurst; Fitzgerald Road, Ardeer; Glen Huntly Road, Glen Huntly; Greens Road, Dandenong South; McGregor Road, Pakenham; Main Street, Pakenham; Mont Albert Road, Mont Albert; and Mt Derrimut Road, Deer Park, and the list goes on—Munro Street, Coburg; Murray Road, Preston; Neerim Road, Glen Huntly; Oakover Road, Preston; Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing; Racecourse Road, Pakenham; Reynard Street, Coburg; Robinsons Road, Deer Park; Station Street–Gap Road, Sunbury; Swanpool Avenue, Chelsea; Union Road, Surrey Hills; and Webster Street, Dandenong.

As you can see from the list they are all over the state; they are not specific to a particular electorate or marginal electorate. It is about fixing the whole system and giving priority to the most dangerous level crossings, and we are removing those. I am pleased that by 2025 most of the level crossings in my electorate of Western Metro will have been removed, and that is a great thing. That is in addition to the announcement as part of the current budget, the 2019–20 budget, of the upgrade of the Sunbury line. That is going to be a huge improvement. Every single train station along that line between Southern Cross station and Sunbury will be upgraded, and the line will be upgraded to allow for the integration into the Metro loop when that is completed. You will not then need to look at a timetable; you will be able to get a train from my electorate in the western suburbs to the city—you will just hop on and off. Every 2 minutes you will have a service. We will have an increased service that people are able to access.

People will be able to utilise the new high-capacity trains, which will be ready to be rolled out by then, basically so you can go from Sunbury all the way to Pakenham. You will be able to turn up, get on the train and off you go. They are the things we must do in order to deal with the increase in population and to make sure Melbourne stays a livable city and that Melbourne and Victoria are the city and state of choice. The upgrade to the Hurstbridge line is another vital investment. I want to turn, in my last 5 minutes, to talking about the Suburban Rail Loop and the Melbourne Airport rail link. They are another two huge projects. We are looking at billions and billions of dollars of investment. They are projects we must make sure happen for a number of reasons. For Melbourne Airport the process has already commenced. I am pleased to see, for example, that Sunshine in my electorate will be a major hub for the airport. There will be huge development in the Sunshine area and in the western suburbs of Melbourne that will be essential for people going to the airport.

They will be able to use that hub to go to Geelong, to go to Warrnambool, to go to Ballarat and beyond and to go to Bendigo and beyond. It will be the connection for the corridors to the Western District and part of the northern district as well, if we count Bendigo and other areas. I am pleased that it is going to create a huge opportunity for people in Sunshine and the surrounding areas. Work on that project has commenced already, and hopefully it will be completed well before the rest of the Suburban Rail Loop, which goes around the northern and eastern suburbs, to give additional capacity to our public transport system and take the pressure off the city loop, so people are able to travel from east to west via the north and south without having to go through the Metro loop. The Melbourne Airport rail link will be integrated into the Suburban Rail Loop as well. There has been some argument about whether you should just do an airport link directly from the airport to the city, full stop. People can argue the benefit of that versus the downside, which is that you might not have enough patronage to support it. That can be a never-ending argument. I think with the way the project has been put together in conjunction with the federal government, hopefully we will come up with the right solution to make sure it is a viable project and that it will provide the most efficient way for our citizens to be able to use the system, including for going to the airport. I will finish off on what Ms Garrett touched on, which is the local content and trainees as part of this. It is great to have all these wonderful projects, investing tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure, but you have to build them using local product, using local labour and providing young kids with an opportunity to actually work on these projects.

I notice Minister Tierney is in the chamber. She is doing a fantastic job through the investment in the TAFE system and making sure our young kids—our trainees and apprentices—have now got places to go. As we mandated, these major projects have to allocate 10 per cent of the total labour pool to apprentices and trainees. There is no point just sending kids to school and sending them to TAFE if there is nowhere to go and find a job. Where are they going to do their practical work? Through the leadership of Minister Tierney we mandated that the employers on these projects have to actually provide 10 per cent of the total labour pool to apprentices and trainees and people from disadvantaged backgrounds. That is a credit to our government’s belief in social responsibility and the responsibility we have toward these people. We are not just talking about it; we are just actually doing it. With those comments, I think the Andrews Labor government should be congratulated on the effort they are putting in to make sure this state remains the state of choice. I have not touched on—I have not got time—the investment in regional Victoria, which is second to none, and that is something the government should be proud of. With those words, I commend the motion to the house.