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Question: Adelaide's Tram Network

21 February 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:00): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the minister representing the Minister for Transport on the topic of Adelaide's tram network.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: On Monday morning, in response to a renewed push from the Greens to extend the trams to the eastern suburbs, Minister Tom Koutsantonis told the ABC, 'I just don't think a tram up the eastern suburbs would do anything to decrease congestion, and it will probably make the problem worse.' He went on to say, 'We won't be building a tram to Norwood.'

I refer to Labor's election policy from the 2022 state election, where under the title 'Taking back our trains, trams and stopping privatisation', they state:

Each train or tram in South Australia could take up to 540 cars off the roads. They are also some of the most energy efficient modes of transport, with greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometre up to five times less than that of cars.

My questions to the minister therefore are:

1. Does the government agree that getting cars off the road will reduce congestion?

2. Why has the Labor government abandoned its commitment to trams?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:01): I thank the honourable member for his question. I think the answer is that, in terms of congestion, it will of course depend on all the other factors, including the particular road in question, and I do not accept the premise of the second half of the member's question.

 


Motion: Adelaide's Tram Network

21 February 2024 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:19): I move:

That this council—

1. Notes that:

(a) in 2016, the Weatherill state government undertook a multi-criteria analysis of a proposed tram network for Adelaide, AdeLINK, which proposed five tram routes radiating out from the city; and

(b) AdeLINK and the tram to the eastern suburbs were abandoned after the change of government at the 2018 state election.

2. Acknowledges that:

(a) the tram extensions to the Botanic Gardens and the Adelaide Entertainment Centre have been successful public transport projects for Adelaide;

(b) over 7.4 million journeys were taken on Adelaide trams in the 2022-2023 financial year;

(c) until the 1950s, Adelaide was serviced by a comprehensive network of trams connecting outer metropolitan areas with the centre of the city;

(d) there is a demand for additional public transport across the metropolitan area; and

(e) trams would reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

3. Calls on the Malinauskas government to conduct a feasibility study to explore options to extend the tram network including to the eastern suburbs.

This motion calls on the Malinauskas government to conduct a feasibility study to explore options to extend the tram network, including to the eastern suburbs.

In considering this motion it is worth reconsidering the history of the tram extension project in our state. Back in 2016 the then Weatherill government undertook a multi-criteria analysis of a proposed tram network for Adelaide. That was AdeLINK, which had a series of tram routes that would radiate out from the city. The Greens were certainly supportive of seeing trams back on the agenda.

As we know, the Labor government was not re-elected, and the incoming Liberal government abandoned the AdeLINK project. However, from the perspective of the Greens we have continued to be concerned about the lack of investment in public transport, in particular the potential for trams. It is for that reason that I took to the airwaves earlier this week to spruik the benefits of a tram extension and, in particular, talk about the potential to extend the tram from the city to Norwood.

I understand that in Labor's original proposal they were talking about extending the tramline up to The Parade. We in the Greens said, 'Let's look at all the options, let's look at potentially extending the tramline from the Botanic Gardens stop, up Payneham Road and up to the Portrush Road intersection. We could allow cars to run on the tramlines, as we have seen in Melbourne, which would reduce congestion.'

It has long been the policy of the Labor Party that they are supportive of trams; indeed, in Labor's election policy document from 2022 they make a statement about the benefits that flow from trams. The policy document states that, 'Each train or tram in South Australia could take up to 540 cars off the road.' The policy document reads that they are some of the most energy-efficient modes of transport, 'with greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometre up to five times less than that of cars.'

With that in mind, when I suggested that the Greens would be moving for a feasibility study in the parliament this week I assumed I would get enthusiastic support from the relevant minister, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis. Well, I nearly choked on my cornflakes when I heard the minister's response, where he flatly rejected the idea and said that he was ruling it out and that there would be no tram up to Norwood. He went further to say, 'I don't think a tram would do anything to decrease congestion, it will make the problem worse.' That is a real contradiction with the policy position the Labor Party has had for some time.

Of course, he was backed up by his ideological soulmate in the party, the Hon. Vincent Tarzia, who came on the airways as well to support the Labor Party's policy position, their 'do nothing' position, on trams. We have heard about Thomas the Tank Engine; well, we have Thomas the car engine in Minister Tom Koutsantonis in South Australia, because he does not want to look at trams. He is committed to cars; indeed, this is a government that is pumping billions and billions of dollars into the north-south road corridor project but will not even consider a feasibility study to look at how we can get trams back on the agenda.

Trams cost approximately $120 million per kilometre, whereas a six-lane highway, which would carry the same number of people, costs $150 million per kilometre. The route that the Greens have proposed in terms of extending the tram network down to Norwood would cost 3 per cent of the total budget of the north-south corridor project—just 3 per cent—so it is a question of priorities.

Most of the issues that are raised with trams are solvable. People say there is a loss of car parking or that there could be a loss of grass and the like; all of these things can be solved. After all, we are not talking about sending a man to the moon, we are talking about laying some tram tracks and I think we can do that. What we do know is that when you build tramlines people use them—they are popular. Last financial year, 7.4 million trips were taken on Adelaide trams.

The extension to the Botanic Gardens and the Adelaide Entertainment Centre has been a very successful public transport project for Adelaide. Let us put trams back on track for our state. It is really disappointing to see this U-turn from the Labor government. I hope that the minister, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, was misspeaking. Perhaps he got it wrong and has taken the wrong turn on behalf of this Labor government. The Greens are here to help, as always. If he has made a mistake he can of course support our motion and we can work together to explore this.

It is some time since an analysis was done of the potential to expand the tram network in South Australia. We are recognising that the costs may have increased due to inflation and the like, and that is why I have proposed to do this study. Let us look at what options are available and at how much it would cost to get this happening again.

To say that in this era of climate crisis, to say that in this era of cost-of-living crisis, that trams are not going to play a role in terms of the public transport solution for South Australia is a real shame. I hope the minister is less like Thomas the car engine and a bit more like Thomas the Tank Engine in terms of turning his mind to the potential for trains, trams and public transport to really deal with the climate crisis and to reduce the pressure that South Australians face at the bowser.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.

 


Question: Public and Active Transport Committee Report

7 February 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:46): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of regional transport.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Today is one year to the day since the Public and Active Transport Committee tabled its report containing a series of recommendations relating to the regions. These include:

better bus connectivity between regional centres, ensuring regional communities have access to health services;

a trial of passenger services from Mount Barker to Adelaide, with a view to adopting similar trials at Roseworthy to Gawler, Aldinga to Seaford, and Adelaide to Port Augusta; and

incentivising passenger rail between Adelaide and Melbourne stopping at regional townships.

Since the report was released one year ago, there has been no formal response from the Minister for Transport and, indeed, my efforts to contact his office have gone unanswered. The Minister for Regional Development has also not directly responded to the recommendations. My question to the Minister for Regional Development therefore is: has the minister now read the report, one year on, and has she understood the needs of the regions with respect to public transport infrastructure? What action has she taken in relation to those recommendations?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:47): I thank the honourable member for his question. At least he is not attributing to me responsibility for the weather, as some others might, but he does want me to be responsible for the portfolio of transport, which I think the Minister for Transport is doing a fine job on.

Whilst I think I have said in this place previously—some months ago and well before other questions on this topic from the honourable member—that, yes, I had read the report, in terms of responding to the recommendations, that is the role of the Minister for Transport. I will refer the question to him and bring back a response.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:48): Supplementary: given the Minister for Regional Development hasn't responded to the report, and the Minister for Transport hasn't responded to the report, whose job is it? When will I get a response?


Motion: World Car-Free Day

18 October 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:00): I move:

That this council—

1. Recognises that 22 September is World Car-Free Day.

2. Notes that according to the Department for Environment and Water, transport accounts for 28 per cent of South Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, the highest for any sector in the state.

3. Notes with concern that public transport use has declined by 13 per cent since July 2019.

4. Acknowledges that reducing car use has many benefits including:

(a) reduced greenhouse gas emissions;

(b) improved air quality;

(c) increased beneficial health and wellbeing outcomes; and

(d) reduced traffic congestion.

5. Calls on the Malinauskas government to implement the recommendations from the report of the Select Committee on Public and Active Transport by:

(a) increasing the frequency of bus services, simplifying concessions, and improving connectivity;

(b) trialling of passenger rail services from Mount Barker to Adelaide and incentivising passenger rail between Adelaide and Melbourne;

(c) trialling separated bike infrastructure and traffic calming measures, including speed limit restrictions;

(d) commencing planning for a statewide, integrated separated cycling network;

(e) development of a statewide strategic transport network plan;

(f) promotion of alternatives to car travel to reduce carbon emissions; and

(g) legislating to enable the use of privately owned e-scooters and other e-personal mobility devices in public spaces.


This motion recognises that 22 September was World Car-Free Day. It is an annual event held every year on 22 September and it involves cities around the globe coming together to celebrate World Car-Free Day and encouraging motorists to leave their car at home for the day.

I do not intend to speak for very long on this motion, as I know we have a few things to get through, but I do want to talk about some of the benefits of going car-free. We know, of course, that this reduces air pollution and that the promotion of walking and cycling is good for public and community health. Car-free days provide cities with the opportunity to appreciate how pollution impacts on our everyday lives.

Vehicle emissions are one of the main sources of outdoor air pollution, particularly in our cities, and ambient air pollution alone caused 4.2 million deaths in 2016 according to the World Health Organization. Transport is also the fastest growing source of fossil fuel emissions, the largest contributor to climate change. In fact, in South Australia, transport accounts for 28 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions, the highest for any sector in our state.

Whilst we talk a lot in South Australia about energy policy and the importance of energy policy in combating climate change, we often forget the importance of transport policy and the role that plays in carbon emissions. It is really important that we see government policy begin to remedy that. The exhaust from vehicles emits harmful greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and it is these emissions that pose a significant threat to our environment and to our health.

While the no-car lifestyle is not for everybody, there are lots of good reasons to drive less, including lowering the carbon footprint, reducing road congestion and, of course, reducing the chance of car accidents, not to mention the fact that walking and cycling is really good for general health and wellbeing. By driving less, drivers will also save on expenses such as soaring petrol prices, car insurance and car repairs, and by choosing more active models of transportation such as cycling, walking or using scooters, one increases their activity levels too.

According to the Department for Infrastructure and Transport, almost 81,000 fewer trips were taken on South Australian public transport in July compared with the same period in 2019 pre-COVID. This figure represents a 13 per cent decline in usage. That is concerning for us in the Greens, and that is one of the reasons that we have been calling for free public transport to be made a priority by the Malinauskas government, so that we can provide an incentive for people to use alternatives to car travel.

Members of this place will remember—and I bang on about it quite regularly—that there was a report of the Select Committee on Public and Active Transport handed down in this chamber in February. Six months on, and I am still waiting for an audience with the minister and still waiting for the government to formally respond to the recommendations.

Those recommendations are listed in the motion, so I do not propose to detail them again here, but it is really important that the government take some action to reduce the reliance on cars. It is worth noting that the first car-free day event that was held in Paris, France, in September 2015 was found to reduce exhaust emissions by 40 per cent. So reducing car travel does have a significant impact.

I would like to commend the Adelaide City Council for recognising World Car-Free Day for the first time ever this year. In particular, I note the work of Councillor David Elliott, who is chair of Bike Adelaide and who I understand raised this idea at the council level. It is important, and we do need leadership at all levels of government to get this climate crisis under control.


Tram Drivers Dispute

18 October 2023

In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (31 August 2023):

Final supplementary: when will the parliament get an update on the work that has been undertaken in relation to returning the trams back to public hands?

 

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport has advised:

As previously stated on the public record, it is anticipated that the government will resume operations of tram services from Torrens Connect by July 2025.


Regional Rail

17 October 2023

 

In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14 June 2023).

 

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport has advised:

1.   The state government is aware of the recommendations outlined in the February 2023 report of the Public and Active Transport Select Committee (the committee).

The Malinauskas government has been in discussions with Viterra and Aurizon since April 2022 on their proposal for regional rail in Eyre Peninsula. Recently, Minister Koutsantonis wrote a letter to the Hon. Catherine King MP, federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government asking that the Australian government considers this proposal in light of the national benefits it will provide.

2.   The Department for Infrastructure and Transport has been provided a copy of the committee's report and recommendations for its consideration.


World Car Free Day: Government must act on recommendations of Public and Active Transport Committee

22 September 2023

The Greens are urging the State Government to finally respond to the recommendations of the multi-party Parliamentary Committee on Public and Active Transport, on World Car Free Day.

The committee, chaired by Greens Transport Spokesperson, Robert Simms MLC handed down its report in February of this year.

“This World Car Free Day (today) presents an opportunity for the Government to finally respond to the full suite of recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on Public and Active Transport,” said Mr Simms.

“During this time of climate crisis our state must do what we can to reduce the number of cars on our roads, reduce carbon emissions and encourage green transport options. Instead, we have public transport use continuing to slump and cycling infrastructure stalled by a lack of Government focus and investment.”

“The parliamentary inquiry made a number of sensible recommendations that could be actioned by the Government. Sadly, 6 months on, I’m yet to hear a whisper from the state’s Transport Minister. Rather than pumping out more road projects and car races, it’s time for the Government to respond to the report and show the leadership we need to get public and active transport in our state back on track. “

Some of the key recommendations of the Parliamentary Inquiry include:

  • Increasing the frequency of bus services, simplifying concessions and improving connectivity
  • Trialing of passenger rail services from Mount Barker to Adelaide and incentivising passenger rail between Adelaide and Melbourne (while servicing regional stops)
  • Trialing separated bike infrastructure and traffic calming measures, including speed limit reductions
  • Commencing planning for a state-wide, integrated separated cycling network
  • Development of a state-wide strategic transport network plan
  • Promotion of alternatives to car travel to reduce carbon emissions (with removal of Government messaging that prioritises cars).
  • Legislating to enable the use of privately owned e-scooters and other e-personal mobility devices in public spaces (with a recommendation for further work to be undertaken by Government with respect to insurance concerns)

In April this year the Government announced it would be consulting on the status of e-scooters. There has been no public response to the other recommendations. The committee received more than 100 submissions and heard evidence from 50 witnesses.

World Car Free is held on the 22nd of September each and aims to highlight alternatives to car travel.


Question: Tram Drivers Dispute

31 August 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:43): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Public Sector on the topic of the tram strikes.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: This morning, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) announced that tram services will be disrupted tomorrow as tram workers take industrial action against their employer, Torrens Connect. According to Hayden Boyle, the SA and NT branch organiser from the RTBU, workers are seeking a pay rise that keeps pace with the rising cost of living, but Torrens Connect management are digging in their heels.

In its pre-election policy platform, the then Malinauskas opposition made a commitment to, and I quote, 'reverse privatisation of our trains and trams, bringing them back into public hands as soon as possible'. The policy document from the then Labor opposition also goes on to state that a Malinauskas government would, and I quote:

Ensure the return of a trained and competent workforce back into the public sector, including train and tram drivers and maintenance workers.

My question to the minister therefore is:

1. What action is the minister taking to return the trams and their workforce to the public sector?

2. Is the minister concerned that tram workers are getting a dud deal from Torrens Connect?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:44): I thank the honourable member for his question. Although the matter of returning the privatised rail network back into public hands is the responsibility of the Minister for Transport, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, member for West Torrens, I am aware that much work has gone into doing just that. There have been a lot of discussions with operators of the rail network about doing just that. There is a commitment, as the honourable member has outlined, that that will happen, and that is exactly what will occur. I know the work is very well developed.

I have to say that one of the consequences of the Liberals' ideological obsession—particularly under former Treasurer the Hon. Rob Lucas—with privatisation is that it has not done well for South Australians. There is nowhere in the world where the privatisation of public transport has led to better outcomes for citizens in that jurisdiction. Regularly, when public transport is privatised, you see fares increasing and you see services declining.

You pay for a private company—often a private company that is not based in Australia and that sends profits to shareholders who aren't here—having to take profit margins, and that comes at the expense of what happens in the system, the service to people and the cost of using the rail system. We have a commitment. We are acting on that commitment and we are deep into the process the transport minister is leading to return it to public hands.

If the rail system had not been privatised under the Hon. David Spiers and the Hon. Steven Marshall's previous government we would have had a role to play in negotiations. We don't always agree at first instance when we go into industrial negotiations with public sector unions, but we have had agreements between unions like the nurses, the firefighters and the ambulance officers, and we are currently, although there is some way to go, in negotiations with the teachers. We have negotiated in good faith and have bargained in a way that is respectful.

I look forward to the rail network being returned to where it should be: in public hands, and the government having a role to play in these negotiations in the future.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:47): Supplementary: I just remind the minister that my question was about the trams. What action is the government taking in relation to tram workers?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:47): Unfortunately, and as I have outlined, in relation to tram workers the government doesn't have a role to play because of the privatisation by the former government. Since 2009, when the industrial system for private sector workers was handed over entirely to the commonwealth—except for some areas like health and safety—we don't have a role, as a state jurisdiction, to play in private negotiations between a company and its private sector employees. We will when it is returned to the public sector, which we are committed to.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:48): Final supplementary: when will the parliament get an update on the work that has been undertaken in relation to returning the trams back to public hands?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:48): I thank the honourable member for his question. I know there have been a number of announcements that the transport minister has provided in the ongoing work to return the trams to the public sector. I am happy to go away and get an update for the honourable member as to where that stands and provide a response to his question.


Crafers Bikeway

3 May 2023

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Can the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport advise—

1. Will the minister commit to repairing the Crafers bikeway, including sealing track edges, and repairing fencing and other barriers?

2. Will the minister commit to extending the bikeway so that it commences at the intersection of Cross Road and Portrush Road?

 

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport has advised:

1. An inspection and scoping of any repairs for the Crafers bikeway will be completed by early June 2023, with any immediate works identified to be undertaken in June 2023, subject to weather conditions. The bikeway may need to be closed during works to ensure the safety of cyclists and workers.

2. The City of Burnside received $25,000 from the 2021-22 State Bicycle Fund to construct a shared use path between Boucaut Street and the Crafers bikeway. The project is currently under construction. The section of footpath between Boucaut Street and Portrush Road is under the care and control of the City of Burnside and is constrained by the South Eastern Freeway and adjacent development including the veranda of the state heritage listed Colonial Restaurant.

Any further upgrades to the Crafers bikeway will be considered within the overall cycling network in metropolitan Adelaide to ensure that the facilities are best meeting the needs for active travel.


Question: Regional Rail

14 June 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:35): It is hard to follow that, but I will try. I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of regional rail.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I am sorry the Leader of the Opposition is missing it; she would be very interested. In February, the parliamentary inquiry into public and active transport handed down its report. This contains several recommendations related to regional rail, including the incentivisation of passenger rail between Adelaide and Melbourne and the reactivation of rail for passengers and freight in the regions.

The Australian Labor Party recently released its draft National Platform for members ahead of their national conference. In chapter 1 of the document, which is published on the Labor Party's publicly accessible website, it states under sections 54 and 55:

Labor will…continue to invest in faster rail and upgraded rail corridors across the nation. Labor will work with state governments to address regional rail infrastructure needs and will ensure more trains are built in Australia to create skilled manufacturing jobs.

The document also goes on to state that:

Labor will work to ensure the resilience of our supply chain and freight networks, including considering the importance of rail in the movement of freight across Australia.

Given the synergies between the recommendations of this council's committee on public and active transport and the draft ALP National Platform, my questions to the minister are:

1. Has the minister yet read the report of the public and active transport committee, and has she raised the potential for regional rail with her Labor colleagues in the Albanese government in Canberra?

2, What action has she taken to progress the recommendations contained in the select committee report?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:37): I thank the honourable member for his question. I can see that there is a media release imminent from the honourable member, where he will try to get some coverage on the fact that, as Minister for Regional Development, I should be reading the reports of every other portfolio.

It kind of links in a little bit with the question we had from the opposition yesterday, and my comments that there are some who seem to think that, as minister, I should be minister for all the portfolios here. As one of my colleagues said in jest earlier today, perhaps I should be flattered. Perhaps those opposite and perhaps some on the crossbench think that I am so capable that I can actually be across every other minister's portfolio.

That was a light-hearted quip from one of my colleagues. I certainly don't expect or even hold myself out to be able to be across every single other portfolio. If the honourable member and those opposite are interested in the Labor government's response to reports, I am very happy to refer that to the relevant minister in the other place, the Minister for Transport, and bring back a response.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary.

The Hon. H.M. Girolamo interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: We will have a supplementary from the Hon. Mr Simms when the Hon. Ms Girolamo is silent.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:39): Why hasn't the minister read the recommendations relating to the regions contained within the report of the select committee of this chamber, and when will she undertake to read it? How many times have I asked about this?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:39): I again reiterate: we have a collegial team on this side of the chamber. We have portfolio responsibilities. The Minister for Transport is responsible for transport.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:42): Supplementary: has the minister discussed the recommendations of the select committee report with the transport minister in the other place?

The PRESIDENT: Minister, you did talk about the transport minister in the other place in your original answer.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:42): Certainly. I am pleased to be able to say that I have frequent discussions with the transport minister across a range of matters, all of which are always very fruitful.