Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Major parties reject opportunity to debate Newcastle Rail cuts

Greens MP and transport spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said the major parties’ decision today to block debate on a Greens motion calling on Premier Nathan Rees to retain the Newcastle rail line showed how out of touch both parties are with the needs of Hunter residents (full motion below).

"Labor and the Coalition shut down debate on the proposed cuts to Newcastle rail, despite the fact the government’s CBD taskforce is due to report next week and parliament does not sit again for three months," Ms Rhiannon said.

"It is not surprising that the Coalition were not interested in this issue as their leader, Barry O'Farrell, has already committed to removing the rail line in accord with GPT's wishes.

"It was revealing that Labor MPs failed to support debating this motion that congratulated their colleagues, local member Jodhi McKay and Transport Minister David Campbell for speaking in support of retaining the current rail line.

"Saying the debate on the future of Newcastle rail is not urgent for NSW Parliament to debate is like saying it’s not urgent to pull the handbrake on a runaway train.

"I am concerned that sections of the parliamentary Labor Party are loosing their resolve to retain the Newcastle Rail line.

"Their failure to back this motion stands in sharp contrast to the motion that Newcastle Labor councillors successfully moved on Newcastle Council last night.

"Their motion which passed unanimously supports the retention of the rail line until a fully costed and budgeted viable public transport system is developed.

"It is worrying that Labor MPs failed to back an opportunity to debate a motion that most people understand to be Labor policy - keeping the rail line between Wickham and the Newcastle CBD.

"The failure of Labor and the Opposition to agree to a debate has left us with a one sided view on whether the line should remain. Blocking debate in parliament effectively leaves developers GPT and their shonky surveys to occupy centre stage.

"It appears that GPT authorised the use of telephone 'push polling', resulting in dodgy survey results that a majority of residents support cutting the line," Ms Rhiannon said.

1. Ms Rhiannon to move—

1. That this House notes:

(a) that the developer General Property Trust (GPT) has stated that its proposed retail development in the Newcastle central business district will be withdrawn if the Government does not agree to fund the closure of the Newcastle rail line between Wickham and Newcastle,

(b) that Newcastle MP Jodi McKay stated in this year’s budget estimates, “I can assure you the Government will not give in to threats by developers ... at no time when they [GPT] were buying up properties around Newcastle did they say the development would hinge on the removal of the rail line.”,

(c) that Transport Minister David Campbell stated at this year’s budget estimates, “The Government has looked at this issue over a long period with the local community. It has come to a position supporting the community’s view that the heavy rail line should remain.”

(d) that the current rail line puts the beach, entertainment, commercial and tourist areas of Newcastle in easy access to Hunter residents and visitors, and provides the basis for sustainable, transit oriented development of the Newcastle central business district, and

(e) that community-based organisations in Newcastle have proposed alternatives for linking Newcastle Harbour and the cental business district, and for landscaping the Newcastle rail corridor.

2. That this House:

(a) congratulates Ms McKay and Mr Campbell for their public defence of the Newcastle rail line,

(b) recognises that the retention of the Newcastle rail service is crucial to the long term sustai nable development of Newcastle, and

(c) calls on Premier Nathan Rees to accept the advice of his Transport Minister and the Member for the Hunter and retain the rail line and service to Newcastle station.

(Notice given 2 December 2008)

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