Belinda Coates wants mayor to lobby to denounce East-West tollway

The Courier: Belinda Coates wants mayor to lobby to denounce East-West tollway By Rachel Afflick. May 26, 2014

Belinda Coates will call on mayor Joshua Morris to denounce the Coalition’s East-West tollway on behalf of the City of Ballarat.

Cr Coates claims rural and regional communities are getting a raw deal and that public transport, cycling and walking projects should be prioritised before the East-West link.

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has requested the personal support of Cr Morris and a financial contribution from the council, to publish an open letter to Premier Denis Napthine seeking the redirection of the funds.

Cr Coates has filed a notice of motion ahead of Wednesday’s council meeting to advocate for the initiative.

She said spending billions on the East-West tollway had dubious benefits for the Ballarat region.

“That’s money that takes away from regional infrastructure projects,” she said.

“As pointed out in the letter, walking and cycling infrastructure, as well as public transport, are a priority in Ballarat.”

The PTUA letter describes the cost of the East-West tollway – at $1300 to $1800 million a kilometre for the first stage, as “staggering” and claims it would come at the expense of major public transport upgrades and extensions, cycling and walking infrastructure, level crossing removal and some arterial road maintenance.

In Ballarat, priorities such as more frequent and reliable train services, bus upgrades, unfunded bicycle projects and arterial roads maintenance would be unlikely to get adequate funding, PTUA stated.

Cr Coates said she believed councils had a role in lobbying governments and could effect change.

She said proposed federal government changes to the Racial Discrimination Act had come under pressure by the number of councils opposing them.

“With Ballarat in a marginal seat in a state election, it is possible to argue that we’re in a position to have some influence on that,” she said.

“It’s common knowledge that our public transport could do with some additional funding.”

Cr Coates said improvements to public transport infrastructure were more efficient environmentally, and also economically.

Editorial, page 15

A councillor’s first duty is to Ballarat, regardless of politics

The Courier Editorial: A councillor’s first duty is to Ballarat, regardless of politics. May 26, 2014, 10:30 p.m.

There needs to be reconsideration of what is important within Ballarat City Council.

We know that over the past few tumultuous months the divide created by the different political alignments of councillors has brought tremendous scrutiny.

While the ruckus over last year’s mayoral vote has been the most significant signpost, there clearly remains political undertones more broadly through council decision-making.

This week, Cr Belinda Coates is proposing a motion against the proposed East-West tollway in Melbourne.

Cr Coates, who has been clear about her membership of the Greens, recently successfully brought a motion expressing opposition to changes to the federal Racial Discrimination Act.

Whatever councillors believe about either of these important issues, the question needs to be asked if these are really the matters ratepayers want them spending time on in the first place.

Both issues are highly politically charged – and the East-West project is seen as potentially influential in the state election outcome.

Therefore, this motion will add to current perceptions about the political focus of the council.

Cr Coates says the money for the East-West link could be better used on public transport infrastructure.

It’s true that Ballarat does require investment in better bus and rail services and walking and cycling facilities.

However, in our view, Ballarat would be better advocating directly for specific local projects requiring investment, rather than opposing those in Melbourne that are already on the books.

It is also cause to reflect just what impact council motions have on decision-making at higher levels of government. And where does it end?

Consider the uproar – given recent events – if we had a Liberal-aligned councillor putting a motion forward calling for the Melbourne Metro rail proposal to be scrapped?

Councillors are free to express their opinions on issues – local, state and federal. Councillors are also free to be members of, or aligned with, political parties.

What shouldn’t be lost is that, when considering any course of action, furthering the cause of our city as a whole, on behalf of and for ratepayers, must be the primary consideration.