Greens prioritise eastern rail link

Greens prioritise eastern rail link (August 11, 2013) Farrah Tomazin, The Sunday Age’s state political editor.

The Greens have declared that a rail line to Doncaster is ”the best thing we can do to fix congestion”, and will head to the election with a multibillion-dollar transport wish list to rival the east-west link.

Federal deputy leader of the Greens Adam Bandt also wants the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel to be a key priority for any future government, and has promised to fight for better cross-city transport links to encourage people to drive less.

The party is yet to provide costings for its transport priorities, which are being finalised by the parliamentary budget office, prompting Labor’s condemnation as the battle for Mr Bandt’s seat of Melbourne heats up.

”Voters in Melbourne should be concerned by the slapdash way the Green party commit to delivering on transport infrastructure with no costings, no timeline and very little detail,” Labor candidate Cath Bowtell said.

But Mr Bandt insisted the policies would be fully detailed in coming weeks, and would cost less than the Coalition’s $8 billion east-west link.

Strategists say they could be paid for by reprioritising funds within the $24 billion Nation Building II program identified in the last budget. This would involve redirecting money to public transport over roads, with the exception of road safety initiatives.

”The best thing we can do to fix congestion in inner-city roads is build that rail line out to Doncaster. The east-west link is only going to spread traffic jams in Melbourne further and further out,” Mr Bandt said.

Speaking at the party’s campaign launch on Saturday, he said he believed he could retain his seat – despite not having the guarantee of Liberal preferences. While a deal has not yet been locked in, it is widely expected the Liberals will place the Greens behind Labor, following the template set by Ted Baillieu at the Victorian election in 2010.

This would make it difficult for Mr Bandt, who three years ago achieved 36.2 per cent of the primary vote – less than Labor – but was catapulted into Parliament with the help of Liberal preferences.

”We are aiming at this election to hold the seat of Melbourne in our own right,” he said.

”At the last election, we got a swing of over 13 per cent. If we can get about a third of that this time, and increase our vote by somewhere in the order of five-and-a-bit per cent, it won’t matter what the old parties do on preferences.”

The party also launched a new advertisement on Saturday that seeks to paint Labor and the Coalition as being ”out of step” with the community on social justice.

With a new slogan, ”Stand Up for What Matters”, the ad focuses on asylum seekers, same-sex marriage, higher education and the environment, telling viewers: ”If you stand for clean energy over climate change; if you stand for care, not cuts, for higher education; if you stand for love over an outdated law; if you stand for giving refuge to refugees, then you stand with us.”

The ad will begin on Monday, coinciding with the second week of the five-week election campaign.