Liberal public transport campaign questioned by PTUA, Labor

The Age: Liberal public transport campaign questioned by PTUA, Labor. October 2, 2014, Clay Lucas, City Editor, The Age

The Public Transport Users Association fact-checks.

A Liberal Party campaign to convince Melburnians to re-elect the Napthine government because it would be better than Labor for the city’s rail system has been questioned by a public transport group. And Labor has referred the campaign to the Victorian Electoral Commission, saying it is misleading and deceptive.

But the Liberal Party has stood by the campaign, saying it is in fact Labor making misleading and incorrect claims about the Napthine government.

Last week, the Liberal Party distributed flyers on city railway stations warning of “Labor’s cuts” to rail services – an allegation based on how many more people will travel on an underground rail line promised by the Napthine government compared to one Labor is promising.

But the government’s rail line is at least 12 years from operation, has no finalised route and has funding for only a fraction of its $11 billion price tag. (Labor’s underground rail plan, meanwhile, has no final route, is not funded and has no construction date).

The Liberal Party’s green, unbranded flyers also pointed people to a website further promoting the Napthine government’s achievements on the city’s trains since 2010, and comparing its plans to Labor’s.

The Public Transport Users Association analysed the claims of the Liberal Party campaign, and found only one of eight key statements made in it was true. Two others were “justified”, the association found, while the remaining five were either “false” or “dubious”.

The association’s Daniel Bowen said the association – which backed the Coalition at the 2010 Victorian election – was asked by members to see if the claims made by the website were true.

He said it was a good sign both sides were campaigning so ferociously on railways already. “They are obviously aware that public transport is a hot issue,” he said.

Mr Bowen said the association would similarly analyse Labor’s claims on public transport.

A Liberal Party spokesman said the party stood by all of the facts on the website, And he said the association should “put similar effort into scrutinising campaign materials distributed by the Labor Party which make a series of misleading and incorrect claims”.

The Liberal Party also supplied a series of Labor flyers that made aggressive claims about government plans for the rail network, which the spokesman said were highly inaccurate.

One flyer provided makes claims about changes to the Frankston line that will not occur for at least a decade.

Labor’s public transport spokeswoman Jill Hennessy said that the Liberals’ rail comparison website was “riddled with misleading and deceptive statements and Labor has referred this matter to the Victorian Electoral Commission”.

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