Legislative Council: Wednesday, June 01, 2022


Public and Active Transport

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. R.A. Simms:

1. That a select committee of the Legislative Council be established to inquire into and report on public and active transport with particular reference to—

(a) the availability and quality of public transport, including:

(i) infrastructure and services in metropolitan and regional areas;

(ii) the impact of fares and frequency; and

(iii) the efficacy and impacts of on-demand public transport.

(b) the role of government in enabling and encouraging active transport, including:

(i) measures to enable more participation;

(ii) the effect on community health and wellbeing;

(iii) the effect on climate change mitigation; and

(iv) measures to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

(c) the use of e-scooters and potential opportunities for expansion or further regulation;

(d) any other related matters.

2. That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.

(Continued from 18 May 2022.)

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (16:42): I rise to speak briefly in support of the motion from the Hon. Robert Simms. I thank the member for bringing this motion to the chamber to establish a select committee to inquire into and report on public and active transport. To be honest, being from a scientific background, the use of the term 'active transport' originally brought up horrific memories of university lecture theatres, learning about molecular movement across cell membranes. However, luckily for me, this is not the meaning of the term 'active transport' in this context.

Active transport is an important mode of transport. I think we would all like to see more of our community embrace active transport and just being generally active in some way, in a regular way. A good way to achieve this is walking or cycling to work. Active transport and public transport are complementary, with the majority of public transport journeys involving walking or cycling to some extent.

We all know that public transport plays an important role in minimising the costs of congestion and maximising economic productivity in our state. In fact, according to the Tourism & Transport Forum, the economic benefits of public transport are significant and include the effective connection of wealth and labour to the marketplace, removal of productivity bottlenecks and maximising opportunities for individuals, business and government to increase income and asset value.

A national study of transportation costs revealed that the average commuter working in a CBD in one of Australia's major cities could save more than $5,490 per year by leaving the car at home and commuting to work on public transport five days a week. Indeed, the International Association of Public Transport argue that public transport costs less to the community, needs less urban space, is less energy intensive, pollutes less, is the safest mode, improves accessibility to jobs and offers mobility for all.

In regard to our regions, we know that regular route services operate across regional South Australia and link major cities to Adelaide. Services operate in the Barossa Valley, Murray Mallee, Mid North, Upper North, Riverland, Eyre, South-East and Fleurieu regions. Dial-a-ride door-to-door services can supplement regular timetabled services in our regions and can be more flexible for these communities; however, dial-a-ride door-to-door service patronage, which is operating in some regional areas, has continued to decrease by an average of 5.7 per cent per year.

This decline has been attributed to an increase in online services such as banking and shopping, as well as more people generally choosing to use their cars rather than travelling long distances on the buses. I think a conversation around declining use of public transport in our regions is important in the context of this committee going forward.

In closing, the Liberal Party supports a transport system that enhances positive community health and wellbeing outcomes as well as the greater environmental benefits that may come with increased public and active transport usage. We, the Liberal Party, acknowledge the need for future transport planning in addition to studies in order to produce robust travel demand forecasts, including looking at the scale and distribution of population, upgrades to the transport network, as well as the cost of parking, public transport fares and fuel costs. We are looking forward to participating in the Hon. Mr Simms' committee and hearing contributions from relevant stakeholders and members of the community on this important matter.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO (16:46): I rise on behalf of SA-Best in support of the motion from the Hon. Robert Simms to establish a select committee into public and active transport. Going by the terms of reference, this will be a wideranging inquiry encompassing a number of key areas of public transport both in the metropolitan area and in the regions, as well as active transport such as cycling, as well as any impact climate change can have. From it, hopefully the committee will have recommendations that may provide answers and remedies and an insight into the patronage of public transport, particularly as we begin the transition from the dark days of COVID restrictions.

It will be interesting to see updated data on usage of our buses, trains and trams and what the government intends on doing to encourage more people to leave their cars at home and hop onto public transport. I expect we will see an increase because of the high costs of fuel coupled with a worrying spike in the cost of living, from groceries through to electricity and interest rates. However, I have yet to see in recent times a concerted and effective advertising campaign emanating from the government and its agencies to encourage more people to use public transport.

It was commendable to see the Malinauskas government commit to a policy that both the Greens and SA-Best pushed strongly before and during the recent elections, which will enable concession cardholders unlimited free access to public transport. I am unsure as to whether this has been implemented as yet, but we await the announcement, probably from the Treasurer tomorrow.

This inquiry will no doubt look at the de-privatisation of our train and tram services and what costs will need to be borne by taxpayers in the government's promise to rip up its contract with Keolis Downer. I note that the minister, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, has also flagged he will be looking at the deal involving buses.

There are a couple of areas I have taken an interest in that will be covered by this select committee: firstly, e-scooters. While we accept that this cheap form of transportation is here to stay and we will see more of them clogging our footpaths, neither the government nor any local government area that has sanctioned their use has turned their attention to regulating them and considered the safety of others, such as pedestrians and disabled persons.

I am still seeing e-scooters dumped at pedestrian crossings, creating an unnecessary hazard and a hindrance to pedestrians, particularly those with visual impairment. I am hoping that this committee can come up with solutions to control numbers, where they are parked, and where they are used. We need to remember that under the current regulations, approved by the previous Marshall government, e-scooters are labelled as powered motor vehicles. The speed these vehicles can reach must be governed. I have ridden one and hit a speed of 25 km/h.

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: Pretty good; it will get me on the front row of the grid!

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: Yes, I was on the footpath and I was wearing a helmet. But of course that is where these contraptions are able to travel. If I struck a pedestrian at that speed I could cause them serious harm, even death. I have had many constituents come to see me about being hit or injured by riders or tripping over them. The companies operating them have inadequate liability insurance cover, which enables them to slither through compensation claims. In one recent case a claim was rejected because the rider was under-age and smoking.

Another elderly constituent had tripped over a discarded e-scooter on the corner of King William and Hindley streets and suffered serious leg injuries. The pensioner was unable to access any video footage of the incident because Adelaide City Council conveniently buck-passed her request to SA Police, which said they do not keep footage after 30 days. I find that puzzling and worrying in these days of heightened security concerns.

You would think 90 days would be the minimum to retain footage in the city. The pensioner, unfortunately, is unable to seek any compensation for her injuries. So proper regulation of hire e-scooters, and whether privately owned e-scooters should be allowed on public roads and footpaths, must be a consideration for this committee.

I am also moving an amendment to include looking at whether there is an urgent need to resuscitate the state's moribund rail network. Members in this place would know that I am a strong advocate, quite passionate, for rail transport, particularly in our regions and also in the Adelaide Hills. Labor and the Liberals in this state, over decades, have totally abandoned our system of regional rail lines, which could easily be used for freight and the reintroduction of passenger services.

Talk to many in our regions, as I did during the election campaign, and they strongly support an expansion of freight rail services and would also welcome limited passenger services, because bus services from regional towns are too infrequent and restrictive, especially for seniors who are unable to drive between towns or the city. I constantly shake my head in bewilderment and frustration when politicians, from both the major parties in this state, are so dismissive of the enormous economic and social benefits of utilising rail.

For decades, the road freight industry has been heavily subsidised through various tax breaks, to the detriment of rail. Our regional roads have not been maintained to a high standard to cope with increased heavy vehicle traffic, yet a regional rail network has been allowed to fall into disrepair by governments who simply refuse to exercise terms of contracts they signed with rail operators. South Australia is a laughing-stock of the world when it comes to its rolling stock capability. Rail is one of the bedrocks of First World, and even Third World, economies. It moves people and freight quickly and efficiently over long distances.

During tough economic times, when fuel prices are through the roof, rail can and does provide a valuable solution, but not in South Australia. Elsewhere in this country there are major rail projects in progress. A small state like Victoria has one of the best regional networks in the world and its Labor government is committing billions of dollars to upgrade it. We could not even get the previous Marshall government to contribute funding to keep the Overland rolling in from Melbourne—the Victorians had to chip in.

The Marshall government would not even entertain supporting the tourist train venture in our acclaimed Barossa Valley that was put up by Chateau Tanunda's entrepreneurial operator, John Geber. Mr Geber was not after money, he just wanted the then government to commit a nominal amount to fix its own dilapidated rail line in the region, which should have been maintained by the licence holder.

When Mr Geber spoke out, the former government responded by cutting the existing rail line between Tanunda and Nuriootpa and installing a massive, ugly roundabout. Talk about being short-sighted. You only need to travel to California's Napa Valley to see them reaping the enormous benefits of a tourist rail journey through their vineyards. I hope this Labor government takes another look.

The current government also now seems to be hedging its bets on a passenger rail service from Mount Barker into the city when there appear to be viable options on the table. Going by the mixed signals over recent days, I am starting to get an uneasy gut feeling about exactly what is going to happen with the next stage of the Torrens to Darlington north-south corridor project.

As I pointed out before the election, there are other economically sound options put up by a former Department of Transport major projects engineer, the respected Luigi Rossi, who can shave up to a billion dollars from the almost $10 billion cost of tunnels and overhead roadways. The current minister, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, is not convinced by Mr Rossi's sensible proposal for the section between Anzac Highway and Daws/Oaklands roads that are mainly industrial and business premises.

One aspect that has conveniently been ignored, of having four or five kilometres of tunnels in the project, is that Hazchem vehicles, like fuel and chemical transport, or emergency service appliances, are banned from using tunnels. Mr Rossi's proposal eliminates that by incorporating an overhead roadway, saving the need for compulsory acquisition of properties or having to relocate affected businesses elsewhere.

As this is a significant infrastructure project, I note that it does fall within the guidelines of this committee's scope. I look forward to participating on the committee and commend the motion to the chamber.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Pangallo, just before you sit down would you like to formally move the amendment standing in your name.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: I move:

Paragraph 1 subparagraph (a):

After subparagraph (iii) insert:

(iv) reactivation of passenger and freight rail lines in regional South Australia.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (16:59): The purpose of a select committee is to examine a specific issue and then such a committee subsequently disbands. The view of the government is that the proposed select committee does not focus on a discretely defined issue and nor does it focus on a specific topic. Arguably, it may relate to any of the following topics or more: trains; buses; taxis; access cabs; rideshares, such as Uber; e-scooters, as the Hon. Mr Pangallo referred to; cyclist safety and/or pedestrian safety.

Furthermore, the issues in which it proposes to inquire may relate to matters of policy, infrastructure, climate change, or otherwise, which further broadens the scope of the proposed select committee. A select committee should be focused and, as such, this motion is opposed.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:00): I am quite baffled to hear that the government are opposed to this. That is the first I have heard of it. It would have been—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: —appropriate, I think, to have advised me of that prior to this being discussed. I will be bringing it to a vote, as indicated, and I will be seeking a division. It is pretty shocking, a day after supporting the declaration of a climate emergency, that the Labor government would seek to oppose establishing a committee to look at active transport and to look at public transport and the role of government in trying to encourage those things.

I find it extraordinary that the Labor Party would seek to do that and would break what I consider to be a convention in this place, that is, that members wanting to establish select committees have the opportunity to do so, within reason. It is pretty extraordinary that a committee such as this would be opposed and pretty extraordinary that no-one in the government had the courtesy to advise the mover of their position. It is a very disappointing turn of events and a very bad omen for how things might operate in this chamber, I suggest.

From my perspective, this is a really important inquiry. We have seen public transport infrastructure neglected over many terms of parliament and by governments of a range of persuasions, but we also have not seen an appropriate focus on active transport. We have not seen an examination of policies looking at what we can do to encourage walking, what we can do to encourage cycling. We know that is really important because motor vehicles are one of the most significant sources of carbon emissions in our state. If we are serious about reducing carbon emissions, we need to look at alternative transport options.

This inquiry is simply going to come up with some suggestions and ideas and recommendations to government. I hope that this parliament will vote to establish such an important committee.

Amendment carried; motion as amended carried.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:03): I move:

That the select committee consist of the Hon. J.E. Hanson, the Hon. D.G.E. Hood, the Hon. T.T. Ngo, the Hon. F. Pangallo and the mover.

Motion carried.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:

That the select committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place and to report on 30 November 2022.

Motion carried.