Legislative Council: Wednesday, October 18, 2023



World Car-Free Day

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:00): I move:

That this council—

1. Recognises that 22 September is World Car-Free Day.

2. Notes that according to the Department for Environment and Water, transport accounts for 28 per cent of South Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, the highest for any sector in the state.

3. Notes with concern that public transport use has declined by 13 per cent since July 2019.

4. Acknowledges that reducing car use has many benefits including:

(a) reduced greenhouse gas emissions;

(b) improved air quality;

(c) increased beneficial health and wellbeing outcomes; and

(d) reduced traffic congestion.

5. Calls on the Malinauskas government to implement the recommendations from the report of the Select Committee on Public and Active Transport by:

(a) increasing the frequency of bus services, simplifying concessions, and improving connectivity;

(b) trialling of passenger rail services from Mount Barker to Adelaide and incentivising passenger rail between Adelaide and Melbourne;

(c) trialling separated bike infrastructure and traffic calming measures, including speed limit restrictions;

(d) commencing planning for a statewide, integrated separated cycling network;

(e) development of a statewide strategic transport network plan;

(f) promotion of alternatives to car travel to reduce carbon emissions; and

(g) legislating to enable the use of privately owned e-scooters and other e-personal mobility devices in public spaces.

This motion recognises that 22 September was World Car-Free Day. It is an annual event held every year on 22 September and it involves cities around the globe coming together to celebrate World Car-Free Day and encouraging motorists to leave their car at home for the day.

I do not intend to speak for very long on this motion, as I know we have a few things to get through, but I do want to talk about some of the benefits of going car-free. We know, of course, that this reduces air pollution and that the promotion of walking and cycling is good for public and community health. Car-free days provide cities with the opportunity to appreciate how pollution impacts on our everyday lives.

Vehicle emissions are one of the main sources of outdoor air pollution, particularly in our cities, and ambient air pollution alone caused 4.2 million deaths in 2016 according to the World Health Organization. Transport is also the fastest growing source of fossil fuel emissions, the largest contributor to climate change. In fact, in South Australia, transport accounts for 28 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions, the highest for any sector in our state.

Whilst we talk a lot in South Australia about energy policy and the importance of energy policy in combating climate change, we often forget the importance of transport policy and the role that plays in carbon emissions. It is really important that we see government policy begin to remedy that. The exhaust from vehicles emits harmful greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and it is these emissions that pose a significant threat to our environment and to our health.

While the no-car lifestyle is not for everybody, there are lots of good reasons to drive less, including lowering the carbon footprint, reducing road congestion and, of course, reducing the chance of car accidents, not to mention the fact that walking and cycling is really good for general health and wellbeing. By driving less, drivers will also save on expenses such as soaring petrol prices, car insurance and car repairs, and by choosing more active models of transportation such as cycling, walking or using scooters, one increases their activity levels too.

According to the Department for Infrastructure and Transport, almost 81,000 fewer trips were taken on South Australian public transport in July compared with the same period in 2019 pre-COVID. This figure represents a 13 per cent decline in usage. That is concerning for us in the Greens, and that is one of the reasons that we have been calling for free public transport to be made a priority by the Malinauskas government, so that we can provide an incentive for people to use alternatives to car travel.

Members of this place will remember—and I bang on about it quite regularly—that there was a report of the Select Committee on Public and Active Transport handed down in this chamber in February. Six months on, and I am still waiting for an audience with the minister and still waiting for the government to formally respond to the recommendations.

Those recommendations are listed in the motion, so I do not propose to detail them again here, but it is really important that the government take some action to reduce the reliance on cars. It is worth noting that the first car-free day event that was held in Paris, France, in September 2015 was found to reduce exhaust emissions by 40 per cent. So reducing car travel does have a significant impact.

I would like to commend the Adelaide City Council for recognising World Car-Free Day for the first time ever this year. In particular, I note the work of Councillor David Elliott, who is chair of Bike Adelaide and who I understand raised this idea at the council level. It is important, and we do need leadership at all levels of government to get this climate crisis under control.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.