Jo Haylen MP
Pandemics have a way of focusing our minds on the future. In the 1480s, while the plague ravaged Europe, Leonardo da Vinci put forward the plan of an ideal city. Here in present day NSW, Andrew Constance and the Liberals haven’t been as constructive.
The pandemic has exposed long- standing inequality across Sydney, with Western and South-Western Sydney left behind and further marginalised. Our regions are too often an after-thought.
We’ve been forced further apart than we ever thought possible, but also come to a greater awareness of what we value in our cities and towns.
We want our communities to be more efficient, more equitable, to offer more opportunity and to be better connected to each other and to the wider world.
For some, public transport has been less of a priority of late, the daily commute replaced with the shuffle from kitchen to make-shift home office. And for many who can’t work from home, especially essential workers heading to our hospitals, schools and depots, what was once a routine trip to and from work has become much more complicated.
But for all of us - whether we are still commuting or working from home - reimagining and upgrading our public transport network is one of the things we can do to build a better, more equal, more efficient and more connected society.
Public transport should be affordable, dependable and safe. It should also embrace innovation and drive our progress towards action on climate change and towards a clean energy future.
We need to be bold in building the infrastructure our city needs to make sure everyone has access to transport. The goal of a 30 minute city is an admirable one, but still, far too many people in the greater Sydney Region do not have access to public transport.
The goal of electrifying our buses and ferries is also a good one, but behind the Government’s announcements, the truth is there is little money to get it done.
Similarly, turbocharging investment in electric vehicles is the right thing to do. By 2030, three quarters of all new car sales need to be electric vehicles if we are to achieve net zero emissions in Australia by 2035. But where is the plan to back in local manufacturers of charging infrastructure, battery manufacturing and refurbishment, software development and to upskill mechanics and other automotive workers?
In 2020, cycling rates rose by around 40% as people turned to active transport and micro-mobility. But at the same time, the Government has stopped talking about its Principal Bike Network and said that they were “not in the mood” for trialling electric scooters.
The pandemic has exposed many truths: One of them is that the NSW Government is asleep at the wheel in planning better transport for our future.
A Labor vision for our future transport is one rooted in public ownership and one that acknowledges the value and skills of our workers. We must build our ferries, trains, trams and buses here.
Jo Haylen is the NSW Shadow Minister for Transport.