Thank you, Acting Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on this bill.
The Melbourne and Olympic Parks Amendment Bill 2016 sets out the purpose of the bill, which is to amend the act to provide for the reservation of a strata of land as National Tennis Centre land for the purposes of a bridge across Batman Avenue.
The Melbourne and Olympic Parks precinct is an amazing place. It has absolutely amazing things happening there, and I just printed out some of the events that occur there over a period of time: concerts, sporting events, The Wiggles shows for children, shows for families and other wonderful events. It has an extensive range of other things that take place there: the Australian Open Tennis Championships grand slam, international and national rugby, football, rugby league, netball and basketball, as well as many high-profile concerts and shows.
It has some incredible facilities too. Melbourne Park alone has Rod Laver Arena, Hisense Arena, National Tennis Centre, Melbourne Park Function Centre, Margaret Court Arena and two show courts. It has cafes, 19 outdoor tennis courts, 6 indoor tennis courts, a major oval, the Tennis Australia administration and Tennis World. Olympic Park has AAMI Park, Westpac Centre, Olympic Park Oval and Gosch’s Paddock training fields. There is excellent public transport that adjoins Melbourne and Olympic parks.
Regional people also like to access these amazing facilities and events. Many are in a position to access them, and they do enjoy it, but they do not have the opportunity of doing so by using public transport if they live in my electorate. For too long the Shepparton railway line has suffered from underinvestment, while we have watched Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong and Traralgon enjoy the benefits of more than 20 services a day. Our wider catchment is equal to that of Bendigo, so we wonder why we cannot have the sort of investment in rail they have enjoyed. We cannot even claim to have the services other regional cities enjoy. This seriously impacts on people in my electorate in terms of people being able to come to Melbourne and enjoy the entertainment they might choose to have access to — and it is world-class entertainment that happens in Melbourne. It is a fantastic place with fantastic facilities, and regional people want to enjoy those as well.
We want the government to invest in the necessary work at Murchison so that trains can pass each other, we want them to invest in stabling at Shepparton so that two trains can stay there overnight and we need a protective services officer on the railway station at Seymour, and all of this work is actually achievable. I am pleased to say that as a result of our All Aboard campaign, which has been under way for some time, we have been getting some traction on this and some movement. In the last budget the government has agreed to add one more train service to and from Shepparton each day, but that only takes us to five trains to Melbourne and four home. That makes us a pretty poor relation relative to those other major regional towns I have mentioned.
We are consulting at the moment with the community about the sorts of train services we would like to have and the timetabling, and I am quite confident that the people of my electorate will be very keen to have a late-night train coming home on Saturday night. So many people love going to the football. There are a couple of trains that go down during the course of the day, but the only train home is at 6.32 on Saturday evening; that is pretty early. There are so many things on on Saturday nights that people cannot access — for example, enjoying the night out. They may even like to have a few drinks and come home by train. It is something that is not there and not available at the moment.
I remember during the Commonwealth Games back in 2007 I had the benefit of being able to go to that event, and it was terrific. During the course of the games I took the train to Melbourne on a couple of occasions, and our train to Shepparton had standing room only — can you believe it? People want to go to these fabulous events and cannot access them locally. Families were standing in corridors, in doorways, because they were so passionate about getting there and being able to take their families to see those fantastic events.
I am therefore confident that when the government invests in these changes our Shepparton community will use the train much more. I believe that in Bendigo, when it had the poor services we currently have, not many people used to train. They used alternative ways of getting there, or they simply did not go. But once the excellent train services were delivered to that community, the patronage increased amazingly, and that is what we expect will happen.
Like Bendigo, Shepparton has the opportunity to expand in so many ways. We have the University of Melbourne’s rural medical school located there, in the Goulburn Valley, next to Goulburn Valley Health. La Trobe University is offering an expanded range of courses next year, and we have the GOTAFE college there. With good rail services we would expect people to travel into Shepparton. We know that in Bendigo, 10 per cent more people are now travelling into it than leave it each day. So it is not just to get to Melbourne; good rail services actually bring activity and business into your own town.
When the new Shepparton Art Museum receives the remaining $10 million of funding it has been promised by the federal government we expect to see the commencement of the building of an iconic building on the lake in Shepparton which will be a multipurpose art museum, art gallery and function centre, with cafes, which will be truly beautiful. People will want to come to Shepparton to see those things; we will actually have something — along with other things we currently have — to offer people. The availability of public transport in a two-way motion will bring great benefits to our town.
It may seem that my argument here is that we need better public transport just to access Melbourne, and that is a very strong part of it because there are events that happen in Melbourne that will never happen in the country, as they are world-class events that can only happen in a big city. Nevertheless, regional Victoria is a truly beautiful place. There are many reasons why you would travel to regional Victoria, and there are many reasons why you would seek to travel to my electorate. So while I commend this bill and the fact that there is going to be a fabulous new bridge across the Yarra, I would like to draw to the government’s attention that it is about access for all to these fabulous places, and by having better public transport and better train services the people of my electorate will be able to have that.