Question without notice
My question is for the Minister for Public Transport.
Constituents in my electorate have been lobbying with passion for more regular rail services between Shepparton and Melbourne.
All Aboard campaigners travelled to Melbourne on 28 May 2015 to meet with the minister, many in their pyjamas, and our region had the highest number of participants attending the public consultations for the Regional Network Development Plan. I ask the minister: when can my constituents expect the inequity that they experience on a daily basis from lack of regional rail services to be addressed?
Ms Allan, Minister for Public Transport
I thank the Independent member for Shepparton for her question. What has been clear from day one in this term of Parliament is that the Independent member for Shepparton has been clearly pressing the case within the ranks of government for better train services for her community — and you can understand why, Speaker. Shepparton is a growing community; it has a growing population. Indeed it is forecast to grow over the next 10 years by about 9 per cent to be an important regional centre of about 141 000 people. It is no surprise then that this is a community that has long sought and desired better regional public transport services, particularly their connections to Melbourne.
In doing a bit of research over the last 16 months — which is during the time that the member for Shepparton has been pushing this case — I have done a bit of a Hansard search. An extensive Hansard search of the four years of the previous Parliament, when the former Liberal-Nationals government was in office, revealed that the government members for Northern Victoria Region in the Council, Wendy Lovell and Damian Drum, not once mentioned the needs, made the case, for extra train services.
I thank the Independent member for Shepparton for her question. I remember well the meeting with the All Aboard group members, not just for the fact that they were in their pyjamas but also because they got up early. They had a strong local campaign, and they sent the clear message that Shepparton deserves better.
Well, I do understand that the Treasurer and the Premier have also had representations on this issue. The member for Shepparton has made her case very well for improved public transport services. She has certainly had a sympathetic hearing and has made her case very well for the need for better public transport services for the Shepparton community. Obviously I cannot reveal what is in the budget — it is only a few short minutes away but what I can say in my answer to the Independent member for Shepparton is that she and the Shepparton community will not have to wait too much longer. They will not have to wait too much longer to see a short-term improvement in services for the Shepparton community and a longer term plan to rebuild and reinvest in a better, stronger regional public transport network.
I ask the minister: when can we expect the release of the Regional Network Development Plan, and will it deliver for a region such as mine the long-term and transforming outcomes that have clearly been delivered in other areas, such as Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong and the Latrobe Valley?
I thank the Independent member for Shepparton for her supplementary question. I do say in my answer that whilst the Shepparton community will not have to wait too much longer for additional services, there is just a little bit longer beyond that for the release of the Regional Network Development Plan. That will be released in the coming weeks, and quite rightly it will outline the longer term vision and plan for building a better, stronger regional public transport network.
Sadly, over the four years under the former government $120 million — $120 million! — was cut out of the V/Line budget. At the exact time when V/Line needed to be supported with more services, those opposite cut into regional public transport. We reject this approach.
We take a very different approach. It will be backed up by more services, and it will be backed up with a longer term plan that will very shortly be released.