My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Transport Infrastructure. The action that I seek is for the minister to visit my electorate and meet with local residents, as soon as is practically permitted under public health directives, for the purpose of answering questions from residents about the proposed construction of the Suburban Rail Loop (SRL) and its likely impact on the suburbs of my community.
As far back as March 2019 I lodged a series of questions with the minister, seeking information about the specific location of SRL sites within the broader Cheltenham area.
Sadly, and in keeping with the kinds of response that I have come to expect from the minister, my very genuine inquiries were met with spin and not a modicum of useful information.
Fast-forward 18 months and I am advised that the state government has now commenced consultation processes with local government authorities.
In spite of what the minister wrongly assumed in her published response of 9 May 2019, the Liberal Party is not opposed to this project.
How can we conclusively oppose or support something about which we have been told almost nothing?
We on this side of the house are unaware of any environmental impact study or business study having yet been carried out.
The government already appears to be putting the optics of this project over due diligence; let me clearly state that the SRL must not come at the expense of my community’s pristine open spaces, and if it is to be funded by this government’s record volume of debt—a debt that our children and grandchildren will be paying long into the decades to come—it must have a clear and gaugeable economic dividend.
This lack of information begs the question: is the minister yet to give any regard to the residents whose livelihoods, amenities, costs of living and very homes are all at risk of being swept away by a project about which they have had no say and have received little if any information?
It’s my role as a local member to be a voice for local residents. But to be an effective voice it’s also vitally important that I take the time to listen.
To this end I had the pleasure of joining with opposition transport spokesperson, David Davis, in an online town hall meeting with local residents just a few weeks ago.
In our conversations with residents it was made manifestly clear that many of those in attendance hold real and considerable concerns about the form that this project will look like. They don’t want grand statements—they just want the minister responsible for this project to show that she has even the slightest degree of regard for their uncertainty and a preparedness to give them the answers that they seek.
I am not asking for much. At this point I’m not even asking for the plans to be substantively changed. I’m simply asking for the minister to explain to the good residents of Cheltenham and Pennydale—those most likely to be affected by any SRL activities—what they can expect in a future that is already full of so much uncertainty.