ACT News


ACT Labor robo-polls on light rail

ACT Labor has been robo-polling Canberrans on light rail a week before the territory budget.

It comes as a high-ranking planner says the costs of relocating underground pipes and wires for the Capital Metro project along Northbourne Avenue "are very very significant".

ACT Labor branch secretary Elias Hallaj said he commissioned the poll to efficiently measure the Canberra community's support for issues such as walk-in nurse clinics, fairer school funding and light rail. 

"All parties and media outlets conduct research from time to time as part of their normal work," Mr Hallaj said.

"This polling is still incomplete. I expect to be able to compare the results to previous election results and surveys which are also a snapshot of support at the federal and local level."

A spokesman for Treasurer Andrew Barr said the ACT budget would contain funding to progress the project to "investment ready status".


The government has committed to start building the $614 million Capital Metro Gungahlin to Civic line by 2016 – part of the agreement with balance of power Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury.

Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson, who had spoken to people who had done the survey, called it a "push poll", inferring Labor was trying to dictate the answers.

"This seems to me to be a dodgy attempt to influence the Canberra community to support Labor’s light rail plans," he said.

"It won’t work because Canberrans are smarter than that and understand that light rail is not affordable and should not proceed.

“I again call on Katy Gallagher to stop the light rail project and tell her party not to conduct push polling on such an important issue to our community.

"If Katy Gallagher denies this was a push poll, she should explain why on earth she is polling on a project the government has repeatedly committed to deliver. It doesn’t make sense."

In a Senate Estimates hearing on Tuesday, Liberal senators suggested the cost of relocating underground wires and pipes along Northbourne Avenue would make the project financially prohibitive.

National Capital Authority chief planner Andrew Smith could not comment on this but said the costs of doing this "are very very significant".

NCA chief executive Malcolm Snow said the Capital Metro project must respect Northbourne Avenue as a major boulevard of national significance to win the approval of his organisation.

Mr Snow, who said trees added complexity to putting a light rail line down Northbourne Avenue, also said "trams and trees are not completely incompatible".

Earlier this week the Canberra Liberals released figures showing light rail would cost billions of dollars if rolled out across Canberra.

It is believed ACT Labor's automated poll earlier this week asked people about light rail "across Canberra".

The opposition's calculations said building a light rail network across 17 Canberra routes would cost $10.9 billion if it was the same per-kilometre price to build as the system on the Gold Coast.

The Canberra Liberals have released the numbers in an attempt to start a debate about what it says is the government's needless commitment to light rail at a time of significant budgetary challenges for the ACT.


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