The Canberra Times

Why the Canberra Liberals are seeking to stop the tram

Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee MLA, outlines her priorities for Canberra and how money for the tram project could be better spent. Picture supplied
Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee MLA, outlines her priorities for Canberra and how money for the tram project could be better spent. Picture supplied

This is branded content for Canberra Liberals.

Canberra is arguably the best city in Australia - if not the world - to raise a family. But what sort of city will our children inherit?

After over 20 years of this Labor-Greens government, our health system is suffering a workforce shortage crisis, the longest wait times in the country, facilities that are decades old and critical health projects that are years late in delivery.

After over 20 years of this Labor-Greens government, education standards have fallen, our teachers are crying out for support from a minister that closed 23 schools - schools shut down because of bullying, violence, and hazardous materials.

After over 20 years of this Labor-Greens government, young people cannot afford the dream of buying their own home because the government restricts land supply, whilst rents are the highest in the country.

This Labor-Greens government has cut funding for teachers over the last decade; delivered the worst hospital waiting times in the country; and left our police with the smallest frontline workforce per capita of any state or territory.

What is increasingly clear is that under this government much needed funding has been diverted from these essential services to pay for an overpriced and outdated tram.

Despite the spin from the Chief Minister, the government cannot afford to do it all. It hasn't been able to for the last 20 years, so why would it be able to now?

Since Andrew Barr has been Chief Minister and Treasurer, his government has ripped millions out of hospitals, schools, public housing, and policing to help pay for the tram.

In this year's federal budget, the Albanese Labor government - in collusion with the ACT Labor-Greens government - diverted $86 million in federal funding for road projects to help pay for the tram.

The tram has long had its critics.

The Chief Minister's own Directorate, Infrastructure Australia and the Grattan Institute have all issued reports over the years saying the economics for the project simply do not stack up.

The ACT Auditor-General found the costs of stage 2A may have been underestimated and its economic benefits overstated.

The estimated cost for the entire project - launched a decade ago - was $14 billion, over three times the entire ACT budget at that time. This estimate was before the world was hit with supply chain challenges and chronic skills shortages. Stage 2 alone from Civic to Woden has been estimated to be over $3 billion.

To put those numbers in perspective, the cost of Stage 2 is the equivalent of building five hospitals or 20 new schools.

But it's not just about the money.

The cost to our city landscape as we know it will be significant; there is no possible way to build Stage 2 without putting high-rises on every available inch of Adelaide Avenue - the same developments now lining Northbourne Avenue.

Public transport technology has also come a long way in the last 10 years. Electric buses are being used in cities around the world, offering faster, cheaper, and cleaner alternatives to the tram.

As we watch our families grow, we need to ask - what is best for Canberra families? World class health and education facilities, or a tram? Support for our teachers, nurses and police, or a tram? Much needed road upgrades, or a tram? Cleaner, more accessible public transport of the future, or a tram? Affordable housing, or a tram?

The answer is clear.

There is a chance to stop this.

One last chance.

Contracts for Stage 2B have not been signed, and it would be against every procurement principle to do so for a project that is not due to commence for years.

Canberra is at a crossroads. Canberrans have a chance to reimagine the future of their city; a future where our nurses, teachers, essential government services and our children's needs come first. A future with bold, fresh infrastructure projects that prioritise the economic and social benefits for Canberra.

That is the future the Canberra Liberals see, and that is why they will stop the tram.

Elizabeth Lee MLA, Canberra Liberals Leader

This is branded content for Canberra Liberals.