Monday, March 30, 2009

Senate inquiry into Commonwealth funding for public transport

I attended a public hearing today in Melbourne (Monday 30/3/09) of the "Inquiry into the investment of Commonwealth and State funds in public passenger transport infrastructure and services"

Senate inquiry public hearing in Melbourne on Monday 30/3/09

This first ever national inquiry into public transport was initiated by Greens for WA Senator Scott Ludlum and is being conducted by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Senate Committee.

The inquiry is covering:
  • Assessment of direct federal government funding for public transport infrastructure
  • Assessment of the benefits of public passenger transport, including integration with bicycle and pedestrian initiatives
  • Lack of useful public transport for many people in middle and outer areas of Melbourne and Victorian towns.
  • An audit of of Commonwealth and State funds in public passenger transport infrastructure and services
  • Measures by which the Commonwealth Government could facilitate improvement in public passenger transport services and infrastructure
  • The role of Commonwealth Government legislation, taxation, subsidies, policies and other mechanisms that either discourage or encourage public passenger transport (including perverse FBT incentives for people to drive their 'business" cars more).
  • Best practice international examples of public passenger transport services and infrastructure.
As Melbourne's population grows and the challenges of climate change and oil scarcity become more pressing, it's clear that the city will be disadvantaged without a massive injection of funding into mass public transit now. The chaos commuters experienced during the heatwaves early this year, may only be the tip of the iceberg.

I listened to the Victorian Government submission today and was surprised to hear that they think the two mega rail projects in the Victorian Transport Plan (the $4b Regional Rail Link for a new track from West Werribee to Southern Cross Station and the $4.5 billion Melbourne Metro – a new rail tunnel between the city’s west and east) are the highest priority public transport projects. They also claimed that long promised by never delivered rail lines to Donvale and Rowville could not be built due to "lack of core capacity" with the current rail network. I certainly do not believe they have presented sufficient evidence to justify these claims.

Taking public transport is a critical climate-friendly means of travel and reduces our reliance on the cars that are choking Melbourne. But you cannot user it if is not there.

I spoke with Senator Ludlum after the hearing; he informed me that submissions can still be made to this inquiry - at least up until this Friday (3/4/09).

If you have time, please write a submission about the need for federal funding for improved public transport, and for better integration with bicycle and pedestrian initiatives.

The Committee prefers to receive submissions electronically as an attached document - email:

External links

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Railway easments for bike paths

The Brumby government's Victorian Cycling Strategy is welcome though long overdue. $115 million might sound like a lot of money, but this is less about one quarter the cost of the interchange between Eastlink and the Monash Freeway.

While several good initiatives are listed, it is disappointing that the plan does not provide for many safe and convenient cycle routes outside of the 10km radius that would be used by commuters, for local trips and for family outings on weekends.

The opportunity of using existing rail easements that could accommodate bike paths throughout Melbourne has been largely overlooked. For example, a good bike path route could be constructed along much of the railway easement from Box Hill to the Yarra via Camberwell and Hawthorn where it would connect with the Capital City trail and upgraded inner city bike paths. Thousands of people would use such a path if was available.

Possible Eastern rail trail route

Many people don't feel safe cycling with only a line of paint between them and cars on busy roads. Dedicated and direct bike paths across Melbourne are required to really mainstream cycling as a safe, legitimate and climate friendly transport mode.

I cycle a lot, and use bike paths to avoid cars when I commute. The huge increase in numbers cycling has now stretched the ad hoc "recreational meandering bike path" approach past its safe limits.

What we need in Victoria is:
  • Dedicated bike paths - either as Copenhagen style lanes or dedicated paths free from cars
  • Designated commuter paths should not allow pedestrians. Bikes travelling at 30 km/h do not safely mix with walkers. Unfortunately nearly all bike paths are designated by default as pedestrian too. Existing paths such as Gardiner's Creek are now too narrow for the several thousand cyclists that use them every day.
  • A minister for cycling. Responsibility is currently shared in and unclear way between the Roads Minister (Tim Pallas), the Public Transport Minister (Lyn Kosky). The Health Minister (Bronwyn Bishop) and the Environment Minister (Gavan Jennings) both have an interest too. Bike paths that cross local council boundaries are often problematic. There is no minister clearly accountable for all cycling, including all bike paths and lanes, racing, commuting and recreational riding.
  • More funding. Serious cycling infrastructure would require more than $50 million per year for at lease 10 years. Drip feed funding just doesn't deliver.
External links

Monday, March 23, 2009

The CPRS kills carbon neutrality

Further to the good work of Richard Dennis from The Australia Institute which has highlighted that the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is in fact a Reallocation scheme, it has now emerged that the CPRS is also greatly impacting local government across Australia in their efforts to go carbon neutral.

Local government has in fact led the way on climate change, with several already announcing plans and commitments to go carbon neutral, and many others seriously considering doing so too.

Unfortunately, the CPRS has created doubts and confusion about what carbon neutrality means at Local Government level.

Greenhouse Friendly abatement credits obtained to date (voluntary scheme) will be not be valid under the CPRS.

Under the CPRS, entities offsetting and or reducing emissions will no longer be able to claim carbon neutrality as their emissions are reallocated and the link between entity emission reductions and aggregate emissions will be broken.

For example, from: Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme — Implications for Greenhouse Friendly™

Introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (the Scheme) has implications for Greenhouse Friendly™. The Scheme will impact on the types of abatement that can be provided and the issue of carbon neutrality.

The Scheme will have broad sectoral coverage, which means that from 2010, there will be less scope to pursue offset activities with offsets limited to emissions sources uncovered by the Scheme. In the lead up to the Scheme, companies could be taking action to reduce their emissions based on the expectation of a future carbon price. Therefore it will become increasingly difficult to demonstrate the additionality of abatement projects. Further, Greenhouse Friendly™ abatement credits will not be fungible into the Scheme.
National Carbon Offset Standard

The Government has made a commitment to develop a national standard for carbon offsets to provide national consistency and give consumers confidence in the voluntary carbon offset market. The offset standard will provide guidance on what constitutes a genuine, additional voluntary offset credit, as well as setting requirements for the verification and retirement of such credits, and standards for calculating the emissions of a product or service.

The Department of Climate Change released a discussion paper on the National Carbon Offset Standard on 19 December 2008 for public consultation. The Department is currently conducting public consultations.

Please note that the Greenhouse Friendly™ Guidelines and other publications are yet to be revised in accordance with this announcement.

You can download the discussion paper [here] (PDF)

From this discussion paper:

2.2 Implications for carbon neutrality
From a consumer’s point of view, the environmental credibility of carbon neutrality comes from the fact that offsetting means an entity’s activities do not increase aggregate emissions and therefore help to mitigate climate change. As described above, the effect of a cap on emissions from covered sources is to break the link between individual voluntary action and aggregate emissions.

The Municipal Association of Victoria (representing local governments) has already made this submission concerning the discussion paper [link] (PDF)

The MAV has also provided this briefing to their members [link] (PDF)

So in addition to the CPRS (if legislated) doing nothing to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, it will effectively prevent local and state governments reducing their emissions too.

External links

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Clean green jobs or protection for polluters?

This post was published as a letter to the editor in The Age on 13 March 2009.

Peter Batchelor's recent announcement that the Victorian government will be seeking proposals for a solar power station sounds promising, but this potential project is not fully funded yet.

At the same time, Peter Batchelor announced that Victoria's proposed Feed-in Tariff legislation has a net tariff structure with a 3.2kW array size cap.

The stated intention for the Feed-in Tariff is to provide incentives for the installation of domestic solar systems. However, the proposed tariff structure greatly reduces the financial incentives to households, which conflicts with its primary purpose. Why cap something you are trying to encourage?

The government has not provided a valid explanation for their proposed tariff structure. It is at odds with the proven effective gross metered tariffs that Western Australia and the ACT have just implemented, similar to Germany's which has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in their solar sector.

The Brumby government should stop playing politics and get serious about solar and creating jobs for a clean green energy future.

See also