Jeremy Hanson will do ‘everything’ to stop light rail in Canberra
Canberra Times, 20 October 2014
Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson says he will do everything in his power to stop the development of light rail in Canberra, as a new survey shows 59 per cent of participants oppose the planned route to Gungahlin. Mr Hanson wouldn't say if an incoming Liberal government would tear up contracts for the $783-million project, dismissing questions as hypothetical.
The Liberals will seek legal advice on how to block the development, which is expected to be under way by the October 2016 election.
Mr Hanson said he was putting potential bidders for the project on notice, and the contract and progress of construction would be carefully considered.
A total of 40 per cent of participants in the Canberra Times online survey said the issue of light rail would make them more likely to vote Liberal.
"What I would say to any company considering getting involved in light rail is, buyer beware. We would consider that light rail is something that will not be supported by the Canberra population," Mr Hanson said.
"We will do everything within our power legally to stop it."
Mr Hanson said no other infrastructure project faced the same consideration by the opposition, and consortiums thinking of bidding for the project should watch closely the outcome of the poll.
He wouldn't be drawn on what options a new government would have to stop the development, but said a Liberal public transport policy would be released "sometime before the 2016 election".
"We simply couldn't proceed. It would be irresponsible of me … to continue to spend nearly a billion dollars of money on a project the people of Canberra just said they didn't want," Mr Hanson said.
"I hope the Labor and Green government are not so reckless with the ACT taxpayers' money that they write contracts even if the people of the ACT reject light rail.
"[It] is essentially blackmailing and putting a gun to their head to try and force this project to be built."
Nearly 70 per cent of participants in the Canberra Times survey said the development of a 12-kilometre tram line would influence their vote.
Only a quarter would use the tram regularly, at least two or three times a week. More than 60 per cent said they would never use it or use it only once a year.
Mr Hanson said Canberrans remained unconvinced by the government's case for light rail and it was "game on".
"They have formed a view that light rail is not viable, it is too expensive and there are other more important priorities. It is encouraging that the people of Canberra are responding to the evidence, but I'm not surprised," Mr Hanson said.
The survey found that 38 per cent of participants were less likely to vote Green because of light rail; 46 per cent were less likely to vote Labor; and 30 per cent were less likely to vote Liberal.
Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell will release the project's full business case on October 31.
ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said the government did not pick and choose policies based on public support, and the self-selecting survey's methodology should be considered.
"It doesn't accord with the research done by Capital Metro, which was professionally conducted. But it is not something we would dismiss either.
"I accept that the project needs a lot more explaining. We have to continue to talk to people about the benefits of the project."
She said members of the government would continue to sell the project to voters, industry and potential investors.
"It's a very cynical view … to say that we would change our view on this project based on results of a poll in the Canberra Times," Ms Gallagher said.