The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton, today welcomed the Newcastle Herald’s announcement that it is commissioning an independent public transport study for the Hunter.
“Provided this turns out to be a genuinely independent study, which gives priority to the public interest over powerful vested interests, it could provide the necessary circuit-breaker out of the current paralysis in sensible public transport policy in the Hunter,” Mr Sutton said.
“I congratulate the Newcastle Herald for taking this initiative, and stepping in where the state government has so clearly failed to act in the public interest.
“The discussion paper for the study (available on the Herald website) provides a generally sound outline of the current state of public transport in the Hunter, and the range of challenges that we face.
“Given the Newcastle Herald’s own previous strong support for the anti-rail campaign by vested interests in Newcastle, the credibility of this study will depend on the extent to which it remains genuinely independent,” Mr Sutton said.
“As things currently stand, the advisory panel for the study appears to include enough members with a record of genuine commitment to sustainable public transport to provide the basis for optimism about the study’s independence and integrity.
“The fact that this study will be modelled on a similar highly successful initiative by the Sydney Morning Herald is also very encouraging.
“One unfortunate and significant omission from the Herald discussion paper (and associated terms of reference for the study) is the lack of any clear set of principles or criteria against which ideas and proposals for improving public transport will be evaluated.
“The discussion paper doesn’t mention the extent to which public transport planning and decisions should be based on social equity or ecological sustainability considerations, and doesn’t refer to key public policy challenges for transport planning, such as climate change and peak oil.
“It’s important that a study such as this is clear and transparent about the principles upon which its public policy approach is based, and I hope this deficiency is addressed at an early stage in the study process,” Mr Sutton said.
“The Greens have already identified public transport as a key local state election campaign issue, and we strongly endorse the Herald’s discussion paper’s recognition of the urgency and importance of addressing this issue and of the need to shift from private motor vehicle use to public transport, and its support for a major boost in spending on public transport in the Hunter.
“The Herald initiative offers an excellent opportunity for the community to come together to formulate a public transport plan that has a realistic chance of achieving major funding from Infrastructure Australia, and I strongly encourage the Newcastle community to engage in this process in good faith, and with the best interests of the community at heart,” Mr Sutton said.
For further information or comment, please contact John Sutton (Greens candidate for Newcastle), on 4969 2668 or 0411 154 004.