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30 responses to “Policy talk – Real non-solutions Part I”

  1. Peter Murphy

    It’s one of the strangest prejudices I’ve seen in politics, but Tony Abbott doesn’t seem to like public transport at all:

    In Australia’s biggest cities, public transport is generally slow, expensive, not especially reliable and still hideous drain on the public purse. Part of the problem is inefficient, overmanned, union-dominated government run train and bus systems. Mostly though, …there just aren’t enough people wanting to go from a particular place to a particular destination at a particular time to justify any vehicle larger than a car, and cars need roads.

    He doesn’t want it abolished or anything crazy likes that. He justs insists that there be no federal funding for the thing. That’s why there are no public transport measures listed in “Real Solutions” – even shovel ready stuff like Cross River Rail. He likes bikes, however.

    New roads would provide space for dedicated bus lanes… It should be a standard condition for new roads that they make space for bikes …and new commercial buildings that they have lockers and showers for people who walk or ride to work.

  2. conrad

    He’s right — public transport is expensive on the public purse, and most people not living in convenient locations, which is most people in big Aus cities, would rather take their cars. He just fails to realize that cars are just as bad in terms of cost (quite possibly worse). If he was offering new roads at cost (including for on-street parking), then that seems fair enough, but no-one will win an election offering roads with $20 charges, or whatever the real cost would be.

  3. Peter Murphy

    Robert: strange to see it in Australia. In my experience, people bitch about the quality of public transport, not its existence. I’m used to Conservatives underfunding public transport, but actually opposing it is rare.

    Compare and contrast: Boris Johnson banned drinking alcohol on the Tube, but never banned or eliminated the Tube per se.

  4. BilB

    Nicely put.

    “Well, now Kevin Rudd is Prime Minister again, the media will be able to give up its soap opera/sports team coverage and analyze policy, right”

  5. Iain Hall

    This week I’ve just used public transport for the first time in many years and I’m very glad that I won’t do so again for a long time. I had to take a bus and travel about 8ks with my son, the fare was $10.50 and the ride was horribly bumpy (when you have a chronic pain condition like I do this matters) there was no indication form the driver just where we were on top of that it was horribly slow . It was so bad that the next day I happily paid $32 for parking at the RBH rather than repeat the public transport experience. Is it any wonder that we conservatives and most of the public are are less than keen on public transport?

    In a place like Brisbane where workplaces and houses are dispersed and few people share the destinations they wish to go to Public transport is and will remain a very poor alternative to autonomous personal transport. So lets have more good roads and cars that are both light enough, energy efficient and compact enough to give the traveling public what they want rather than forcing them into using horrible, rough and uncomfortable public transport that they loathe a only use on sufferance.

  6. duncan


    its worth reading the whole page the whole page

  7. duncan


    its worth reading the whole page the whole page from Battlelines where these quotes come from to get some context rather than just quoting selectively.

  8. Katz

    Conservatism must be contextualised.

    A London Tory is a measurably different beast from a Brisbane Tory.

    No one has ever seriously argued in favour of driving freeways through the heart of London. History and culture argue strongly against it. The cutting edge of transport debate is the question of user pays vs cross subsidisation. As it stands, the rest of Britain cross-subsidises the London transport system. Commercial interests in London — archetypal Tory — have won this debate.

    Brisbane Tories, on the other hand, are besotted by the Los Angeles model. This version of modernity is laughably old-fashioned. Not even Angelenos believe in it anymore.

  9. David Irving (no relation)

    With the leadershit settled, I had hoped I would no longer have to listen to fucking Michelle Grattan droning on and on and on about it, and perhaps we could discuss policy instead, but no. She’s at it again this morning, this time about the timing of the next election.

    Kill me now.

  10. Helen

    OMG, I hope you all took the time to click on the link to Tim Dunlop’s article.

    Tony Abbott owes his success almost entirely to the fact that most of the media have given him the easiest of easy rides since he took over as Opposition leader. He has fluffed lines, back-flipped on key issues like a Romanian gymnast, admitted that he lies, run one of the most vitriolic and personally abusive Question Time strategies in living memory, has excused, encouraged and ignored some of the most vile sexist attacks on Julia Gillard, has refused to offer anything like a full suite of properly costed and articulated policies, and yet, despite all this, has been happily labelled by a fawning media as “the most successful opposition leader of all time”.

    Who knows, maybe we will now have a better debate of policy and ideas, even if it is just Kevin Rudd calling Tony Abbott’s bluff for his lack of them. But if that happens, it will not be because, as The Age insists, Julia Gillard is gone.

    It will because media such as The Age will now actually cover such policy rather than ignore it.

    Julia Gillard had a lot of faults – she deserves nothing but contempt, in my opinion, for her position on asylum seekers and equal marriage – but the idea that it was somehow her fault that media outlets like The Age were unable to debate policy and ideas is only plausible if you accept the premise that Gillard herself is entirely to blame for the leadership instability that plagued her prime ministership.


  11. mindy


  12. Moz in Oz

    Mindy, the Tim Dunlop article is the first one in the original post: http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4785038.html (if that’s what you’re asking). I had to search a bit too.

  13. Peter Murphy

    [email protected]: I did. It’s still a stupid page. Abbott argues against buses that run every hour, but doesn’t jump to the obvious solution of making them more frequent. In Brisbane, a city which is even sparser than Sydney, there are about 10 or 14 express buses which run every 15 minutes to the outer suburbs.

    Prices have become more expensive (under Bligh and then even more under Newman), but that’s not a problem with public transport per se, but the silly way they break the metropolis into zones.

  14. Peter Murphy

    Robert: the last time I was in Dallas I was 11, so I don’t remember if I visited the CBD. I’ll take your word for it, even if I’ve heard worse things about Atlanta.

  15. FDB

    “outer suburbs in rich countries” from which people regularly travel to the centre only exist because of cars, and the freedom from the tyranny of public transport they entail.

    Schemes to address these places with public transport are by definition arse-backwards, and will therefore always be expensive patchwork jobs.

    I don’t like it, nor am I stoked about subsidising it by paying more for my short tram ride into the CDB than need be, but reality’s a bitch.

  16. duncan

    Robert, Peter,

    the focus on ‘the CBD’ is part of the problem.

    Not everyone works in the CBD — ergo, they don’t want to travel to, or through, the CBD.

    Unfortunately, much of our transport infrastructure is a relic of early last century and pulls everything into a CBD hub.

  17. Taylor

    Coruscating press conference on just now, party machinemen must be hating it.

  18. Moz in Oz

    Robert, some PT advocates know that, me for example. We just look at houses with a design life of 10 years, cars bought to carry one person but built to carry 5, the loss of food-producing farmland and wonder whether those people have actually thought about what they’re doing, rather than just what they want right now.

    Talking to people who do this, I just find hardly any have thought about it. They’ve bought the mcmansion in the ‘burbs, they have a 4WD “for the weekend” that they drive to work every day, they own another car or two “for the rest of the family” and when you ask about energy they whine bitterly about the cost. But they never sat down and thought “is a mcmansion the best house for me?”, and more than they asked “am I heterosexual?” Instead, they look at Toorak and say “I can’t afford the house I want if it’s in the inner city”, so they live 80km away and bitch about the cost and time required to commute.

  19. John D

    Part of the problem with our attitude to our fares and tolls is that we look at them from a “user pays” perspective. Our attitude might change if we look at from a “beneficiary pays”.
    For example, someone who uses public transport during peak hours helps reduce congestion and speed up the trip for those who choose to use stay in there cars. Ditto for those who use toll roads and tunnels to avoid adding to congestion.
    Funny thing about Brisbane is that ALL the tolls are on roads, tunnels and bridges that help reduce congestion. Being responsible in b’bane puts you seriously out of pocket. for example:
    By the end of the year, a community minded driver who commutes via the airport tunnel will be punished by more than $2000/yr.
    A commuter who leaves her car in the garage and travels via peak hour public transport a mere 3 zones will spend about $1900/yr vs $230 on fuel if she uses the car. (No wonder about 5 times as many Brisbane commuters travel by car compared with public transport.)
    It will cost a family of 4 from Beenleigh $37 in fares for an off-peak outing in the city vs $5 if they use the car.
    Funny thing is that the average 50 seater bus in Brisbane will be carrying only 8.5 passengers.

  20. Fran Barlow


    A commuter who leaves her car in the garage and travels via peak hour public transport a mere 3 zones will spend about $1900/yr vs $230 on fuel if she uses the car.

    I’ve just moved to the western suburbs of Sydney — just west of Parramatta. A weekly train ticket costs $40. That gets me to work in about an hour give or take about 8 minutes — door to door.

    If I drove the 35km or so, it would probably take me about 90 minutes on a good day (or more if one of the choke points suffered an accident) and over a week, about $49 in fuel alone. Then there are all the other costs (mainly insurance, rego and recurrent maintenance) which apportioned over the kilometers in question would probably add another 10-20cents per km. So for the week, toss in another $35-$70. Of course, I’d be zero rating my effort in driving, which is surely worth something, and my state of mind when I get to work, which is also worth something. Now that I am using the train, I’m walking for 30 minuites per day (which is included in ther travel time above) so I’m almost certainly more fit.

    I’d say that unless you are car-pooling consistently with at least 2 other people, you are financially behind taking your car even with existing pricing. OK, you get the car on weekends and holidays and for shopping which I suppose is worth something but even so, I don’t agree that transport, at least in Sydney, is overpriced or that price is a significant disincentive. The trains in peak hour have only modest if any spare capacity.

    That’s not to say that we couldn’t expand public transport — in part by making better use of the roads by aggregating people at hubs and putting them onto shuttle buses, for example.

  21. paul walter

    Not much to argue, Dunlop could have been a bit more definite as to the filth that is current MSM and mentioned that Rudd is there for damage control.
    Under 30% first party is emergency country; the public dug in over the influence of the wretched right- faction and its opportunism and egged on by the Murdoch right and its stooge Abbott, wouldn’t give the Gillard ministry a a hearing, regardless of how hard it tried.
    The public couldn’t fathom policy but enjoyed the bear-baiting and soap opera- it is nasty; lazy at bottom and perhaps doesn’t deserve ANY good government.
    But everything that has been worked in for the next generation the last few years was in jeopardy, the public wouldn’t listen to Gillard, they will give Rudd a hearing and he looks like he is just in the mood to turn the Rinehart/ Murdoch/ Abbott right wing filth right back at it, employing its own vicious tactics, tricks and lies back on it.
    We know now he can be as filthy as they are, not a polite woman concerned with policy for the nation easily cut down by snideness, bullying and msm cowardice.
    A business decision in the end.
    And if scorched earth blunts the conservatives in power and makes their austerity policies even more unpopular, good: they deserve no better for their detestable behaviours and outlook. And you know what, I think Rudd doesn’t give a flying mare if he gains government or not, just as long as, one way or the other, the reactionaries get to eat the poison they so callously prepared for Labor and the People of Australia.

  22. Brian

    This is worth highlighting from Tim Dunlop’s article:

    When you look at it, The Age’s favoured scenario has seen a policy-heavy prime minister – who, under the dire conditions of a hung parliament and a hostile media environment, has passed some the most significant legislation of the past 25 years – replaced by a man who owes his political resurrection almost entirely to his alleged popularity with the electorate.

    In other words, Policy Julia has been replaced with Smiley Kevin and this, according to The Age, is going to reinvigorate policy debate and give we-the-people the policy debate we all allegedly want.

  23. Brian

    Robert, the Coalition is clearly trying to retain a veneer of due process while spraying money everywhere in a cynical vote-buying exercise.

    The Toowoomba bypass has been assessed and not rated, I understand.

    John D I think the airtrain from the Brisbane airport to the city costs $13.

  24. Liz

    Brian, I’m looking at today’s ‘Age’, at my local cafe. And what’s the front page headline? “Rudd poll bounce boosts Labor”. Sure, we’ll talk about policy now.

  25. Patrick S

    Guys – since public transport is the policy topic de jour and I happened to study it in my PhD ….
    … I agree that we’ll never totally replace the private car in Australian cities, but we could provide a good quality public transport service including the suburbs, for a reasonable cost, that more people would use by choice. If you look at Prof Paul Mees’ books (who sadly passed away last week) like ‘Transport for Suburbia’, not just European cities like Zurich but Canadian cities like Toronto have a well-interconnected and relatively fast system serving large portions of their cities, not just the CBDs – and at comparable residential density to Australian cities. And the recent Mandurah rail line in Perth, coupled with really well-run feeder bus networks, shows it _can_ be done in Australia.

    The first thing to do is to make sure the timetables between all modes of PT are well integrated – this usually requires a central strategic planning statutory authority with ability to impose this on the network providers.

    In some ways this should be a ‘good policy’ bipartisan issue to help our cities run well :- but I also think its especially relevant for the left, so that all citizens, whether then can afford/choose to own a car or not, can access the parts of the city needed for work, recreation, and a full life.

  26. Douglas Evans

    Robert Merkel @15
    “I do think public transport advocates overestimate the utility of public transport in the outer suburbs in rich countries. This is likely to be even more the case 10-15 years from now once autonomous taxis start appearing.” An opinion based on ………? I think you need to do some reading. Australian cities are remarkably low density at their peripheries but even here sustained investment in public transport can radically and economically improve transport options at the periphery. The problem is there is a bipartisan lack of interest in the issue. Railed public transport radially. Buses circumferentially intersecting at transport nodes. Parking at these transport nodes. Further restriction of parking and private vehicle transit in urban centres. It’s not rocket science. It works. What is lacking is political commitment and like climate change the longer we delay the more expensive it becomes to fix until eventually a point will be reached where this is no longer possible. It makes you wonder how we have survived as a species so long really.

  27. Dave

    I’ve just chopped my hand off – should I get a prosthetic hand, a hand transplant or no treatment?

    Wouldn’t it be easier to not have chopped off my hand in the first place?

    Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t have huge migration in the first place? Oh yeah I forgot, people who want huge reductions in migration are either racists and/or ignorant.