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Speech: Regional Aviation Summit 2013

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 19 Mar 2013

Lee was a guest speaker at the 2013 Regional Aviation Summit. She spoke about the Greens transport policies, the party's commitment to regional air travel and how major infrastructure projects can be paid for.


Over the past 30 years this generation of Australians have dramatically increased their air travel habits. It's much harder hard to find someone nowadays who has never travelled on a plane.

And the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics tells us that regional air travel is still on the rise. Living in Sydney, with such a busy airport that's getting busier every year, I am always surprised to read that regional and rural passenger growth has recently been much higher than for major city airports.

I acknowledge that the Labor government has been a generous supporter of regional air services, allocating $145 million to remote facilities and services over the six years including support for remote community services including postal and medical services. This spending has been many times more than the Howard government did on regional air services. The Greens support the government's record spending on transport infrastructure.

The Greens have always regarded national transport infrastructure as a key priority for national investment. Transport cuts across all they key areas of policy interest - supporting the economy, connecting communities and ensuring social equity, making our country more sustainable by planning ahead for the future.

There is strong Greens support for public investment in sustainable transport infrastructure across the world. The Greens is a global political movement whose philosophy arose from four different social movements: the environmental movement, the labour movement, the civil rights movement, and the peace movement.

Greens policies are based on four policy pillars -
• Social and economic justice
• Environmental sustainability
• Grassroots democracy
• Peace and Non violence

These are a foundational statement of Green politics and form the basis of many worldwide Green parties. They guide elected Greens representatives and Greens in government around the world.
In Australia our state parties and the Australian Greens have published our transport policies on our websites for over twenty years.

We strongly believe that Australia's transport system must function on principles of ecological sustainability, equity of access, and public ownership of critical public transport infrastructure.

Much of our focus is on making our cities more liveable and less dependent on cars and trucks and fossil fuels, and on building better freight and passenger rail networks and high speed rail between major cities and centres.

Our policy platform emphasises major public investment in the freight rail network, public transport and active transport infrastructure. But Greens policy also supports better transport services to, within and between rural and regional areas. We recognise that quality transport not only serves commuters and business needs in major centres but also plays a crucial role in keeping regional and remote communities connected to families, to employment, education and health services. It also underpins emergency services in times of need, which it feels like we have seen all too frequently in recent times.

After the global financial crisis in 2008, the Greens strongly supported the economic stimulus programs of the federal government. We greened up the Government's $42 billion stimulus package, with commonsense initiatives that created thousands of green jobs in regional communities across Australia, greater financial assistance and support for unemployed and low-income people, better energy efficiency standards for future housing, and funding for bicycle projects in regional councils across the country.

In a country as large as Australia you need a mix of transport solutions to keep the country moving.

We live in the century of climate change. In a time when the environmental challenges before us can no longer be met with a business as usual approach. I have been a Greens MP for fourteen years now, and once I had to explain to people how we were pushing our country into an ecological debt. Nowadays we see it all around us. Our staggering growth over the course of the 20th century has left an ecological debt that is borne out in the extreme weather events that we now see regularly around the country, extreme drought, the death of the Great Barrier Reef, the loss of productivity in the Murray-Darling basin system.

We should consider taking the nation into debt to work our way out of our ecological debt and secure our future.

The Greens support national debt to fund essential transport infrastructure projects, with a scheme such as green bonds. Australia has a proud history of big transport projects funded with public debt, most famously the Harbour Bridge. We support a bi-partisan, or I should say a tri-partisan approach to strategic planning of our future transport infrastructure needs, be they social, commercial or security needs, and then borrowing the money needed to build the vital infrastructure links that would give Australia a national sustainable transport network. It would be the foundation of our nation's future growth in a carbon constrained global economy. And regional air services, balanced with enhanced rail networks, would have an important ongoing role to play in a national transport network.

The Greens are committed to keeping vital community air services going to keep remote communities connected to the rest of the country. This is work that it is vital for government to support, because communities that don't have a big mine next door simply can't attract anything other than public investment. Social inclusion and equity are the key drivers here and they are the core principles of the Greens. We support your concerns that securing reliable Regular Public Transport (RPT) air services for remote communities requires much more than just a market driven approach. The decline in the number of regular public transport providers is of concern and I am interested in talking with your industry about this problem.

We can generate the level of investment needed to transform Australia's economy and society for a low carbon future, to keep us in step with the rest of the world. All the economic analysis of recent years has shown that the productivity returns alone on such an investment would be far greater than the outlay.

As with other developed countries around the world, we believe Australia's clean energy future climate package, which placed a price on carbon, is the key to the economic and social transformation that our society needs to deliver prosperity, social justice and well-being for all. Its success depends on investment in major infrastructure and renewable energy, in world class education and innovation, in social cohesion and in our environment.

Regional air services will have to undergo this transformation. The move away from a carbon-based economy will be hard for businesses operating in regional communities, with higher distances and lower populations. There will be upfront costs and there will be changes.

The Greens strongly supported putting a price on carbon, and we recognise the need to support the transition and to provide incentives to make the necessary changes so that we can reduce our overall greenhouse emissions and secure a cleaner, more sustainable future.

It is a challenge being faced the world over. The Greens are committed to making it work, and to work with you to better understand the challenges you face as your industry adjusts so that you can continue to serve the travelling and working public, the businesses and essential services operating in regional Australia.


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