Speech to the Annual General Meeting, Royal Park Protection Group Inc.
Flemington Community Centre, 8 September 2012

Kelvin Thomson MP – Federal Member for Wills .

There are many great things about Australia, but to my mind the greatest is the proximity we have to the natural world, to our physical surroundings. And for many people living in inner northern Melbourne, Royal Park remains a place where we still have that. It’s always held fond memories for me. I don’t have many fond memories of a fortnight spent in the Royal Childrens Hospital as a kid after I had my appendix removed, but the one consolation was looking down from my hospital window onto Royal Park and watching the bright orange Flame Robins which came in there in winter. Later on my brother and I learned a lot about native plants from the little native garden built around the Burke and Wills Memorial, and later again as a Melbourne University student I sometimes escaped to the native plant garden off Gatehouse Street.
Royal Park has long been, and still is, a very special place.

This afternoon I want to talk to you about Melbourne’s traffic mess – what causes it, and what the solutions are for it, and why the East-West Tunnel is not one of them.

The key cause is population growth, which has exploded this century. Melbourne has been growing at 200 people per day, 1500 per week, 75,000 each year. This brings with it umerous unwelcome consequences – electricity, water and council rates rising much faster than the rate of inflation (and I’ve got copies of a speech explaining how this works down the back for people interested in this issue), the loss of a say in planning decisions for ordinary residents and communities, loss of housing affordability for young people in
particular, and pressure on open space and native wildlife.

But the consequence I want to zero in on this afternoon is traffic congestion. The 2001 Census recorded Melbourne at 3.3 million people. By the end of 2009 we got to 4 million; we are on our way to 7 million by 2050.

This of course leads to more car ownership.

There are now 500,000 more cars on Victorian roads than 10 years ago, with most being purchased by people living on Melbourne’s rapidly growing outer fringe. In 1991, Melbournians owned 1.8 million cars and by 2005, car ownership had jumped by almost 700,000 vehicles to 2.45 million. At the current rate of car possession per household, we will have an extra 1.1 million cars by 2036. Does anyone in this room seriously think moving in Melbourne is going to get anything but harder? 1 million extra cars! We get proposals for still more freeways to deal with all these cars but they don’t solve the problem; they just turn into toll roads that make motoring more expensive. Melbourne has one of the highest ratios of road space to population of any city, with Melbournians taking up more road space and generating more emissions per capita than Londoners. In 2007 there were an average 13.37 million trips a day in Melbourne, with 12 million of those taken by car. This increased car ownership and use in turn generates traffic congestion – Melbourne’s traffic mess.A major problem lurking for our economy is the burgeoning cost of traffic congestion in our major cities. Building new communities and new roads on the urban fringes of Melbourne will lead to more congestion,traffic which will ultimately hurt our economy.

For rest of speach see MELBOURNE’S TRAFFIC MESS