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Page added on May 30, 2008

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Australia: Overcoming car culture a bit like waiting for Godot

Western Australia has a lot to teach the nation about learning to live with rising petrol prices. But its FuelWatch – or should that be FuelBotch – scheme to be launched federally, is the least of it. Some Perthites apparently like FuelWatch – though I have yet to meet one prepared to drive out of their way to save a couple of cents a litre.

At the very time political leaders should be bold, preparing us for the high fuel and energy bills that climate-change policies necessitate, and finding ways to shield the poor, Kevin Rudd toys with lowering the GST on the excise on petrol, and adopts a scheme from WA of dubious merit.

The pity is WA has much better ideas to offer the nation. It has done more to tackle an entrenched car culture than any other state. Its hyperactive and hyperbright Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Alannah MacTiernan, has not just talked about getting people out of their cars, improving public transport and building railways. She’s done it.

While Bob Carr and Morris Iemma have announced, then abandoned, a series of public transport strategies over 11 years, and delivered instead tollways and tunnels, crushing traffic congestion, and diminished train services, MacTiernan has almost doubled the size of the Perth railway network in seven years. Her crowning glory is the 72-kilometre Perth-Mandurah rail link through Australia’s fastest-growing urban region, that opened in December. She launched the project and six years later rode the first train.

Sydney Morning Herald

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