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Estimates: any money for walking or cycling?

Estimates & Committees
Janet Rice 28 May 2015

Senator RICE: I have several questions about the planning analysis branch. How many professional full-time staff are currently employed in the planning analysis branch?

Ms Power: In the planning analysis branch in 2014-15 there are 13.5 full time FTE.

Senator RICE: And how many of these staff have been employed for less than 12 months in the branch?

Mr Collett: I would have to take that on notice.

Senator RICE: Also, how many staff did you make redundant or give reason to depart from the planning analysis branch in the last 12 months and why?

Mr Collett: I am trying to think of the last 12 months. I would have to take that on notice to get you exact figures in terms of departures. I am happy to come back to you with some detail in terms of the number of staff who have departed the branch and how many might have been added.

Senator RICE: How many departed and how many were made redundant, with the reasons they were made redundant.

Ms O'Connell: I do not think there were any redundant or made to leave. I think—

Ms Power: There have been movements of staff to other parts of the organisation. Staff have taken other jobs. There have not been any staff who have been made redundant.

Mr Collett: We do have a small office in Sydney which, in terms of change priorities, we did close. There were some staff relocations and I think maybe a small number of redundancies. I am happy to take that on notice. We will come back to you with full details.

Senator RICE: If you could, that would be great. How many staff have you temporarily employed or had on secondment in the last 12 months in order to complete the workload?

Ms O'Connell: This is people seconded in as opposed to seconded out?

Senator RICE: Yes.

Mr Collett : Again, Senator, I am happy to take that on notice. I do not think we have had very many secondees or temporary people. I think where we have had some small amount of turnover of staff, we have replaced them with permanent employees. But I will come back to you with detail on that.

CHAIR: Are these the same questions that were asked over here?

Mr Collett: No. This is a different area that I also manage.

Senator RICE: This is another one which you probably will also need to take on notice. I am interested in how much money you have spent in total on purchasing data, commissioning work and employing temporary staff on the State of Australian cities 2014 report.

Mr Collett: Certainly. We are happy to come back to you with some detail on that.

Senator RICE: I am interested to know what its status is and what has happened to the State of Australian cities 2014 report. When is it likely to be published?

Mr Collett: Certainly. As you may be aware, the department released in December last year a yearbook, which contains of the much data which previous State of Australian cities reports had contained. So a significant amount of the data and information that was in past State of Australian cities reports was actually released in December as part of that report. We have gone for a slightly different approach this time around. The decision has been taken that State of Australian cities will be released along with a companion publication on the state of regional Australia so that a range of people, whether they are in cities or regions, are able to have a view and there is a good view of the interaction of cities and their surrounding regions. We anticipate that, at this stage, in the next couple of months we will have both of those publications out. There is an amount of data in terms of regional publication that we are still working our way through.

Senator RICE: We are almost in June, so you would expect it by when—September? Would that be your expectation?

Mr Collett: Certainly. I think probably by July or early August at the latest.

Senator RICE: It has been a long time.

Mr Collett: But we have had some delays, so I want to be cautious.

Senator RICE: We are in June 2015. It is the state of Australian cities for 2014.

Mr Collett: Certainly. We are conscious that, in that delay, we will be seeking to update data where new data is available. So I think it will probably be a 2014-15 publication.

Senator RICE: I want to move on. I am interested in the status of a document in the planning analysis branch section of the website. Is the ministerial statement on walking, riding and access to public transport a current document?

Mr Collett: I would need to check that. I think that is in an archived area or a historic document section of the website. I would need to check that. That document was released under the previous government. It was a ministerial statement by then minister Albanese.

Senator RICE: That is right. I have been looking at your website, which I have here now. It is under the section 'Active transport: walking and cycling'. It is certainly there under that section and under 'Background/archive'. What is its status, then, as a document that is on your website? Is it something that the government is still implementing?

Mr Collett: I do not think it is something that the current government has formed a view on. I think it is there as an archived document released by the minister under the previous government.

Senator RICE: So the actions in that document are still actions being pursued by the current government?

Mr Collett: Certainly I think a number of them would be. I would need to go back and refamiliarise with the entire contents of the document. The government has certainly committed to the national cycling strategy. It continues to have representation through the department on the Australian Bicycle Council. There is a number of measures within that related to cycling and the national cycling strategy which the government is clearly pursuing. There is certainly from recollection a number of statements in there in terms of investing in cycling or walking infrastructure when there is funding for other types of infrastructure, that being a live consideration. There are significant projects going forward funded by the current government. In consultation with the state or territory proponents, significant cycling infrastructure, for example, is being put onto sites like the Majura Parkway. So in terms of a number of those elements, clearly the current government is implementing a number of those sorts of approaches. But, as I say, it has not formally endorsed necessarily the full suite of approaches.

Senator RICE: I want to confirm that there is not any budget for walking and cycling in the current budget, is there?

Mr Collett: Senator, I would not characterise it that way. I would actually say that a significant amount—

Senator RICE: Tell me what is in the budget for walking and cycling?

Mr Collett: A significant proportion of money in the Infrastructure Investment Program is available for walking and cycling infrastructure, where states and territories identify that that is something they wish to have as part of the projects they are bringing forward. In a similar way, it is open to states and territories to, as part of the asset recycling initiative, expend moneys out of that program. There is significant other expenditure in the portfolio to local government, for example, which they have a significant amount of discretion in the use of and could direct to walking and cycling infrastructure, if that is what they wanted.

Senator RICE: But there is nothing specifically set aside for walking and cycling infrastructure, though, as part of an overall pool that states could choose to use?

Mr Collett: No. That is correct at this point in time. It is part of a range of other projects and other funding sources.

Ms O'Connell: But it does form part of our infrastructure program. By way of example, things like the Perth Gateway program have a really extensive shared use path. So it is walking and cycling as part of that major infrastructure. I think it goes for 20 kilometres or something without the need to cross the road. It is actually a really good design. It is more being built now into the infrastructure. Similarly, Tiger Brennan Drive in Darwin will have a new shared use pathway quite high and separated from the road, but all done as part of the road extension but physically separated.

Senator RICE: But where you have a lot of existing infrastructure, there is not a specific pool that you could apply to put in a shared pathway alongside an existing arterial road, for example?

Ms O'Connell: There is not a specific program to do that, no. It is part of our future investment and future design. We are building new infrastructure.

Senator RICE: Given that we have an awful lot of existing infrastructure, there is not anything for the retrofitting of walking or cycling infrastructure into the existing urban fabric?

Ms O'Connell: No.

Senator RICE: I go back to the ministerial statement. I have the actions from that statement here. I wonder whether you could respond as to whether there are still things that the government is doing that were in that 2013 action statement. The first one is that the Australian government's evaluation of proposed transport infrastructure will take appropriate account of the needs and benefits of walking, riding and access to public transport.

Ms O'Connell: That is happening. I think many of these things have now been taken into account and are being done, as I outlined in terms of the infrastructure investment side. They are being done. I think Mr Collett mentioned the bicycling strategy. That has now taken—

Senator RICE: That was a specific one.

Ms O'Connell: I think it also takes up a number of the cycling related recommendations and suggestions. So it is just that there is now in terms of the cycling strategy—

Senator RICE: What specifically is the government doing to support the implementation of the national cycling strategy?

Ms O'Connell: I will finish your question. I think that first recommendation went to planning. Cycling and walking are considered now in the new national transport system management guidelines that were recently released. You were asking about the bicycling strategy. I will ask Mr Collett to comment.

Mr Collett: There is a significant amount of work in different parts of the department that is now taking account of cycling and walking needs in a way that we have not in the past. There is cost-benefit analysis work and work to make sure that wider economic benefits are understood in a number of assessments of infrastructure projects. We now take account of those things in a much greater way than we did previously. As Ms O'Connell has pointed out, system management guidelines now take account of cycling and walking more than they have in the past. So a number of different programs within the department focus on a variety of those issues. Clearly, in terms of the Commonwealth's responsibilities—and other parts of the organisation could speak with more authority—safety for people who are cycling and walking is very much at the forefront in considerations of vulnerable road users when it comes to road safety.

Senator RICE: But how specifically?

Mr Collett: I would need to consult with our surface transport policy division people and come back to you with the full details. I am quite—

Senator RICE: If you could give me a list of initiatives .

Ms O'Connell: I am happy to give you a straight example. Queensland at the moment is piloting the one metre rule, for example.

Senator RICE: But what is the Australian government doing to support that?

Ms O'Connell: Well, it was raised at the ministerial council meeting last Friday, when we met with a view that Queensland could share their findings from that pilot and trial with all jurisdictions to look at whether that is something for national adoption.

Senator RICE: The second action is the Australian government will work with states and territories to review the national guidelines for transport system management and supporting documents—

Ms O'Connell: That is what I spoke about just then.

Senator RICE: to incorporate—

Ms O'Connell: That is done.

Senator RICE: improvements on the—

Ms O'Connell: That is done, yes.

Senator RICE: assessment of costs and benefits.

Ms O'Connell: That is what I was referring to by saying that many of these things have now been mainstream. That work on the guidelines has been concluded. It is now published.

Senator RICE: The Australian government will work with states and territories to consider establishing a new walking, riding and access to public transport council incorporated into the COAG standing council on transport and infrastructure. Has that been progressed?

Mr Collett: As I think was flagged in some discussion—I am not sure whether it was yesterday or earlier today; I think it may have been yesterday—in relation to the future of the Australian Bicycle Council and funding for its secretariat, the government has not formed a view yet in terms of ongoing funding for that type of body. The Australian Bicycle Council is in active discussion about whether it should in time transition to be a broader constituency, taking account of walking or active transport more broadly. Those discussions are ongoing.

Senator RICE: But does the Australian Bicycle Council report to the COAG standing council?

Ms O'Connell: Yes. It does. It delivered its annual report at the last meeting. It delivered the annual report last Friday direct to the ministerial council meeting.

Senator RICE: And the final one is that the Australian government will work with states, territories and other stakeholders to collect relevant data and undertake research and analysis to support walking, riding and access to public transport.

Ms O'Connell: And that is happening. We are gathering more data.

Senator RICE: So how is that data being reported? How is that actually being actioned?

Mr Collett: One of the things that we are considering in terms of the upcoming State of Australian cities report is to include in that detail around some transport trends. We are considering particular parts of some of our major cities, where there are strong increases in walking and cycling, and looking to understand some of the causes of that.

Senator RICE: So in terms of collecting the data, does the Australian government have any role in undertaking that research and analysis?

Mr Collett: We are somewhat reliant not only on the states and territories and their data collection in some instances but also ongoing discussions with the Australian Bicycle Council. We are engaged in conversations about data gaps and considering how best to plug some of those gaps.

Senator RICE: So is the government looking at putting in federal resources to plug those gaps?

Mr Collett: I think it will depend on the conclusions of those conversations. I would not want to pre-emptively say that we will jump in and fund things where states or territories might otherwise do so and might be very keen on hearing me say that the Commonwealth will do so in their absence.

Senator RICE: Thank you.

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