Spot the difference – transport advertising in the lead-up to elections

I was thinking the government ads about transport upgrades back in 2009-10 (Labor) are pretty similar to 2014 (Coalition).

How would it be if I got them both and dubbed the audio of one over the video of another?

The 2010 version is mostly about trains; the 2014 one has been chopped a tad to remove around 15 seconds that was about East West Link. But it’s surprising how well they fit. (The full unedited versions are shown below.)

This time around, Channel 7 reports ads like this have cost at least $3.2 million so far.

Comparing 2010 to 2014

Let’s play a little game of Spot The Difference.

2009-2010 – Labor 2013-2014 – Coalition
Advert for new Smartbus route 903
Advert for a measly 6 extra services on bus route 630
moving-victoria-ad-20140301
Nice placement: Advertising, Cheltenham station
Victorian Transport Plan advertising, December 2009
Myki billboard advertising, February 2014
Bayside Rail Imorovements poster, Bentleigh, February 2014 (cropped)

Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said the ad campaign should now be considered “electioneering” and withdrawn immediately. He vowed to cut advertising spending in the transport portfolio if the Coalition won government in November. “If I’m the transport minister, the money I have available to me will be going into nuts and bolts business, not self-promotion,” he said.

The Age, 1/9/2010

Rather than invest in public transport Napthine Govt invests in advertising 2 tell us how good it is. But you can’t spin lived experience!
Jill Hennessy, Labor Public Transport Spokesperson, 28/2/2014, Twitter

Denis Napthine will fight for his survival with the last dollar of your money #springst
Martin Pakula, Labor Spokesperson for Scrutiny of Government, and Transport Minister 2010, 1/3/2014, Twitter

Is advertising ever justified?

Yes, sure it is. Public transport is a product which competes against other modes of travel, particularly cars.

But it the ads should be informative, or at the very least should tell you why (even at a high level) you should be using the product.

Some of the ads have been informative at some level. From the sample above (and it is only a sample), Labor’s newspaper ads and the Coalition’s billboard/noticeboard ads have some level of useful information in them.

Amazingly, none of the Coalition’s ads spell out a huge improvement they’ve delivered in the last couple of years, but almost totally failed to promote: frequent weekend trains on much of the network.

And the TV ads in particular, placed by both sides of politics over the years, tell you very little — they seem purely design to try and convince you that your Government is doing Good Things with your money.

Politicians and their fake Postal Vote forms: don’t be fooled #AusVotes

One thing I really really hate about spammers is how they often insist on the bottom of their email that you’re receiving their crap because you subscribed to it.

They know it’s not true. I know it’s not true.

Along the same lines are these types of letters, one of which I received yesterday. The envelope makes it look official, non-party:

Official looking letter (1/3)

Inside it’s clear that the letter is party-political. Stop the boats. Build more roads (they don’t mention that they specifically refuse to fund public transport). Free you from the carbon tax (you know, the one almost individual was fully compensated for, and is having the desired effect of cutting carbon emissions).

Official looking envelope turns out to be party political letter (2/3)

And there’s a “Postal Vote application form”.

...with party-supported postal vote info (3/3)

…As Crikey noted in an article yesterday, it may look like a Postal Vote Application Form, but actually it’s a data-gathering exercise for the party involved.

Crikey adds that the information does get sent to the Australian Electoral Commission, but often there can be delays, and there have been cases in the past of forms being stockpiled, and some even get “corrected” along the way by the party.

The extra twist of the knife? Taxpayers/voters are actually paying for these letters.

The Liberals aren’t alone in doing this. Tens of thousands of people use these forms, via various parties.

Don’t be fooled. If you want to apply for a Postal Vote, do it via the AEC.

If Abbott’s Coalition won’t build rail, why does their policy document include a rail icon?

If Tony Abbott’s Coalition won’t build rail, why do they include a rail icon on their infrastructure policy?

At least, I’m assuming it’s an icon for rail — not giant white picket fences to keep out asylum seekers, or something like that.

Abbott: infrastructure policy 2013

(The above is from the summarised version. The slightly more detailed policy document is here).

True, they’ve specified they won’t build urban rail, but it seems pretty clear their plan is to build lots of roads, and no rail at all.

In fact, their plan proposes a frenzy of motorway construction right across the country. Truly a pave-the-planet scenario: Melbourne East-West Link, multiple projects in Sydney, Brisbane Gateway Motorway, Adelaide South Road, Tasmania Midland Highway, and a bunch in Perth.

One can only conclude that they really believe that — unlike every other major urban road project in history — this massive road expansion will somehow solve traffic problems.

Unfortunately this kind of popularist, car-oriented thinking misses is the point that transport is supply-driven. Traffic demand grows to fill the available capacity.

When it comes down to it, this means if you want more people to drive, building more roads is the way to do it. If you want more people to use public transport, provide more of that instead.

If elected, Mr Abbott will fund more roads, which will fill with more traffic — further undermining sustainable transport modes, not the least by starving them of billions of dollars of funding for years. Wonderful.

Some thoughts on the Labor leadership spill

A few thoughts on Federal politics from the last few days.

I think Gillard did some great stuff. Carbon tax (some don’t like it, but it works), National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Royal Commission into child abuse, and (along with her predecessors on both sides) keeping the economy afloat in dire economic times — and all while dealing with the challenges of a minority government, making it difficult to get anything done at all.

Introducing KevinBut for whatever reason (probably a combination of sexism and problems of running a minority government), she had zero chance of winning the next election for Labor.

Rudd is apparently a control-freak and difficult to work with, but has a small chance of winning. Small is greater than zero. And even if Labor can’t win, it’s better to have an Opposition that works than an Opposition that’s been almost totally destroyed.

Why is this important? Because the Coalition under Abbott is regressive on key points. For me, the two biggest are that they won’t fund urban public transport, only roads; and they will abolish the carbon tax even though it works.

And of course there’s Abbott’s half-baked (but most of the cost) version of the National Broadband Network — completely lacking in the vision to see the types of emerging IT-based industries that could help drive the next economic boom, as well as bring benefits right across the country, especially in regional areas, such as much better (remote) access to medical services and advice.

(I fully suspect that if Malcolm Turnbull hadn’t lost the Liberal leadership vote by a single vote, the Coalition would have a much more enlightened view on these three issues.)

One more thing: Abbott and others are criticising Rudd because he wasn’t elected by voters to be leaders. Abbott didn’t have such criticisms when Napthine took over from Baillieu in Victoria. Reality is, us voters don’t directly elect leaders. Both Rudd and Napthine are legitimately leaders.

Update 29/6: Added picture of ad for “Despicable Me” that I saw on the side of a bus earlier in the week.

Compared: Metro rail tunnel vs East West Road – which is more efficient at moving people? #SpringSt

The way the state budget has been framed in terms of transport was almost inevitable: the East-West motorway (stage 1) vs the Metro Rail Tunnel, with the motorway winning this round.

Melbourne Metro tunnel station artists impression

While they are quite different projects, serving (mostly) different markets and (attempting to be) solving different problems, I thought it might be interesting to look at them side-by-side them, based on known facts and some slightly shaky estimates, and using some doubtful metrics to compare.

Project Metro rail tunnel East-west motorway tunnel (stage 1)
Where South Kensington to South Yarra Clifton Hill to Flemington
Estimated cost $5-9 billion $6-8 billion [cite]
Length 9 km [cite] 8 km [cite]
Cost per km $0.56 – 1 billion per km $0.75 – 1 billion per km
Theoretical capacity per hour 30 trains
x 1000 people per train
x 2 directions
= 60,000 [cite]
3 lanes
x 2000 vehicles per hour
x 1.2 people per vehicle
x 2 directions
= 14,400
(or some capacity for freight)
Approx cost per person capacity per hour $83,000 – $150,000 per person $416,000 – $555,000 per person
Stations/interchanges Arden (North Melbourne)
Parkville (University)
Melbourne Central
Flinders Street
Domain
(Unfortunately it appears the tunnel will not include an interchange station at South Yarra.)
Hoddle Street
Flemington Road citybound
Citylink southbound
Citylink northbound
Main trips/destinations served
(excluding future extensions)
CBD
University/hospital precinct
St Kilda Road
Tram connections to inner suburbs
Sunbury corridor
Dandenong corridor
Between Eastlink/Eastern freeway corridors and:
Tullamarine/Airport
Citylink/Westgate
CBD and University/hospital precinct via Flemington Road
Construction funding Zilch so far, only planning money
(0%)
$0.293 billion from the state government
(about 4% of total cost, though it’s suspected some of this is planning money)

As I said, they are different projects serving different markets, and probably shouldn’t be directly compared like this. But there are some points to be made by doing so.

For both, reaching the theoretical capacity depends on removing other bottlenecks, and making sure feeder routes (whether PT or road) are completely optimised. But if you can do it, even the huge cost of underground rail is still many many times cheaper for the capacity brought than underground roads.

The government is talking of the road in terms of “city-shaping”. The problem is it’s city-shaping towards more car dependence, with all its problems and inefficiencies. As some have pointed out, the Eastern Freeway already gets clogged in the Box Hill area — inducing more traffic (motorists heading west from Clifton Hill) is not going to help this; nor is it going to help motorists heading south down Hoddle Street towards the inner-city.

If they were serious about ensuring the efficient movement of the city’s growing population, they’d be investing heavily in the most efficient mode, and helping more people get around more often leaving the car at home (or even ditching one of the cars in their household).

That would be city-shaping, in a good way.

9am: updated with higher $9b rail tunnel cost estimate.

Abbott reckons the Commonwealth doesn’t fund railways… Of course they do. Here are some examples.

“We spoke to Infrastructure Australia and their advice was that the most pressing road priority in Melbourne was the east-west link,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Frankston on Thursday.

“Now the Commonwealth government has a long history of funding roads. We have no history of funding urban rail and I think it’s important that we stick to our knitting, and the Commonwealth’s knitting when it comes to funding infrastructure is roads.”

The Age

Perhaps the Federal Coalition has no history of funding urban rail, but the Commonwealth most certainly does.

Commonwealth Railways locomotive

Several urban rail projects are currently being built with Commonwealth funding:

Moreton Bay rail link (Qld) — $742m from the Commonwealth, $300m plus land from the Queensland government, and $105m from the local council.

Regional Rail Link (Vic) — which despite its name, is entirely within Melbourne, and will serve two new suburban stations at Tarneit and Wyndham Vale. $3.225 billion from the Commonwealth government, and about a billion from the state.

Perth City Link — is a sinking of one rail line in inner-city Perth, with $236 million of Commonwealth funding for rail infrastructure.

Adelaide rail electrification is a $400 million project, which includes Commonwealth funding.

Not heavy rail, but certainly urban: the Gold Coast light rail project includes Commonwealth funding.

In recent times, other projects have gained Commonwealth funding. In Victoria alone there’s been $95 million from the Feds for inner-Melbourne rail freight upgrades, $30 million for level crossing upgrades (some in regional areas, some metropolitan), and $40 million for planning work for the Metro rail tunnel… with rumours today that the tunnel will get more funding, presumably if Federal Labor is re-elected.

Going back a few years, Melbourne’s Cranbourne line was upgraded and electrified in the 90s with money from the Commonwealth’s Building Better Cities scheme.

Commonwealth funding was also used for the “4D” double-deck development train.

These are just the projects I found during a quick search around on Google last night. No doubt there are others.

Despite what Abbott thinks, the real distinction (which is more relevant to PT than to roads) is that the Commonwealth gives once-off funding. What they don’t generally do is recurrent funding — required to actually run public transport, but also required to maintain roads — in fact people often forget that the rough cost of roads maintenance is about 1% of the construction cost per year.

The Commonwealth can fund what they like

It might be convention for conservatives not to fund urban rail, but there’s no reason they can’t. It’s entirely up to them.

I think all but the most car-centric person would see that in modern growing cities, you can’t move everybody around by road — that rail, particularly in inner-city areas, is much more efficient.

Unfortunately unlike some of his Liberal colleagues (and unlike conservatives in such places as the UK), Tony Abbott does appear to be the most car-centric person.

It comes down to this: if you want more people on public transport, provide more public transport. If you want more people on the roads, build more roads. Abbott is clearly backing the latter.

In the 21st century, with car use waning and urban public transport booming, this is a regressive stance, and should make people think twice about voting for the Coalition in September.

My federal MP’s Twitter feed: relentlessly negative

Because I’m interested in politics, I make it my practice to follow various politicians on Twitter, whether I agree with them or not, including all the local ones I can find.

Andrew Robb on Twitter

My local federal MP Andrew Robb would have to have the single most relentlessly negative Twitter feed of any of them.

Here’s all his Tweets for the past week (excluding retweets and also those addressed to other people, therefore not showing up in most users’ timelines).

  • I see Wayne Swan has a juvenile petition out on cruel cuts, I presume he’s referring to his cruel cuts to community grants. #hypocrite.
  • Swan and Wong need to stop the spin and explain Labor’s $120 BILLION BLACK HOLE.
  • Labor has reached the dangerous stage, saying and promising anything to save political skin. #Labor’s$120billionblackhole.
  • Chickens come home to roost – Labor’s $120 billion budget black hole revealed in Fin Review.
  • Financial Review reveals Labor’s $120 billion black hole.
  • Is there a policy Labor has implemented without botching it?? Think pink batts, NBN, mining tax, carbon tax, live cattle, border protection.
  • Let’s judge Labor’s record debt by Australian standards, rather than against the basket cases of the world. It leaves us vulnerable.
  • If Labor is returning to surplus why in budget did they raise the Commonwealth debt ceiling to an unprecedented $250 BILLION??
  • Why did Labor tell us net debt would peak at $94.4 billion two years ago, but now it’s $145 billion? Only $50 BILLION out!
  • $4.1 billion unfunded dental promise, part of Labor’s $100 BILLION BLACK HOLE of unfunded or hidden budget liabilities.
  • Labor promises $4.1 billion for dental scheme but can’t say how it will be funded. That means higher taxes or more record debt.
  • Labor has reached the dangerous stage. $100 billion worth of commitments either hidden or unfunded. #Laborblackhole
  • Penny Wong’s credibility through the ‘floor’, see what she said before & after Labor’s carbon tax floor price backdown.
  • Labor told us the carbon tax floor price was needed for certainty, now they tell us the opposite. They are a shambles.
  • Labor’s carbon tax chaos recipe for budget black hole but Combet says trust our modelling!!!
  • At last election Penny Wong said net debt would peak at $94.4 billion; now that figure is $145 billion. A $50 BILLION blow-out in 2 years!
  • Penny Wong fails to lock in prosperity as under Labor Australia has become a less attractive place to do business. [link]
  • Penny Wong in denial. BHP has warned for months investment climate is being crippled by carbon & mining taxes & other sovereign risk issues.

It’s all attacking Labor. EVERY. SINGLE. TWEET.

Not a single comment about what he would do in government.

Not even a single comment on what he thinks Labor should do.

Even Tony Abbott, derided by Labor as “Doctor No”, often tweets about the people he meets and the events he attends.

As the next generation of voters increasingly get their information from social media rather than mainstream media, it’s going to become important for politicians to represent themselves better through avenues like Twitter. With a growing and changing population, even Goldstein won’t be blue-ribbon Liberal forever.

C’mon Andrew, surely you can do better than this. Just for a moment, stop telling us why you think the other guys are idiots, and instead tell us why we should vote for you.

Would you like a jellybaby? (Making of a visual stunt)

The first Tuesday of May is Victorian State Budget day.

On Budget day, journalists and some interest groups (well, those that have the resources) attend the Budget Lockup, where from about midday to the 3pm public release, they get to peruse the budget papers, but can’t communicate what they find with the outside world.

They are let loose at around 3pm, and often gather in the grounds of Parliament House, where representatives from the interest groups will form a (reasonably orderly) queue up to give their comments to the waiting media.

On a rainy day, they might all huddle under the small shelter at the back door to Parliament. Otherwise, they might head for the garden.

Interest groups talk to the media on Victorian State Budget Day

This year there was an added bonus in the garden: Trades Hall had come along with a multitude of jellybabies, representing the 43,000 jobs lost in Victoria in the past 12 months.

They poured them onto the lawn before I got there…
Jellybaby stunt 1

…then they decided to pick them all up again…
Jellybaby stunt 2

…and after some consultation with the TV cameramen…
Jellybaby stunt 3

…poured them all out again for the cameras…
Jellybaby stunt 4

…shot from multiple angles…
Jellybaby stunt 5

Naturally it made for great television.
Jellybabies on TV

And the budget in summary? Well for PT, apart from extra V/Line carriages, confirmation that the very successful 601 Huntingdale to Monash Uni shuttle has got recurrent funding, and three grade separations, not much else. Certainly it was a tight budget, but roads seem to have got more new money yet again.