ACT transport minister Fitzharris steps down

ACT minister for health and transport Meegan Fitzharris has announced that she will resign from her role on July 1.

Minister Fitzharris announced that her decision was spurred by a desire to better balance her family life and spend more time with her children. She will leave the ACT Legislative Assembly and ministry in the coming weeks. Fitzharris has held the role since 2015, and was re-elected in 2016. The ACT’s next election will take place late next year.

“I hope to continue to make a contribution to our amazing city in life after politics. I will continue to be a working mum, something my husband and I have balanced since each of our children were born,” Fitzharris said. “Now is the time for a new balance and new opportunities.

Fitzharris added that she hoped other “working mums and dads” of all ages and backgrounds would consider running for public office. Some of the major projects she has worked on under her tenure as Transport Minister include the Canberra Metro light rail project and a new bus network in Canberra, both of which launched in April this year. 

She thanked Chief Minister Andrew Barr for his support, as well as members of the community for sharing their “views, ideas and encouragement”.

Fitzharris will be succeeded by Chris Steel as Minister for Transport and Rachel Stephen-Smith as Minister for Health.

Stephen-Smith referred to Fitzharris on Twitter as “an outstanding Minister, representative and colleague [who] will be greatly missed by Cabinet and Caucus”.

Labor commits $10bn to Melbourne Suburban Rail Loop

Bill Shorten’s pre-election promise to provide $10 billion for the development of Melbourne’s Suburban Rail Loop has been welcomed by Victorian Premier Dan Andrews.

The Opposition Leader Shorten made the pledge at a campaign rally in Maribyrnong in advance of the election on May 18.

The $50 billion endeavour is the biggest public transport project in Australia. It envisions a suburban underground rail route connecting Cheltenham in the southeast to Werribee in the northwest via Melbourne airport in the north.

Construction is set to begin in 2022 and may not be completed until the 2050s, by which time Melbourne’s population is expected to grow to 8 million. The initial phase of construction will stretch from Cheltenham to Box Hill and is set to take around 10 years to complete.

The line is also intended to connect to the developing Melbourne Airport Rail Link, which is also scheduled to begin construction in 2022 over a period of up to nine years.

The Suburban Rail Loop, intended to reduce transfers within Melbourne’s central business district, will precipitate the construction of up to 12 new underground stations.

“The Suburban Rail Loop will slash congestion across the transport network – taking thousands of passengers off existing rail lines and 200,000 cars off major roads – and create 20,000 jobs for Victorians,” said Victoria Premier Dan Andrews.

Andrews, who announced his plans to support the project last year prior to his landslide win in November’s state election, expressed his approval of Shorten’s pledge.

“The Suburban Rail Loop will get people where they want to go – and with a real partner in Canberra, we will be able to get on with this project even faster,” he said.