Marshall appoints new SA transport minister

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has appointed Corey Wingard as Minister for Transport and Infrastructure.

The appointment follows the resignation of Stephan Knoll from the frontbench, due to an expenses scandal. Knoll, who represents the Barossa region electorate of Schubert, had claimed an accommodation allowance for country MPs who need to stay in Adelaide for parliamentary business before expenses were incurred. Knoll has agreed to repay expenses claimed.

In a statement, Knoll said that his resignation would allow the government to get on with responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Wingard, who takes on Knoll’s portfolio in addition to his sport, recreation, and racing portfolios, has been a member of the SA House of Assembly since 2014 and was previously the Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services.

The new cabinet will be sworn in on Wednesday morning and meet for the first time on Thursday.

South Australian Freight Council executive officer Evan Knapp welcomed the appointment of Wingard.

“SAFC looks forward to working with incoming Minister Corey Wingard MP on transport, logistics and infrastructure-related issues,” Knapp said.

“Critical for the new Minister’s attention will be urgently completing North South Corridor planning works, reducing the State’s road maintenance backlog, and populating Infrastructure Australia’s Infrastructure Project List (IPL) with more long-overdue South Australian projects.”

Rail, Tram and Bus Union SA/NT secretary Darren Phillips called for the new minister to abandon the government’s privatisation of transport services.

“Privatisation will see responsibility for keeping public transport safe during the pandemic outsourced to private contractors,” said Phillips.

“Given the diabolical economic implications of the pandemic crisis, with the state being plunged into recession, it is galling that the Marshall Government wants to put the jobs of South Australian transport workers at risk. The privatisation of the tram system saw the number of tram drivers cut by ten per cent.”

155 light rail services will be added in Canberra due to unexpected demand

ACT Minister for Transport Chris Steel said Canberra’s light rail is exceeding the government’s expectations and is ahead of boarding targets by one year.

The ACT government will add extra services, meaning the light rail will move to a 5-minute timetable during morning peaks, and a further 155 light rail services will be added every week, taking the total number of light rail services to more than 1,600 every week.

Steel said further improvements are planned as part of the new public transport network the Government is introducing in April 2020.

“Light rail has been a huge success, with 3.5 million boardings since it started last year,” Steel said.

“More than 15,000 boardings are being made every day on light rail.”

These expansion of services will be delivered using the existing fleet of 14 light rail vehicles.

A half hour extension of the southbound morning and northbound afternoon services have started this week. 

From April, the current services during peak times will increase from every six minutes to every five minutes and services will commence one hour earlier on Sundays and public holidays from 7am. 

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”.