Victoria’s opposition leader, Matthew Guy, has pledged $160m to improve the bus network in outer suburbs if the Coalition wins government, while Daniel Andrews has sought to woo inner-city voters with the prospect of more dog parks.
Arriving by bus in Sunbury, in Melbourne’s north, on Friday, Guy said a Coalition government would establish or expand 45 services and review another 20 existing routes in the city’s outer suburbs and in regional Victorian towns if elected on 26 November.
“Rewarding hard-working families is part of my agenda and making sure there is a greater number of public transport options is a key part of that,” he told reporters.
“It’s so important we get bus services right. It’s so important that they compliment our large rail and tram network.”
The funds would be allocated over four years, with the new routes to be determined after consultation with the bus association.
Daniel Bowen, from the Public Transport Users Association, backed the Coalition’s plan, saying Melbourne’s outer suburbs were serviced by infrequent and indirect bus services.
“It’s a great start to getting good quality public transport into those areas,” he told Guardian Australia.
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“They’ll need to look at where they can prioritise those routes and hopefully it’s just the start of further investment in the bus system because there’s just so many areas of Melbourne that need those upgrades.”
Bowen said the frequency of bus services was also key.
“The last thing we’d want is new bus networks that run half an hour and really don’t provide a good alternative to getting in your car,” he said.
The Coalition plan includes increasing services on a series of routes in Melbourne and regional centres; the introduction of new routes in Sunbury and Wollert; and new express services between Glen Waverley and Box Hill, and between Hastings and Mornington.
Guy made the announcement in the seat of Sunbury, which is held by Labor on a comfortable margin of 14.5%. Labor fears it could suffer significant swings in the area, due to frustration that infrastructure has not kept up with population growth.
An Andrews government spokesperson said the opposition could not be be trusted on public transport.
“They’ve promised to cut our big build, sacking thousands of workers and hurting our economy,” the spokesperson said.
“They’ll cut the Suburban Rail Loop and cut level crossing removals, forcing people onto more congested roads.”
The commitment comes after Guy earlier announced he would cap metropolitan public transport at $2 a day and halve V/Line fares. Earlier this week, Andrews pledged to bring V/Line fares in line with metropolitan Myki fees if Labor retains government.
On Friday Andrews visited Pawfield Park in Caulfield East to pledge $13.4m to build six new dog parks and upgrade 22 existing ones if re-elected, citing an 8% increase in pet ownership during the pandemic.
“We know particularly in built up areas access to public spaces that’s appropriate for dogs, that’s appropriate for families is critically important,” he said.
The new parks will be located in Armstrong Creek, Endeavour Hills, Mount Waverley, Sydenham, Wantirna and Wollert.
Andrews also pledged to release new animal welfare laws in 2023, as well as $2m to support low-cost vet clinics and $5m to the animal welfare fund in honour of Oscar, the tiny poodle behind the state’s laws banning puppy farms, who recently died. The funds will support pet shelters and animal rescue and rehoming organisations.
During the press conference, Andrews was heckled by a man, who called him a “disgrace”. Another accused the premier of “ruining the state”.
Caulfield, held by Liberal MP David Southwick, is one of the state’s most marginal seats. An electoral redistribution sees it become a Labor seat on a 0.2% margin.
The premier also stopped at the Port Melbourne Bowling Club to meet with the party’s Albert Park candidate, upper house MP Nina Taylor, and pledge $1m for the club.
Andrews and Taylor were joined for a beer by former health minister Martin Foley, who held the seat of Albert Park for 15 years before announcing his retirement earlier this year.
The seat is under threat by the Greens, who nearly won the overlapping electorate of Macnamara at the May federal election.