The Baird Government can no longer hide the fact that WestConnex is a mess. The Premier has done everything he can to shroud the project in secrecy. Now we know why. We have found out that the Government does not care about the people. It does not care about the residents of the inner west, nor motorists who will be hit with sky-high tolls. It certainly does not care about the hundreds of families who have been ripped off by hundreds of thousands of dollars in dodgy acquisition deals.
Earlier this month we learned that the Government will increase tolls above the consumer price index [CPI]. Motorists understand that paying tolls is a necessary evil when living in a big city, but if CPI is a marker of the cost of living why is the Government hitting motorists above that rate? Motorists already know the answer.
They know about the WestConnex cost blowout of $16.8 billion.
They look at the toll gantries on the M4 that the Premier had built as the very first part of the project.
They are also aware that the Government is tolling trips that have never been tolled before, including from Auburn to Olympic Park at a cost of $2.48 each way.
They know that the Government is making them pay for its mistakes.
But nothing compares with the burden the Premier has put on inner west residents whose homes were acquired. The Premier offered a mea culpa and apologised for what he called "mistakes" in the process of property acquisitions. He said, "These are personal individual cases where people's homes have been acquired and I think the way we've gone about it hasn’t been as careful as it should have been." This week we learned that the Premier knew the acquisitions were unfair and that the process was rigged against residents. He and the Minister for Finance, Services and Property disgracefully sat on a report that showed the process needed to be fixed.
The Premier was intent on making hardworking families who were losing their homes pay and, despite his apologies, he did absolutely nothing to help those inner west families who are being ripped off by a process that we now know was rigged from the start. The Premier's apology was nothing more than crocodile tears from a man intent on making other people pay for his mistakes. Labor has moved in this place for tolling transparency.
Labor has also moved in this place to make sure that WestConnex is covered by freedom of information provisions and this Government has blocked each of those attempts because, when it comes to Baird's WestConnex, nobody wins—not inner west residents, not motorists and definitely not the people of New South Wales.