It is time to get real and expose WestConnex for what it is. It is an attempt by this Government to ram its obsession with big cars and private enterprise on an unsuspecting Sydney.
It is an attempt by this Government to ram its obsession with big cars and private enterprise on an unsuspecting Sydney.
When I speak with residents across my electorate they raise the many issues they and their families face.
They speak about our housing affordability crisis, with young people worried they will never own their own home.
They speak about our overcrowded schools, the importance of protecting jobs and of doing better to promote equality and fairness.
They speak about our congested streets, about air pollution and the need to act on climate change.
They share their vision about the kind of city they want to live in, a diverse and sustainable Sydney, a truly global city in every way—a city supported by a comprehensive public transport system and active transport corridors, peppered with green, open space.
Instead of building towards this city of the future, they are being let down by a Government stuck in the past.
At the heart of Westconnex is a complex problem: How can we support the many millions of people who live in Western Sydney gain access to the city? How do we get freight to the port? How do we get better access to Kingsford Smith airport? At its heart, this is an equity problem; a problem of fairness. Why should the people of Western Sydney spend hours stuck in traffic trying to get to and from work each day when they should have that precious time with their kids and families?
But despite what this Government thinks, a complex problem cannot be solved with a simple answer. And that is what it is very quickly discovering. Its simple answer is unworkable, unwieldy and unwise.
From the very beginning, the Westconnex process has been shambolic. Property owners were issued acquisition notices, then told their properties would not be acquired, and then told that they would be acquired after all. The tunnel was to run under Parramatta Road, spurring a revitalisation of the entire corridor, but then it was not; instead it was to run under thousands of homes in Croydon and Burwood. More than 180 properties—122 of which are in my electorate—are being acquired, many of them stunning Federation-era homes in Haberfield, the world's first garden suburb.
A proposed private hospital was served an acquisition notice, two weeks before being granted approval by the Department of Health. One hand of government does not know what the other is doing.
Home and business owners, after months of being in the dark, are now being offered valuations that are hundreds of thousands of dollars below market value, meaning they will never be able to live in their communities again.
For this Government, this project is just chaos and confusion.
If the Government wants to prove to the people of Sydney that this road will work then it is time to give the people of New South Wales some straight talk. It is time to release the business case. It is time to release the environmental impact statement. It is time to release the traffic modelling and the cost-benefit analysis.
The Government says Westconnex will relieve congestion. Independent modelling says it will not.
The Government says it will reduce pollution—gently dispersing pollutants into the air like a weak shandy—but that claim is not backed by health professionals.
The Government says it will make money, it will build the third stage by using toll proceeds, but there is no public financial data to support its claims.
Let us be honest, that is why the Government has signed contracts without an environmental impact statement: It knows what it will say. That is why it is moving ahead without planning approval and without releasing a business case: It knows what it will say.
Westconnex is a sham; it will not work. There is a better way.
We can think about people and the kind of city we want to pass on to our kids. We can think big and build a world-class public transport network that links our city both east to west, and north to south. We can start locally. Let us connect the dots of our cycling networks and walking paths. We can build that vision of a sustainable Sydney by encouraging people out of cars and making public transport a more affordable, effective option.
I reiterate that I am categorically opposed to this road. I have opposed it from the very beginning.
I stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Haberfield and Ashfield, and across the inner west.
We can solve Sydney's congestion and transport, but WestConnex is not the answer.