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Adjournment speech: Roads: WestConnex

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (19:44): Tonight I join with a wide range of community groups, transport activists and Greens New South Wales MPs to call on the New South Wales government to immediately halt the WestConnex toll road project. This project is a disaster—it is a disaster for people and the environment, it does not offer transport solutions and it is certainly not helping business and productivity. It is time for an independent review of the whole project. There are many ongoing concerns about probity, about procurement and about accountability procedures. What we see instead are billion-dollar contracts with the major WestConnex contractor, CIMIC, formerly Leightons, being put in place. This multinational corporation has a history—there is a track record here, and it is a track record that takes us time and time again to serious corruption. Investigations are ongoing in both Australia and overseas, and this is a further reminder of why an independent review is so urgently needed.

I do offer my support to the people of St Peters and Alexandria, residents who are in the front line. So many of them have lost their homes, and they are being exposed to noise and disruption. For 10 weeks many residents and supporters have been camping out in Sydney Park—I have met many of them. This is a beautiful park, one of the great jewels of Sydney, and it will be carved up if this WestConnex project goes ahead. This is a further reminder of why we need to end this project—this WestConnex project will deliver no transport solutions, just more problems. In Haberfield, scores of buildings, including heritage ones, are about to be demolished, and 14,000 square metres of Sydney Park, including hundreds of trees that form valuable canopy and habitat, will be destroyed.

The WestConnex planning process is an undemocratic farce. Thousands of pages of serious independent analysis has been ignored by the New South Wales government's Roads and Maritime Services and Department of Planning and Environment. The Greens have been successful in asking for a federal audit of the WestConnex project, and we await the results, due in early 2017. I join with our New South Wales MPs Jenny Leong, Mehreen Faruqi and Jamie Parker in wholeheartedly supporting the ongoing community opposition to WestConnex. In recent times, the Baird government has shown that it does planning on the run. We had the dumping of the Rozelle interchange and the addition of another kilometre of tunnel and more acquisitions near the Iron Cove Bridge. These large changes mean that the EIS traffic congestion, air quality and road noise predictions and the updated strategic business case are now obsolete and must be reviewed. But not under the Baird government—they will keep making out that they have an EIS.

Last week, The Age investigative team published another instalment in their expose of Unaoil, the company at the centre of an international oil industry scandal and its big-name multinational clients including, you guessed it CIMIC and Samsung. CIMIC is centre stage when it comes to WestConnex. Back in February 2012, Leightons referred a 'possible breach' of its code of ethics to the Australian Federal Police regarding bribery payments made by its subsidiary Leighton Offshore. Despite this, later that year Leightons was contracted by the New South Wales Liberal-National government to help plan and prepare the business case for WestConnex. It makes you wonder.

Since then CIMIC and other associated companies, John Holland and Dragados, have won billions of dollars of contracts for WestConnex. Another player in the Unaoil scandal, Samsung, is a partner in some of these contracts. The network and the intrigue here is extraordinary—again, more reasons why we need the independent review. How could a company that is under corruption investigations from international and domestic agencies be granted these contracts? This is contrary to the mandatory reporting requirements of the New South Wales Procurement Board, where agencies must report findings of dishonest, unfair, unconscionable, corrupt or illegal conduct in suppliers. Such behaviour can mean that suppliers are excluded from contracting opportunities with the New South Wales government.

So, I ask, what happened regarding Leightons? This is a question that needs to be answered. In 2013 I raised questions about the impact of political donations by construction companies such as Leightons. How have those donations affected decisions by both major parties that favour the road lobby and projects such as WestConnex? Silence and a lack of honesty has been the response from authorities. The public is left to wonder what role Leightons' donations of more than $1,320,000 to Liberal, Labor and National parties since 2008 played in positioning the company for these contracts. Many would call this corruption, but there is no national anticorruption commission to investigate. Only a full and independent review will get to the bottom of what is one of the biggest infrastructure con jobs perpetrated on the Australian taxpayer.

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