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Speech: Road Infrastructure

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 25 Nov 2015

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (17:00): Urban motorways reveal some of the worst aspects of how major parties do politics and the worst aspects of their own transport policies. In Sydney we have this madness of a WestConnex urban motorway project. A 33-kilometre, dirty tollway that would divide Sydney, bring greater air pollution, increase congestion, divide suburbs and rip up bike lanes. We know that is so often the case because we have seen it in the past with urban motorway projects that have brought so many problems-not just transport, not just health wise but also economic. There have been disasters.

We know who the winners are out of this. The winners are the mates of the Liberals and Labor-the developers and motorway builders-who stand to pick up the billions of dollars that is the cost of these massive projects. In Sydney we have the Cross City Tunnel that has gone into receivership twice. The Lane Cove Tunnel has been in receivership once. On both those motorway projects bike lanes that had to be built as part of the project were subsequently ripped up as one problem with the project after another had to be solved, and they partly tried to do that by ripping up bike lanes.

What we also know from experience with these urban motorways is that there is a huge fudge when it comes to the business case. The assertions that there are so many cars that will use this and that great profits can be made out of these motorways. Again, going to the Cross City Tunnel, that is just a joke. To this day so often you cannot see a car in it as you go through it.

I pay tribute to the EcoTransit organisation, and particularly to Michelle Zeibots who identified the problem early on that you could not trust the figures. Right from the beginning the backers of the Cross City Tunnel said 95,000 cars would use this tunnel. Ms Zeibots identified that you could not fit that many cars in it in a day. Now it is running at about 40,000 and it is not expected that it will increase very much at all.

Coming back to the WestConnex, again we see the problems with the transport policies of Liberal and Labor. There has already been a blow-out. A project that started as supposedly $10 billion in 2012 is now out to $16.8 billion, and this is what the state and federal governments are combining forces to push through.

Imagine what that money could do if spent on public transport. The solutions it would bring to Sydney would be fantastic. But it is money that could be spent in other areas-other capital cities or regional areas-that are crying out for public transport. Now we have this madness of the WestConnex project running at what we understand are $26 tolls with tens of thousands of cars dumped into the inner city. That effectively is the policy that Labor and the Liberals would bring to our city if it is allowed to proceed.

Again, it does put the spotlight on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. He cannot get away with making out he is a great advocate of public transport if he is going to allow the WestConnex project to go ahead in his city. It will divide suburbs, cause more congestion, which will lead to more air pollution and more health problems, rob money from public transport and make it harder for a lot of businesses that are along the main roads where there will be 24-hour clearways. Every way you look at this project it is a disaster.

What adds to the outrage is that now there is an asbestos scandal building around this, as large numbers of trucks are moving asbestos from the St Peters area, where they will want to build a spaghetti junction, out to Western Sydney, dumping it at a waste facility that has on its website that it does not take asbestos. And now they are discovering asbestos along the M4 Motorway, which has to be expanded as part of the WestConnex project. I have visited residents who are deeply concerned that asbestos is in their backyard, it has not been properly stored and it is being disturbed in the ways that we know are so wrong.

This is a project that really should be stopped now. Let's get those billions of dollars into public transport. It is a policy of urban motorways and it is a failed policy. It is 2015. We hear from so many politicians in this place that we need liveable cities. What goes hand in hand with liveable cities is public transport. Public transport needs money. The projects that we need have been identified-light rail, heavy rail and more buses. We can do it with clean energy. The future is clear.


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