Sea of lanterns shine light on transport privatisation scams

Handmade lanterns lit up the streets of Sydney on August 11 to demand the state government fix NSW transport. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

About 500 people bearing handmade lanterns and banners marched through Sydney on August 11 to protest the state Coalition government's multi-billion dollar transport privatisation and road tollway scams.

These scams include the $17 billion WestConnex private road tollway project, which has been the subject of criticism from the Auditor-General and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

It is now also the subject of a NSW parliamentary inquiry, with calls being made for a royal commission into transport planning in the state.

The action was organised by the Fix NSW Transport coalition, which includes about 30 community groups and trade unions such as the Rail, Tram and Bus Union and the Public Service Association. The coalition's objective is to make this blatant corruption of NSW transport planning and investment a decisive issue in the March 2019 state elections.

Speaking to Green Left Weekly about the protest, Fix NSW Transport organiser Andrew Chuter said: "We succeeded in creating a really positive vibe while maintaining a strong political message.

“It's not easy to interest people in something as seemingly ordinary as public transport, but it affects all of us.

“When people realise their time and money is being wasted by what is essentially corruption, they get very angry. We succeeded in channelling that energy into a call for positive change.

“There was lots of support from passers-by. They understood what it was about and wanted to find out more.

“The lanterns and music created a carnival atmosphere and showed just how joyful the city streets can be when cleared of traffic and given back to the people. 

“Tourists were taking pictures that were beamed around the world. I'm sure many of them are still wondering why they were forced to pay $18.70 just to catch the train from Sydney airport to the city.

“In the lead up to the lantern walk, we organised a series of local lantern workshops. These created a space to build community and make connections. 

“We've created a trust and camaraderie that will last and we will use that force in our future actions which we are planning in the lead up to the state elections.

"The City of Sydney Council's support was crucial. We were able to print and distribute tens of thousands of flyers and use community venues to hold workshops. 

“Sydney mayor Clover Moore and her team have been vocal opponents of WestConnex from the beginning and continue to campaign for better public and active transport. 

“We worked together to bring a group of progressive councillors from across Sydney to join the rally.

“Sydney's Inner West Council also endorsed the lantern walk and we intend to campaign for more councils to come on board over the next few months."