WestConnex minister is no fix for tollway disaster

February 4, 2017
Stuart Ayres is the newly created Minister for WestConnex.

At least three of Australia's largest infrastructure investors are queuing up to form consortia to bid for the controversial $17 billion WestConnex tollway. CP2, IFM and the favourite, Transurban, are involved, with QIC and AMP Capital said to be likely participants.

These corporate sharks are waiting to feed off the profits from the publicly funded WestConnex project, after it has destroyed large swathes of heritage homes, parks, thousands of trees and created a traffic nightmare at the various entry and exit points in Sydney's inner-western suburbs. Having gobbled up most of the available investment funds of the NSW government over a decade, WestConnex will be sold off to private industry at a huge loss to the public purse.

New Premier Gladys Berejiklian has appointed Stuart Ayres, MP for the Penrith area, as the newly created Minister for WestConnex, in a vain bid to promote this nightmare to the working people of western Sydney, who will have to pay for this motorway through exhorbitant tolls.

In 2015, a private company called Sydney Motorway Corporation was set up to deliver the WestConnex project. The sole shareholders in this company were Berejiklian and former Minister for Roads Duncan Gay. This controversial move limited public scrutiny over WestConnex but now introduces a potentially more damaging conflict of interest.

Greens spokesperson for WestConnex and member for Newtown Jenny Leong said on January 29: "If Premier Berejiklian is looking for a fix to the disaster that is WestConnex, creating a special minister is not the answer. She needs to call a halt to this project now and stop the haemorrhaging.

"This announcement is an extraordinary acknowledgement from the NSW government. It signals that they recognise that WestConnex is a basket case that needs special oversight, to manage the incompetence and bad planning decisions that have plagued the project.

"Further isolating WestConnex from a wholistic approach to transport and roads simply makes clear what the community has known for a long time — WestConnex isn't about solving congestion or improving the commute for the people of western Sydney. It's about the transfer of public money into private hands, something the Liberal Party in NSW has been prioritising since they came to power."

Meanwhile, the community campaign against WestConnex is continuing to gather broader support. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) organised a barbecue at the Save Sydney Park campsite in St Peters on January 31. Up to 100 people attended the event, hearing various speakers expressing solidarity with the struggle to oppose WestConnex.

Speakers included Barney Gardner from the Millers Point public housing tenants' campaign against the sell-off of their homes; Richard Weekes, for the Waterloo public housing residents against destruction of their housing blocks; Denis Doherty from Action for Public Housing; Greens MP Jenny Leong; and Paul Keating from the MUA Sydney branch.

Representatives of the anti-WestConnex campaign had previously visited the Hutchisons terminal at Botany Bay to explain the case against the tollway to maritime workers. The MUA has expressed ongoing support to the Sydney Park camp.

The MUA barbecue followed a Rave Against the Berejiklian Machine "community protestival" held at the camp on January 28. This event featured live music, DJs and stalls promoting the anti-WestConnex campaign.

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