Protesters gathered outside the Four Seasons Hotel on June 15 to oppose the controversial WestConnex private tollway, which is being forced through by the Coalition state government at a massive cost to New South Wales taxpayers. The hotel was the site of an Infrastructure Conference, addressed by Premier Mike Baird, federal Labor opposition infrastructure spokesperson Anthony Albanese and other political and urban development leaders.
WestConnex is a proposed 33 kilometre long tollway going through the inner suburbs of Sydney, connecting the existing M4 and M5 tollways. Its current estimated cost is a huge $16.8 billion, to be met by public funds and heavy tolls on motorists.
The state government has committed $1.5 billion and obtained a commercial loan of $1.5 billion to fund the project. The federal government has committed a $1.8 billion grant and a $2 billion loan. This still leaves a funding gap of $10 billion, which will probably have to be met by the federal government committing more taxpayers' money.
In spite of this massive expense, all independent transport experts say that WestConnex will increase, not reduce, traffic congestion. It will also divert funds that could otherwise be spent on public transport improvements.
A new Change.org petition, headed "Freeze federal funding of WestConnex," notes: "The WestConnex tollway has been surrounded by controversy and increasing community opposition. An incoming Labor government would have the ability to freeze federal funding for it.
"There is $300 million in federal grant funding and a $2 billion federal loan which is not due to be finalised and paid until after the election on July 2. An incoming federal government has the power to stop these payments.
"We call on Labor to commit to cancelling these payments and any future funding should a federal Labor government be elected."
Meanwhile, protesters have occupied homes threatened with demolition in Haberfield and other inner Sydney suburbs over recent months. Four protesters, Paul Jeffery, Chris Elenor, Bill Holliday and John Hyde were arrested and charged with trespass for trying to raise awareness of the issue. They will appear in Burwood Court on June 23.
A "Support the Haberfield 4" campaign has been established, asking supporters to donate to help cover fines and legal costs. All funds raised will be coordinated through the No WestCONnex: Public Transport campaign to cover these and future legal costs.
In other campaign actions, protesters gathered in St Peters on June 10 to picket a WestConnex test drilling site for the tollway. Residents and supporters are seeking to maintain a continuing protest outside all WestConnex worksites, as the public movement against this disastrous tollway ramps up.