In a move designed to restrict examination and comment, the NSW government released the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the New M5 in late November. The EIS was on public exhibition until January 29 — virtually the whole summer holiday period. The New M5 is the second major tunnel section of WestConnex and will run between the existing M5 East at Kingsgrove and the new interchange at St Peters.
When Liberal MP Jamie Briggs was in Hong Kong and was not busy making unwanted advances on public servants, he was meeting with private rail operator MTR. This aspect of his travels should also be under scrutiny.
Rather than reducing traffic congestion in Sydney, a report commissioned by the Leichhardt Council has found that the giant WestConnex tollway project will increase traffic problems in the city's inner west. The report, which analysed the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the M4 East component of WestConnex — a tunnel from Concord to Ashfield — was released on October 20.
The New South Wales government is preparing a fire sale of state-owned properties around the Sydney Harbour foreshore, on the pretext of funding an upgrade of the Circular Quay ferry wharves. Premier Mike Baird announced on September 28 that government-owned hotels and office buildings would be sold to raise $200 million for the renovation project.
Community groups from across Sydney have condemned the NSW government's announcement that the community consultation period for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the M4 East section of the huge WestConnex tollway will be limited to 45 days. NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes released the Environmental Impact Statement on September 9. NSW Greens spokesperson for WestConnex and MP for Newtown Jenny Leong said: “This is the largest, most complex road building project in Australia’s history.
Local residents of the Sydney suburb of St Peters successful halted what they suspected was an illegal attempt to remove asbestos from the planned St Peters Interchange site in the ecologically and financially irresponsible $15 billion WestConnex road-tunnel project.
A new front in the battle against WestCONnex has opened up with the beginning of preparatory works at the Alexandria Landfill adjacent to Sydney Park in the inner west suburb of St Peters. The landfill was chosen last year to be the site of a WestCONnex interchange, spewing anywhere between 30,000 to 100,000 cars a day into congested inner south-west streets. Nearby residents are in uproar when they found out last week that asbestos would be removed. This is despite the Environmental Impact Statement not having been released, or approval granted, for that stage of WestCONnex.
"Some people think [the WestConnex tollway] can't be stopped. I am not one of those," Dr Michelle Zeibots told an anti-WestConnex rally of around 200 people in Goddard Park, Concord, on July 4. Zeibots, a transport planning expert, was one of a number of speakers at the rally, with the theme: "WestConnex Independence Day: Save Our City". "The [NSW state] government can't even present a business case for this project. More than $15 billion of public money is being spent on a private road, rather than on public transport.
JAPANESE ZOOS TO BAN TAIJI DOLPHINS In a decision heralded as “the beginning of the end of dolphin hunting”, Japan’s peak zoo association has voted to stop members buying dolphins captured in the globally condemned Taiji hunts. The decision came after a decade of sustained pressure and a lawsuit begun by animal welfare charity Australia for Dolphins, which led the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) to suspend its Japanese member due to its involvement in the hunts.
Anti-WestConnex protesters ‘fine’ Roads Australia Anti-WestConnex activists protested at the annual Roads Australia dinner, with attendees being handed a $15 billion penalty notice for the folly they are about to inflict on Sydney. Members of WestConnex Action Group set up a toll booth at the entrance, next to the red carpet. Guests, including the father of WestConnex, Nick Greiner, were made to run the anti-WestConnex gauntlet on their way into Sydney Town Hall.
New Greens MP Jenny Leong, who won the seat of Newtown in the March 28 NSW election, attributes the Greens’ high votes in several parts of NSW to its MPs standing up against corruption and over-development. The Greens' support for community-led campaigns — in particular opposition to coal seam gas and the WestConnex road project — also won them a bigger hearing.
“The swing against the Coalition and vote for three, perhaps four Greens MPs, in the NSW elections represents an important political gain for the left in NSW. This is welcome news for those fighting for community need not corporate greed”, Susan Price told Green Left Weekly. Price, a long-time unionist and co-convenor of Socialist Alliance, ran for the Socialist Alliance in the inner-west seat of Summer Hill.
It was always a big ask for the NSW Labor Party to follow their counterparts in Victoria and Queensland and win the election on March 29. The corruption scandals involving former Labor ministers was a big handicap for the ALP at the previous election in 2011. As a result, Labor lost 32 lower house seats and the Coalition won 34 seats. The ALP was reduced to a rump of just 20 lower house members — the worst result for the party in more than 100 years.
"No West Connex: Public transport is the answer," was the theme of a public forum sponsored by Green Left Weekly on March 17 at the Sydney CBD Resistance Centre. Up to 30 people gathered to hear Sue Bolton, Socialist Alliance councillor from Moreland, Melbourne, and Chris Elenor, No WestCONnex activist, discuss issues surrounding the huge toll road projects being pushed in Australia's major cities.
This NSW election, like the Victorian and Queensland polls before it, hinges on growing public opposition to Tony Abbott’s federal government and the neoliberal policies implemented by Labor and Coalition state governments. The sell-off of public assets and services, cuts to the public sector, unsustainable development, mining and unprecedented handouts and tax cuts to corporate interests and the super rich are now standard practice, and people have had enough.
The stop WestConnex campaign is intensifying heading into the NSW state election. Apart from the proposed electricity sell-off, it has become one of the top issues, damaging both Liberal and Labor. The announcement by Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore of a WestConnex forum at Sydney Town Hall, set for March 16, has ignited campaigners, and will put the unpopular and expensive plan under further scrutiny.