WestConnex is a $17 billion, 33 kilometre toll road proposed by the New South Wales government and backed by the federal government. Its tunnels, multi-layered interchanges and four to six lane highways will cut a swathe through the inner west of Sydney. Pauline Lockie is a spokesperson for the WestConnex Action Group, one of the groups opposing the project. This is an edited version of a speech she gave at the Rally for Fair Fares in Sydney on June 21. * * *
Where were you in May when the New South Wales state government announced it will scrap the free rides the Opal card currently gives you after having paid for eight trips in one week? I was not gazing out the window of a train daydreaming that I was on a catbus — the magical type of public transport in Hayao Miyazaki's 1988 anime classic, My Neighbour Totoro.
The committee campaigning against the proposal to establish a Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek met on May 12 at Blacktown Council Chambers to discuss their plans to oppose the new airport. It decided to begin an extensive education campaign, involving leafleting western Sydney, taking the issue to local schools where pupils will experience disruption and letter box drops.
The Mike Baird Coalition government in New South Wales is keeping its plans for further privatisation of the publicly-owned Sydney Trains network tightly under wraps, after state officials refused to release nearly 100 documents on the issue, declaring them "cabinet in confidence". NSW Treasury bureaucrats rejected a freedom of information request from the Labor opposition, saying the correspondence and emails could have an impact on commercial interests.
Chants of "MUA, here to stay!" rang out outside the electoral office of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on April 13, as around 200 members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) rallied in protest against federal government attacks on the shipping industry, threats to reduce penalty rates and the Coalition's industrial relations agenda.
A recent study, led by Victoria University and West Justice Youth Office, has revealed that students from low socioeconomic families cannot afford to travel on public transport, or pay the fines they incur for travelling without a valid myki card. West Justice chief executive Denis Nelthorpe said: “Up to 80,000 Victorian students a year were unable to pay fines, resulting in many of them skipping school.”
The Perth Freight Link (PFL) project ground to a halt on December 16 when Supreme Court Chief Justice Wayne Martin ruled environmental approvals for the Roe 8 freeway through the Beeliar Wetlands were invalid. Incredibly, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) had argued it was not bound by its own policy when assessing and granting approval. This result comes on top of a 2013 decision that the EPA had bungled approvals for the James Price Point gas processing facility.
Many Victorians had hoped the election of a state Labor government signaled an end to the East West Link and the dawn of a new age of public transport projects, with the Andrews government committing to start building the $11 billion Metro Rail Project in 2018. Now, federal Liberal MPs from Melbourne’s outer east are trying to resuscitate the East West Link. On August 8 they held a small rally with the demand “Build the Link”.
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.