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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 1869

Mr LAUNDY (Reid) (10:13): I move:

That this House notes that:

(1) the Government is delivering on its promise to build a stronger Australia with its $1.5 billion commitment to the WestConnex project in Sydney;

(2) WestConnex is part of a long term vision for Sydney's future and is needed to cater for the additional 1.3 million people calling it home over the next 20 years;

(3) the 33 kilometre motorway linking Sydney's west and south-west with the CBD, Sydney Airport and Port Botany, will return some $20 billion to the NSW economy; and

(4) the project will create thousands of jobs including new apprenticeships.

As I made my way around the electorate of Reid over the past 18 months, I met many people and had many conversations. There were not many conversations that at some stage did not turn to local traffic—both neighbourhood streets and, of course, Parramatta Road. In Reid you will find the end of the M4 Motorway. We are the proverbial 'end of the line'. The roads that once belonged to us and our families are now home to traffic 'rat running' in an attempt to avoid Parramatta Road. The electorate of Reid has lived with the lack of vision of state and federal governments for the last 40 years.

But this was not always the case. Our forebears always intended a motorway from Sydney's greater west to the city. That is why they had retained ownership of land that would allow future governments to build it when required. In what could only be described as an act of political short-sightedness, the Wran state government sold this corridor in 1977.

When it comes to infrastructure, not only the people of Reid but all in NSW have been let down for too long. Poor infrastructure investment decisions over the past decade have contributed to a $30 billion infrastructure backlog. This has led to the poor economic performance of New South Wales compared with the rest of Australia during that time. Currently, congestion costs the New South Wales economy an estimated $5.1 billion every year or nearly $1,100 for every resident of Sydney. By 2020, the cost of congestion is expected to rise to $8.8 billion, as Sydney's population grows and travel demand increases.

Western Sydney is home to Australia's third biggest economy, and with Sydney's population expected to grow by 1.3 million people over the next 20 years, it is only going to get bigger and be more important to Australia's economic success. It deserves first-class infrastructure. With the WestConnex, it will have it. The M4, which begins at Penrith and terminates in the electorate of Reid at North Strathfield, creates unreliable travel times through the inner west to the city and the airport. As drivers reach the end of the motorway, they either head up Concord Road and turn into Gipps Street, spreading traffic through the back streets of Concord West, Concord, Five Dock and Rodd Point. Or they head down Parramatta Road, turning off at Wentworth Road, Strathfield, then through Burwood and Croydon. Our once quiet back streets—home to our children—have now become home to a large number of vehicles attempting to avoid the nightmare that is Parramatta Road.

Parramatta Road is heavily congested, with traffic speeds reduced on average to 21 kilometres per hour as trucks, vans, cars and buses fight for space on a crowded corridor interrupted by 25 sets of traffic lights. Our community in Reid has effectively been cut in half, with local residents doing all they can to stay on their side of Parramatta Road and avoiding the battle that goes on there. As a result, large sections of Parramatta Road have become an eyesore characterised by failing retail businesses, heavily-congested, polluting traffic and an absence of pedestrians. In some places all that is missing are the tumbleweeds rolling down the street.

The WestConnex is what the people of Reid are crying out for. WestConnex is the largest integrated transport and urban revitalisation project in Australia, linking Sydney's west and south-west with the CBD, the airport and port in a continuous 33-kilometre motorway that is completely free of traffic lights. WestConnex will be the trigger for urban revitalisation along the Parramatta Road corridor. Streetscapes will be beautified; green corridors and parkland added; it will be a better place to live, work and socialise.

According to experts, the WestConnex will cut forecast travel times between Parramatta and Sydney Airport by up to 40 minutes. I think this is conservative, because I, as a lifelong resident, can, like all in Reid, tell you horror stories of taking 20 minutes to travel a distance that should take two minutes. And with clearway restrictions eased on weekends, we now have the crazy situation where weekend traffic is worse than weekdays. Travel speeds have fallen to as little as 21 kilometres per hour for morning and afternoon peak periods and the M4 is congested 13 hours a day. Secondly,    bus travel times between the inner west and the CBD will be halved; again , I believe, this is very conservative estimate. Thirdly, it will create 10,000 jobs during the construction phase, including hundreds of apprenticeships. With unemployment in double digits in Reid, especially amongst our youth, we could sure use these. Fourthly, it will bypass up to 52 sets of traffic lights.

Fifthly, it will remove 3,000 trucks a day from Parramatta Road and put them underground, leading to revitalised neighbourhoods on the surface. This is an important point, Madame Speaker: whilst there is concern about the impact the WestConnex tunnel ventilation will have on local air quality, I was amazed to attend a briefing only a few weeks ago at which an expert explained there would be a vast improvement in air quality, as trucks in particular would be driving through the tunnel at a continually higher average speed—not stopping and starting, using low gears, and spewing black smoke into the air.

Sixthly, north-south travel times across Parramatta Road for cars and public buses accessing the western rail line at Burwood and other stations will improve. This relates to the point about allowing the two halves of Reid to come back together—a situation we do not currently enjoy. Seventhly, it will provide the environment for 25,000 new jobs and 25,000 residences to be created over the next 20 years along Parramatta Road. In consultation with councils and communities, sections of the Parramatta Road corridor will be rezoned to encourage construction of new apartments and homes, commercial and retail space, recreational space, civic and government buildings. All this will result in a 20-kilometre urban revitalisation corridor developed progressively between Camperdown and Parramatta over the next 20 years. All told it is projected the WestConnex will deliver more than $20 billion in economic benefits to New South Wales, and, hopefully, we will get rid of those tumbleweeds.

This project will mean different things to different electorates at different stages of the construction. Whilst we have a responsibility to represent our electorate, we must also balance the short and the long term and govern for majorities, not minorities. One of the most common criticisms of politicians is that they have a lack of vision, that they govern by electoral cycle and find short-term issues to create political advantage, and that they seek to hold power above all else. WestConnex is the perfect example of a government not doing that.

I note with interest that I will be followed by the members for Kingsford Smith, Chifley and Parramatta. They may talk about tolls, compulsory acquisitions, moving bottlenecks, ventilation shafts, the role of public transport and a number of other things. These are issues they can play politics on. I challenge them to think about Sydney, particularly Western Sydney, when this project is finished in 10 or 20 years time and we will have an additional 1.3 million people calling our city home. With any major infrastructure project there will always be points of contention. But we must govern with long-term vision and for the needs of the many versus the needs of the few.

I applaud Prime Minister Mr Tony Abbott and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss for taking a long-term view and working with Premier Barry O'Farrell and the New South Wales government to deliver WestConnex for the people of Reid, the people of Western Sydney and the people of New South Wales. Prime Minister Abbott went to the electorate promising us the roads of the 21st century. His first order of business the day after he was sworn in was to deliver on the promise. On behalf of the people of Reid I thank him and I commend this motion to the House.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?