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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 1879


Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (10:56): The member for Reid gets breathless behind the vision of the way that those opposite are funding WestConnex. He just gets excited; he gets cheap thrills. I do not want to ask him to fill out a shopping list in case I give him a heart attack! I cannot get over the vision behind this $1.5 billion cash splash that underwrites WestConnex—it tells me that you are into cheap thrills that someone else is paying for. Because all those members opposite have their noses pressed up against the thought bubble that we will see the coalition infrastructure wish list put out on parade. It is nothing more than a sort of amateurish smudge of credibility on coalition talking points. It is not good enough. In opposition, the coalition wanted a cost-benefit analysis on a fridge opening. And now they write on the back of confetti, put up a cheer, and pat themselves on the back, and they think that is good enough—it ain't.

We set up Infrastructure Australia with a specific purpose: to de-politicise these issues. We wanted to ensure that the politics is taken out of these issues and that the independent experts are put in. Infrastructure projects from across the country are put in by state governments. We then backed those projects up with funding, after the experts had been through them—nearly $47 billion on roads nationally and $13.6 million on rail—and we saw results. I challenge the member for Mitchell when he says that in Sydney we saw no funding. We saw $5.5 billion on the road and rail transport service in Sydney over six years, including nearly $2 billion for the northern Sydney freight line and the southern Sydney freight line upgrades; $405 million for the F3 to M2 missing link; and $93 million to widen the F5 at Campbelltown that you and I no doubt drive down to get here. We also have the $300 million to upgrade the Great Western Highway and $300 million for Port Botany rail improvements and associated upgrades. Depoliticised, independent, evidence-based, fully-funded quantified results—that is methodical. It is the kind of infrastructure planning process that those opposite dream about. The contrast is embarrassing, because we have heard from the member for Reid—the chief cheerleader proposing this motion—a terrible proposition being put forward about the financing of WestConnex.

As a Western Sydney MP, I never want to take a backward step in representing people in my area. Yes, people in our area spend way too much time in traffic. Yes, they do want to see better funding for public transport infrastructure. But they should get properly funded, well-designed roads that they should not have to pay for twice. They are paying for this M4 upgrade twice with the retolling of the M4. In government, we set aside $1.8 billion in the 2013-14 budget for WestConnex on three simple conditions: first, that the proposal had to provide direct links to get people to the city and freight to the port; second, no new tolls on old roads; and third, finalisation of a detailed business case for assessment by Infrastructure Australia. And what did Mr Abbott do? He blasted out $1.5 billion at the end of an election promise megaphone, smack into the coffers of the New South Wales government, but then flicked the bill to Western Sydney motorists. The cheer squad here for retolling the M4 is made up of the member for Reid, the member for Banks, the member for Mitchell and the member for Lindsay—all of those members should tell their constituents that they support retolling the M4, and that they support paying for old roads out of their constituents' pockets. Every single one of you should be doing it. The average toll, member for Reid, on the initial Parramatta-to-Homebush M4 widening is about $3 in current dollars, but it will be higher when the stage opens in 2017, at the earliest.

There are serious shortcomings. Jacob Saulwick of the Sydney Morning Herald gave the example that those opposite have set up the WestConnex Delivery Authority. He asked: 'What are these people doing?' In his article of 2 November he pointed out:

None of them seem to be raising what is quite a large elephant in the room: that WestConnex is the biggest urban infrastructure project in the country—with $3.3 billion of taxpayers' money already committed to it—and hardly anything is known about it.

Taxpayers do not know how many cars are expected to use this motorway. They do not know its estimated impact on local roads. They are yet to be told its precise route. They're in the dark on construction methods.

When they did get around to advising people, they told people, on the day of the announcement, that their homes would be resumed. The article continued:

Even the need for the WestConnex is not known. It is certainly true Sydney's roads are inadequate. But this does not mean that the precise model of WestConnex is the solution.

When you look at it, this matter has a lot of questions that need to be answered. But the worst thing is that they are re-tolling the M4.