Jenny's speech in Parliament on the privatisation of the Metro and transport

Jenny Leong spoke on the outsourcing by the Liberal Transport Minister of the delivery of transport in this state to private companies.

Transport Administration Amendment (Sydney Metro) Bill 2018

Second Reading Debate

Wednesday May 3, 2018

On behalf of The Greens, I speak on the Transport Administration Amendment (Sydney Metro) Bill 2018. The bill was introduced by the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, a Liberal Minister who seems intent on outsourcing his entire portfolio and responsibilities to other Ministers or private corporations. Or perhaps Liberal Premier Berejiklian is keen to remove the Minister's responsibilities, even though it would be easier to change Ministers if she was not happy with the work he was doing, rather than bring legislation to the House to slowly privatise and outsource every element of the transport system.

In this Chamber there is the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, who is responsible for all the integrated transport systems, but there is also the Minister for WestConnex, the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight and various other Ministers involved in other aspects of the transport process. We now have the transport Minister outsourcing the actual delivery of transport to private companies to offload his responsibilities even further. The Greens believe we need a world-class public transport system but, when we look at the details around who is paying for what, it is interesting that the Sydney Metro bill is using public money not to create more jobs for public bus drivers, train drivers or metro drivers but instead to create more private chief executive officer [CEO] wages, noting that the Sydney Motorway Corporation CEO was paid more than $1 million in salary. Public money is being used to pay more private company board directors to be able to oversee the Sydney Metro system. Goldman Sachs was paid $16.5 million of public money to oversee the sale process of the Sydney Motorway Corporation. Not a single road or piece of infrastructure has been built, yet that company has been paid $16.5 million to oversee the sale of the Sydney Motorway Corporation.

People should not be under the illusion that the Coalition is the best party to be in government because serious questions have already been asked about the way the Sydney Metro project is being delivered. I commend the Sydenham to Bankstown Alliance, which has worked hard to scrutinise the Government's work on the project. I refer to two areas that have been affected by the metro in my electorate of Newtown—namely, Erskineville and St Peters, whose residents and commuters are concerned about privatisation. The irony is that the new metro will pretty much run under an existing train line but those residents will not be able to access the new metro and potentially will see a loss of services on the train line as a result of the delivery of the new metro. Hundreds of residents are concerned about this. Through my office they urge the Minister to visit Erskineville and St Peters stations to see the congestion on those stations. Already too many people cram onto the trains at those stations in peak periods. The daily commute has significantly increased as a result of the amount of housing and development in the area. One resident said:

I cannot understand the logic in a new train system which does not fit the existing infrastructure! The state planning system is illogical and not inclusive for people! NSW govt hopeless!!

They suggested that if these folk had any vision they would build mass transit capacity rather than putting billions of dollars into and delivering WestConnex. We contacted the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure about the risks to cuts to services in Erskineville and St Peters and, while he said that the stations would stay open, he did not give a commitment that the number of services would not be cut. I urge the Minister in reply to reassure the residents who use Erskineville and St Peters stations with respect to their concerns about the risk of cuts to services on those lines. He might also inform them when an easy access lift will be installed so that people who need that facility can actually get down to the platform to catch a train. It is not enough for the Minister to say that other services will pick up those passengers, because when trains arrive at Erskineville and St Peters stations people are squashed in like sardines and it is unsafe for commuters to embark.

The Sydney Metro has raised concerns in other areas of the community. Residents of Lord Street and the south end of King Street have already been subjected to a number of issues around the delivery of WestConnex. In June 2017 we contacted the Minister, because this is how it now works. As transport Minister he has outsourced all responsibilities, so it was actually our office that set up the first consultation and briefing for residents affected by the Sydney Metro on Lord Street because they had all received letters but had not received any information or consultation about it.

In June 2017 we contacted the Minister and said, "What is happening here? People are living next to a train line and having the substratum of their properties acquired so the Government can build a new metro line underneath." In February this year our office became aware that the Government had not done the paperwork correctly on the acquisition of the substratum land. This is serious, and it is having a real impact on people's lives.

The acquisition of a large number of properties in Lord Street, Newtown, last year had serious financial impacts on residents, and as of April this year the issue has still not been resolved. People might think that this is a matter of the Minister not handling this matter well, but the community I represent knows that the answer is not to privatise our transport system. This bill will create a Sydney Metro Board of three to seven directors who will be appointed by the Minister. There is no requirement for them to have expertise in transport. Our concern is that the board could be stacked with property developers. It is unclear how much the board members will be paid. However, it is clear that this bill is part of the Liberal-Nationals Government's agenda to privatise and sell off all of our public assets.

The bill will establish the Sydney Metro corporation as a corporation and a New South Wales Government agency under the Transport Administration Act. While this bill will allow the Sydney Metro to be owned by the New South Wales Government and be part of the Government's transport cluster, it will give much broader powers to Sydney Metro, especially in relation to land acquisitions and residential and commercial developments. The Sydney Metro bill will establish a private company to be able to run our so-called public metro system but it will also provide for Sydney Metro to have broad land acquisition development powers—which is a serious concern given the number of compulsory acquisition bungles to date. In her contribution to this debate, Labor's shadow Minister for Transport made the point that, in setting up private corporations, there is a lack of public accountability and scrutiny in relation to the Government Information (Public Access) Act and a limited ability to see information. I recognise that the Liberal Party is like no other when it comes to a privatisation agenda, but I call on the Labor Opposition to make a commitment to bring our public transport system back into public hands.

The Greens are committed to the idea—a radical notion, some might say—that a public transport system should be something that is controlled and operated by the public in the public interest. Call it radical! Our concern is that the Sydney Metro may facilitate and carry out the orderly and efficient development of land in the locality of metro stations, depots, stabling yards and proposed metro stations, depots and training yards. Under the remit of transport infrastructure we are seeing the ability for a private corporation that is not subject to any accountability to acquire land and engage in and deliver property development. If anyone is going to benefit from the uplift that would occur as a result of building new transport infrastructure, it should be the people of New South Wales. Surely the people should get that benefit, not private developers, but yet again the Liberal‑Nationals Government is seeking to provide a new corporation with a broad agenda that is in the private interest, not the public interest. We must keep public transport in public hands. The Greens oppose this bill.

Read the full debate here 

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