Read Jenny's speech in Parliament about media revelations of shonky Westconnex dealings.
Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 12:40 :50 ): I speak yet again about the impact of WestConnex on our communities, the electorate of Newtown and throughout New South Wales and note that the Minister for WestConnex is in the Chamber. This morning the Sydney Morning Herald reported that NSW Labor Waste Watch spokesperson Mr Hugh McDermott, who is present in the Chamber, uncovered that Transport for NSW bypassed the usual independent reviews to fast-track $2 million of urgent spending on advertisements spruiking the features and vision of WestConnex. Yesterday, in a radio interview between James Valentine and investigative journalist Michael West, Mr West outlined what could only be described as a utopian concept of an equalisation factor. I encourage every member to listen to the content of this interview; it is something that only the best political satirists and comedy writers in this country could write.
The interviewer refers to a toll equalisation factor that somehow allows companies to charge tolls based on distance. One has to multiply the distance by the equalisation factor to get the per distance toll price. Depending on the distance, one would then pay a higher amount on certain sections of road even though those sections have not changed in length. That is just one of the latest financial disasters and rip-offs in inaccessible and secret contracts—thousands of pages of modelling and deals concerning WestConnex that cannot be assessed or reviewed by the community. It is not the first time I have spoken in the Chamber about the disastrous impact that this is having on our communities. Too many giant red flags are now flying in regard to this project and its octopus‑like offshoots, including the murky financial machinations that are driving it.
There are daily revelations in the media about shonky dealings and the severe impact that this is having on a number of communities. Because of these huge costs and risks and the public fury about this project, it is not surprising that the New South Wales Auditor-General has chosen to re-examine WestConnex. We have the findings of the Australian National Audit Office and its scathing report, which are matters of concern. This Liberal-Nationals Government continues to bulldoze our communities and to spend exorbitant amounts of public money while bankers and lawyers have a field day.
Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs has been paid around $16.5 million by this Government in less than a year just to set up the sale of WestConnex. Let me be clear: it has not built anything; it has not delivered any infrastructure; yet $16.5 million has been paid to set up the sale of the Sydney Motorway Corporation. To put that in perspective, 50 disability advocacy organisations in New South Wales are set to close because this Government will not commit $13 million to fund their ongoing work in the community.
With the initial bid for the controlling share of this dirty, unsustainable toll road being put in place by Transurban Group and its backers, Australian Super and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, it is looking like Transurban is the frontrunner, even though it is talking down its chances with the hope that it might secure another bargain, like the Cross City Tunnel. The tunnel was repurchased in 2014 for a mere $470 million, when in actual fact it cost the community $1.1 billion to build. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is now investigating Transurban for a third time because of the potential conflicts of interest in this company's growing toll road monopoly. With full or partial control of 13 of Australia's toll roads, Transurban is laughing all the way to the bank. We just have to look at the staggering profits of Transurban, which were up 280 per cent in six months, to know who is winning from this New South Wales Liberal Government's toll road building agenda.
It is interesting to note that another bidder for the 51 per cent share of the Sydney Motorway Corporation and the 40-year toll concessions is IFM Investors, a giant pension fund management investment corporation, through which a lot of this State's residents' individual superannuation fund money is being funnelled into the privatisation of the control of our transport infrastructure. Another bidder is CIMIC Group. I note that in November last year the Premier met with IFM Investors and CIMIC, and now there are reports that the two may combine their bids to strengthen their hand for the push on the privatisation agenda of the Sydney Motorway Corporation. The financial disaster that is WestConnex must end. [Time expired.]
Mr STUART AYRES ( Penrith—Minister for Western Sydney, Minister for WestConnex, and Minister for Sport) (12:46:05): I inform the House that there is plenty of construction activity on WestConnex. Stage one of WestConnex is open to traffic, which is improving the flows of traffic on the M4. The tunnel excavation below Parramatta Road is proceeding at a fantastic rate to bypass sets of lights and provide an uninterrupted connection between the Blue Mountains at Lapstone to the city. West Link is being built, and if the construction results in disruption in surrounding communities, that disruption confirms that we are building the infrastructure that communities desperately need. I also point out to the House that WestConnex sits alongside other forms of transport, because this Government has always understood that an integrated transport solution is required. That is why we are building metro train lines, light rail in the city, light rail in Western Sydney and the Western Metro. More train lines are coming, and we will continue to invest in the infrastructure that this State needs.