Member for Newtown and NSW Greens spokesperson on WestConnex Jenny Leong MP reported to Parliament on the WestConnex Peoples Inquiry, where evidence presented by experts, councils and affected residents highlighted the lack of transparency, good governance and community consultation surrounding the $16.8 billion WestConnex toll road.
Ms Leong also highlighted the federal funding propping up the polluting WestConnex disaster. The recent Federal budget sawthe supposedly public transport-loving Prime Minister's Government set aside another $300 million for WestConnex, which is in addition to the $1.15 billion already gifted to the project.
Full text of the speech below.
Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 12:42 ): Last Friday I hosted the People's WestConnex Inquiry in a packed Jubilee Room. The 100-odd participants who attended the four sessions heard presentations from 20 expert speakers, community representatives and councils, as well as multiple testimonies from affected members of the community who took the opportunity to put their views against WestConnex on the public record. The purpose of the people's inquiry was to highlight the lack of transparency, good governance and community consultation surrounding the $16.8 billion WestConnex toll road. This inquiry exposed many of the extremely problematic impacts that the project will have.
As we heard testimonies from health professionals, council transport planners, academics, residents, community campaigners and members of Parliament, we were informed that the Sydney Motorway Corporation and the New South Wales Government were bulldozing heritage homes in Haberfield and cutting a swathe through land adjacent to Parramatta Road. Residents whose homes back onto the construction site were informed of the work by a generic flyer in their letterboxes the week before. Other residents who were forced from their homes of many decades were left crying as their beautiful houses were destroyed and because their lives had to be rebuilt somewhere else. This story is repeated along the route of this proposed polluting private toll road. It is devastating.
Apart from the disastrous environmental and economic issues being caused by the WestConnex project, we must recognise that communities are hurting and neighbourhoods are being destroyed at the hands of the Baird Government. Proper planning processes and independent oversight has been absent, and the Premier, the Treasurer, the Minister for Planning, the Minister for Health, the Minister for the Environment and others have failed to acknowledge the glaring problems that the motorway will cause. They are leaving it to the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight to deliver the project. Serious questions were raised at the people's inquiry about budget blowouts, incorrect modelling and assumptions, failure to address the concerns raised in the environmental impact statement, and the failure to comply with conditions of consent. Questions were also asked about the financial viability of the project and the corrupt and questionable behaviour of the corporations involved, including Leightons and AECOM.
The updated strategic business case has been signed off with only a P50 rating, which is ludicrous for a project of this size. The claimed cost-benefit ratio has been thoroughly demolished by transport planners and transport academics, and it is clear that it simply does not add up. It will be the residents of New South Wales who will pay for this sham project for many decades to come. While this people's inquiry was an important event, it is crucial that an independent inquiry into WestConnex now be undertaken. The links between the New South Wales Government and big construction companies—some whose corrupt business processes have now been revealed—must be investigated and exposed.
This is not an issue that affects only New South Wales. It is important to remember that Federal funding is propping up this polluting WestConnex disaster. The recent Federal budget has seen the supposedly public transport-loving Prime Minister's Government set aside another $300 million for WestConnex, which is in addition to the $1.15 billion already gifted to the project. Additionally, the generous $2 billion Federal concessional loan has yet to be drawn down. This makes the Federal Government complicit in the disaster that is WestConnex. The Greens oppose WestConnex in any form and any Federal funds being spent on the project.
While we know that Liberal governments at both the State and Federal levels support this project, what is less clear is the Labor Party's position on WestConnex. This is a Federal issue because both State and Federal money is being spent on the project. Construction must cease and no further contracts should be signed until an independent inquiry is undertaken. Until such an inquiry is undertaken or the Federal Auditor-General examines the project, it is crucial that funds and loans transfers be suspended. People's homes are being acquired and demolished, communities are being destroyed and our green spaces, environment and air quality are being put at risk.
WestConnex is not about finding a solution to Sydney's traffic congestion; it is about the transfer of public money to private development and construction companies. Given the blind determination of the New South Wales Baird Government to proceed at any cost to the community with this polluting WestConnex tollway, our best chance of stopping the project is to stop the flow of Federal funding. The Greens stand with the community in making this call. Like the community, we hope that the Labor Party will recognise the error of its ways—the former Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, committed Federal funds to WestConnex—and join with the community in opposing the allocation of any further Federal funding to this project until a public inquiry is conducted and an Auditor-General's report is provided.