By Max Phillips, Marrickville Greens Councillor and candidate for Summer Hill.
Labor Party politicians are running around with many different positions on the WestConnex motorway. Sometimes they support it. Sometimes they oppose. Sometimes they oppose it “in its current form”. Sometimes they just oppose the consequences of the motorway, but not the actual motorway itself.
When Labor were in power, they supported WestConnex – under the names of M4 East, M5 East and the Marrickville Truck Tunnel. WestConnex is not new, it is at least 12 years old. 12 October 2004, Sydney Morning Herald:
A tunnel under Marrickville is the next possible link in Sydney’s road-building program, joining the M4 to Port Botany and eventually creating a tollway from the airport to Strathfield and west to Penrith.
The Marrickville truck tunnel, which would run under Sydenham Road and join Parramatta Road in Lewisham with the Princes Highway at St Peters, may be considered as part of the planning process for the M4 East.A Roads and Traffic Authority options study review into the M4 East says another link is necessary to relieve environmental pressures on Marrickville and provide better connections to Sydney Airport and Port Botany. […]
Marrickville Council will tonight consider a report recommending the State Government assess the four-kilometre truck tunnel during the preparation of the environmental impact statement for the M4 East.
The Greens have always opposed a new motorway carving up the Inner West. We believe investment in public transport is a far superior option that will result in a healthier and more liveable city. The community has also consistently opposed the various motorway plans.
In 2009, then Road Minister Michael Daley said: “We would love to build the M4 extension and if we can secure the help of the Federal Government then we will.” Rather Ironically Michael Daley is now Shadow Roads Minister.
In 2005, the Greens campaigned against the tunnel producing this leaflet to the left. At the 2007 state election the plans were still being developed, but being kept secret by the Labor government. The Greens were still campaigning against expanded motorways and a tunnel under Marrickville and produced the colour leaflet below.
The map on the back shows you just how similar Labor’s plans were to the current government’s plans. A tunnel under Ashfield and Haberfield, an interchange somewhere between Lewisham and Annandale, a tunnel that surfaces around Camdenville Park and Campbell Street, St Peters, and finally another motorway to join up with the M5 or an F6 running south through Rockdale.
That’s partly because both the current government and the former Labor government push plans prepared by the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) and Treasury.
The RTA just love roads, and their whole aim is to prioritise motor vehicle traffic. They have a one-track engineering mind which is not necessarily good for Sydney’s transport problems.
Treasury also love roads because much of the costs are privatised with individuals. They particularly love private toll roads, because then even less burden is on the Treasury. Building and operating heavy rail or other forms of public transport place a burden on the Treasury, so they do not favour public transport unless forced to by their political masters.
Labor politicians are extremely skilled at ‘narrow-casting’. Narrow-casting is saying one thing locally to a specific audience (Inner West voters), while saying or doing another thing more broadly.
A classic example of narrow-casting was local Marrickville Labor’s opposition to the third runway at Sydney Airport, while a federal Labor government built the very same third runway.
In 2010, Tempe residents gathered and rallied against an extended M5. I marched proudly behind the Marrickville Council banner. In a very orchestrated manoeuvre, local MP Carmel Tebbutt, then Deputy Premier, announced that the project would be abandoned. Labor had saved Tempe from … Labor’s plans for a motorway – go figure.
Narrow-casting is what Labor are doing now. Labor candidate for Newtown, Penny Sharpe is horrified by the implications for King Street Newtown of the M5 East, but her position on WestConnex is unclear. Labor candidate for Summer Hill Jo Haylen says she is against WestConnex “in its current form”, but for the widening of the M4. Labor Councillor Chris Woods is trying to stop the widening of Campbell Street, St Peters, despite his party’s support for the WestConnex project (presumably the Labor version of WestConnex would magically not have any polluting exhaust stacks or traffic dumping on/off portals.).
Local federal member for Grayndler, Anthony Albanese takes out the hypocrisy award for complaining about the impacts of a motorway to which he offered $1.8 billion towards its construction when he was infrastructure minister.
I don’t begrudge these convoluted positions, and it is good when politicians respond to community sentiment – but it is a bit disingenuous to pretend to be champions against the WestConnex motorway and its various local impacts, when your party actually supports the very same motorway.
I hope voters have long memories and can see Labor trying to walk both sides of the street on WestConnex.