Dec 4, 2014

Constituency Statement- WestConnex

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (09:57): The second President of the United States, John Adams, once remarked that ‘facts are stubborn things’. ‘Whatever our wishes, inclinations or passions,’ Adams said, ‘we cannot alter facts.

We cannot change evidence.’ That is a good rule for people who are involved in infrastructure. That is the rule that we established through the creation of Infrastructure Australia: to get proper advice from experts based on cost-benefit analysis—based on the benefit to productivity guiding where infrastructure investment went.

The Abbott government has ignored that. The experts at Infrastructure Australia urged the government to invest in the Melbourne Metro. We had already spent $40 million on getting the planning right. We urged it to invest in the M80 program. One billion dollars had already been spent on improvements to the ring-road around Melbourne —much needed and of much benefit—but it was cut in the budget this year. And then we have the Managed Motorways Program, benefiting the Monash Freeway to the east of Melbourne, where there was a $68 million cut in the budget even though it had a cost-benefit analysis of 5.2, or a $5.20 benefit for every dollar invested.

The government backed the East West Link project in spite of the fact that the cost-benefit analysis was 0.5— or, if you add things in, 0.8. Last Saturday, the voters of Victoria rendered a judgement about those actions by electing my friend Dan Andrews as Premier of Victoria.

Today I also want to talk about the WestConnex road project in Sydney. The WestConnex project, as I said on 12 March last year as the Minister for Infrastructure, needed to achieve three objectives. I told the House about three commitments that we made: one, the M4 has to take people into the city; two, the M5 has to take freight to the port; and, three, you cannot have new tolls on old roads.

That position was right then and it is right today. At the moment, the proposition that the WestConnex project will channel traffic to St Peters, to the west of the airport, to the most heavily congested areas of Sydney, and then traffic will have to funnel its way through Gardeners Road or King Street, Newtown, will ensure that this is a road to a traffic jam. This is contrary to the advice of Infrastructure Australia and the advice from Infrastructure New South Wales that, in its 2012 report, said first things first and that better port access was the top priority for New South Wales. I urge the government to ensure that they get this right.