Private Members Business: WestConnex Project in Sydney

WestConnex_-_traffic_jam.jpgIt is little surprise that the member for Wentworth is not in here to speak on this motion, because he has entertained us, up hill and down dale, for the last three years on the importance of cost-benefit analysis when putting in place important infrastructure projects. Mr Deputy Speaker Mitchell, you sat in the last parliament and you would have witnessed some often very entertaining contributions from the member for Wentworth on the importance of cost-benefit analysis. We have set up a body whose single job is to ensure that large infrastructure projects in this country are subject to a cost-benefit analysis, and that body is known as Infrastructure Australia.

I would not have been surprised if the member for Sturt came in here and spoke on this motion, because he can speak on anything on any given day of the week, even if his contributions contradict what he said the day before. He has that capacity, but many others on the other side do not. Let me remind the member for Reid what his leader said prior to the federal election. When talking about large infrastructure projects, he said that in government they would require all Commonwealth infrastructure expenditure exceeding $100 million to be subject to analysis by Infrastructure Australia to test cost-effectiveness and financial viability, yet here we have the member for Reid celebrating the fact that they are bringing this project on without a cost-benefit analysis, without it coming within cooee of Infrastructure Australia and with serious flaws—as the member for Chifley and the member for Kingsford Smith have pointed out.

On this side of the House we are not opposed to building roads. We put record amounts of funding into roads and into urban transport infrastructure in New South Wales, right around Australia and in Sydney itself—$5.5 billion over the last four years, and that amount is 15 times greater than that spent by the previous, Howard government on Sydney transport infrastructure. We were willing to fund the WestConnex project, and $1.8 billion was put towards it in the 2013-14 budget; but it was subject to conditions. The first was that it would be toll-free—as the member for Chifley, the member for Kingsford Smith and the member for Parramatta have pointed out—and that there would be no new tolls on old roads, because that amounts to just a new tax on old infrastructure for motorists.

So the member for Reid is celebrating, and others have spoken in favour of his motion: a new tax on old roads for motorists. That is not the only problem with it. The second problem is that, because it has not been properly planned, we are shifting transport bottlenecks from one part of Sydney to another. As a result of this project—because all the planning has not been put in place and because it is not properly integrated with road, port and rail—we are going to see a shift of bottlenecks and Sydney is going to become a car park. That is what this project was going to amount to because it is not being properly planned.

There are two ways to do transport infrastructure: you can do it on the back of a beer coaster, as those opposite are celebrating, or you can put in place the proper planning process, which was established by the former government through Infrastructure Australia, and ensure that it is all done properly. Infrastructure Australia has looked at this. It did not punt it; it said that it is definitely a project that needs to be considered and that further planning is needed. It suggested that it was at the early stage of conception. If this were integrated with rail, those on this side of the House would find it a lot easier to support this motion.

Debate adjourned.