By Peter Hehir
The ALP’s argument against stopping Stage 3b (aka the Rozelle Interchange) is that it would cost too much to buy back the contract; a contract that was only signed a week before Xmas.
It is telling though that hundreds of millions were outlaid in evicting families and businesses well before the 13,000 community objections were considered and Stages 3a and 3b were approved.
The buyback cost is what the ALP calls sovereign risk. They haven’t put a figure on it in spite of being repeatedly asked to do so. They cite the 43 years of tolls as the deal breaker.
Obviously, there are no tolls on the Western Harbour Tunnel (WHT) because it hasn’t been approved yet and therefore doesn’t exist so it follows that the tolls element – which is the lion’s share of the Stage 3b contract – also doesn’t exist for the construction of the WHT stubs.
An onramp for a tollway that is still under construction – a stub — does not collect tolls. So sovereign risk is massively diminished.
These WHT stubs are not insignificant though, comprising about 40% of the WHT. Remember this is a tunnel complex that is still in the planning stage and hasn’t been costed or approved, yet a sizable chunk will be built under the already approved Stage 3b!
The ALP’s buyback of the stubs would guarantee that the WHT is dead and buried and couldn’t possibly be resurrected at some point in the future.
It follows that removing the stubs is the fiscally responsible and moral thing to do – if of course the ALP’s opposition to the WHT is genuine.
However there are very good reasons for believing that it isn’t.
The ALP supports WestConnex because they support radiating inner city freeways. They always have. You have to go back to Neville Wran’s time in the 70’s to find any genuine opposition.
The WHT is an essential part of WestConnex. It always was. Prior to WestConnex becoming toxic in the Inner West, the WHT was known as Stage 4. Because of successful community campaigns that rendered WestConnex and the Sydney Motorway Corporation poisonous, the RMS then assumed control of the WHT and dropped the WestConnex tag.
The Matt Wade SMH article quoted the ALP as saying the WHT had been deferred, not dropped. There has been no retraction. At the Balmain electorate candidates’ debate in the Balmain Town Hall on Saturday 9th March the question of the deferment was raised. It was not denied by the Labor candidate.
Shorten has said it is proceeding. And proceed it will. Regardless. The NSW Branch will follow the dictates of the Leader of the Opposition.
So don’t be fooled into believing that the ALP will step in and save the day. They won’t. WestConnex, including the WHT, is Federal ALP policy.
And don’t believe the ALP election flyers in Summer Hill and Balmain or the Facebook posts from Jodi McKay. As a past secretary and president of the Rozelle Branch, I’ve seen the ALP from inside the machine. It isn’t pretty. The dirty tricks department is alive and well.
That’s why it’s vital that there be genuine opposition from MP’s in both the Upper and Lower Houses after the election this Saturday.
With this sort of leverage, pressure can be applied to the ALP to not break their “promise” that the WHT won’t proceed and to poke, prod and push them into buying back the stubs.
This would guarantee that the WHT is dead and buried and couldn’t possibly be resurrected.
Critics of Westconnex who’ll vote for whoever will stop the Rozelle Interchange are obviously issuing a challenge for the ALP to act; but the downside is it reinforces the ALP’s criticism of the Green’s inability to stop WestConnex.
I’d hate to think concerned voters could be hoodwinked into believing that it’s better to vote for a party who have the power to act; but who’ve repeatedly said that they won’t – in the hope that they will; rather than vote for a party who genuinely oppose WestConnex – but can’t stop it because they don’t have the numbers.
Much can be achieved by a handful of moral politicians who have and are prepared to continually fight for what’s best for the community.
A self-serving tollroad agenda, written by multinationals who are more than happy to keep the political donations flowing to ensure both of the major parties do their bidding, should be exposed for the perversion of process that it is.
In the event of a hung parliament the importance of having a few MP’s who are staunch and outspoken critics of inner city tollroads, can’t be overstated.
Holding the balance of power is indeed a mighty weapon.
It can and will keep the bastards honest.