By Elise Dalley
The Abbott government yesterday refused to table information about the cost and construction of the Westconnex tollway because such information is “contrary to the public interest”.
Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon, who ordered the motion on 18 March, said it’s absurd that Minister Warren Truss believes revealing the information is not in the public interest, given it’s the public who are funding the project.
“With Tony Abbott and the Baird government going to such lengths to keep this secret, you’ve got to wonder how big the mess is behind closed doors,” Senator Rhiannon said.
In his letter to Senators, Minister Truss said the disclosure of documents “would damage relations between the Commonwealth and the States and would compromise the ability to ensure optimum value for public expenditure on infrastructure projects”.
Further to this, Minister Truss said he concurred with the NSW Baird government who “unequivocally expressed the view that the documents should not be disclosed”.
Back in 2009, the Labor state government held a similar view, refusing to released documents for their M4 extension.
Greens candidate for Newtown Jenny Leong, who is campaigning strongly against the project, condemned the secrecy of both our state and federal governments.
“This once again shows the lengths to which the Baird Liberal government is prepared to trample over democratic processes to put corporate interests above people’s right to know the truth about WestConnex. How can voters be expected to make informed decisions about this sham tollway project when the details are being kept hidden from them?” Ms Leong said.
“The economics of this motorway don’t add up. This money would be better invested in public transport that addresses Sydney’s inner west needs.”
It appears this secrecy around the WestConnex is nothing new.
“In government state Labor opposed releasing details of the M4 extension to the CBD which is still its current policy. In opposition, Shadow Roads Minister Michael Daley was critical of delays in the WestConnex project delivery, while Shadow transport spokesperson Penny Sharpe has claimed she’s ‘not allowed tell you where the M4 entrance will be’ in Labor’s latest motorway plan,” Leong said.
When questioned about Labor’s plans for WestConnex, Ms Sharpe said there would be community consultation about the route but declined to answer specific questions.
“What is clear is that both Liberal and Labor WestConnex plans keep changing. The community can’t be confident about what is really being proposed.” Ms Leong said.
“This won’t stop us. We’ll keep using every avenue at our disposal until we see these documents – and we’ll keep working with the community until WestConnex is dropped and the money is put into public transport.”
Yesterday a forum of residents affected by both the M4 widening and the NorthConnex and a number of health experts gathered in Homebush to establish a new coalition that will focus on the health impacts of the tollway.
City Hub will have a full report on this meeting next week.