Jewellery Bishop puts well heeled shoe into populist movements.

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By Peter Hehir

Julie Bishop decries the rise of the populist movement worldwide but fails to see that the reason for it is clearly because of the disaffection bordering on contempt, for mainstream political parties. Nowhere is this more evident than here in NSW.

The big majority that the NSW Liberals currently hold was due in no small measure to the community backlash in response to the corruption exposed within the NSW Parliamentary Labor Party. This gave Baird and his successor Glad the Impaler the opportunity to unleash a storm of privatisation across the State, from which we may never recover.

Leaving aside their converging ideologies, both parties here are totally out of touch with their constituents and appear to be deaf and blind to the hardships that their more brutal policies inflict on those least able to defend themselves.

Not just those who’ve fled torture and persecution in their homelands and who’ve found themselves incarcerated for years for their ‘crime’, but also the traditional owners, the unemployed, disabled and our disaffected and alienated youth.

The way WestConnex was just shoved down the throats of the community is yet another example.

Miss Julie is quoted in the Guardian last Wednesday as saying “populists need to be challenged with four tests – a requirement that all options are explored before landing on a decision, a requirement that costs be articulated, a requirement that policy be evidence based, and there is also a requirement to ask “what can possibly go wrong?”

When seeking a quote from Julie in relation to how her ‘litmus test’ would fare when applied to WestConnex, I got a brief but predictable response from Lauren Gianoli, one of her staffers: WestConnex is a matter for the NSW Government.’ Well thank you Lauren.

Clearly none of these four apparently essential criteria were applied in relation to WestConnex. No other public transport options were explored. Not only were they not explored, they were specifically excluded!

Costs were not only not articulated but they were deliberately kept hidden. This was achieved by establishing private corporations who could then juggle the figures in secret and hide behind the ‘commercial in confidence’ screen, effectively preventing accountability by shutting out the prying eyes of the public.

In relation to WestConnex, Bishop’s requirement ‘that policy be evidence based’ is farcical. All of the available evidence from those who were and are best placed to advise on the worth of WestConnex unanimously agreed it was a real dog of a proposition and predicted that it would not only not achieve its aims – but would also punish NSW taxpayers for years to come, in so very many ways.

Punishing us all with tolls that the west simply can’t afford. Many businesses relying on trucks for deliveries have indicated that they’ll instruct their drivers to just use the local road network.

No evidence has been presented anywhere that the project will achieve its aims – in fact evidence just presented at the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry strongly suggests that exactly the opposite is true.

An examination of her question ‘What could possibly go wrong?’ confirms that a great deal can, has already and will continue to go awry with this project. The acquisition of homes at well below market value and the forced evictions are both serious concerns.

Glad’s bean counters estimate an average time saving of about 5 minutes per trip. This may get vehicles closer to the tunnel exits in Haberfield a little earlier, but only to be greeted with the inevitable tollway to local road bottleneck.

The hefty toll delivers drivers and passengers the right to sit in the tunnels, as they crawl slowly towards the exit portals. The privilege of breathing in the highest concentrations of polluted air – air loaded with carcinogenic diesel particles – generated by the many hundreds of vehicles who’ve just driven kilometres in the tunnels. Polluted air 50 times greater than the ambient air and 50 times above the WHO maximum dose! The cost to community health is inestimable.

Does this really sound like a fair price to pay?

How long will it be before these commuters abandon the tolled tunnels, just as they did with the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, The Lane Cove Tunnel, The Cross City Tunnel and the Clem 7 in Brisbane?

Have you wondered about the recent dramatic lane squeezing on the City West Link? The word is this is in recognition that traffic will be backed up in the tunnels and is a pathetic attempt to get these vehicles out into cleaner air before commuters are overcome with the toxic fumes.

I appreciate that WestConnex is a NSW Liberal Party project – albeit sanctioned by the NSW and Federal Labor and Liberal Parties and that this isn’t Julie’s portfolio – but she did make the statement. So she’s fair game. Along with her gifted Jimmy Choo’s shoes.

Any genuinely independent assessment would unequivocally show that WestConnex completely and utterly fails Bishop’s four pronged litmus test. The real tragedy is that it wasn’t applied well before billions of dollars were just poured into a hole in the ground…