Campaigners call for halt as they wait for Inquiry report release

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What we don't know about Westconnex is a scandal

This week has been another bad one for the WestConnex project as the Electrical Trade Union (ETU) were again forced to stop work over safety concerns on the M4 East site and one of the project’s major contractors - Leightons now known as CIMIC - saw a senior ex-executive Peter Gregg found guilty of falsifying company records in relation to an allegedly corrupt $15 million payment during his time at construction giant. The company, which is heavily involved in WestConnex Stage 1 and 2 has been involved in WestConnex since its beginnings in 2013. But next week will probably be even worse.

The NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the impact of the WestConnex Project will publish its report on Monday December 17th . Given a mountain of evidence, we expect the report to reveal a mass of problems with WestConnex. But what the evidence also shows is that the NSW government and WestConnex refused to answer basic questions about the project. This shows a contempt for parliamentary and public accountability and lends weight to community demands for an immediate stop to the project and a Royal Commission into WestConnex.

The scandal is that despite a huge effort in a very short time, the Inquiry will reveal the community is still no closer to having basic questions answered about this controversial multi-billion dollar private toll-way.

Spokesperson for the Coalition Against WestConnex Rhea Liebmann says: “It’s shocking that so many questions were not answered and that so much basic information is ‘commercially in confidence’. Nothing less than a Royal Commission will get to the bottom of this white elephant – a project now destined to go down in history as the most expensive and corrupted projects in NSW history. Until then work and funds must stop, when you’re down a hole this big, you need to stop digging. That’s why we welcome Labor's Shadow Spokesperson for WestConnex promise of a Royal Commission if elected.”

The The Gladys Berejiklian government told the Inquiry it had done 36 business assurance reviews on WestConnex since it released the Strategic Business case at the end of 2015. Although the 2015 version is now very out of date, all further reviews are confidential.

The following is a list of some of questions asked during the current Inquiry. The refusal to answer is nothing less than contempt for basic parliamentary and public accountability.

 

Disappearing Sydney Gateway
The first question asks the most basic question of all: what constitutes the WestConnex project. One of the terms of reference for the inquiry was; (h) the circumstances by which WestConnex and the Sydney Gateway were declared to be separate projects in 2017.

Question: When was the decision made to make the Sydney Gateway project a separate project with the WestConnex project making a contribution towards it.

Answer: The WestConnex Delivery Authority was dissolved on 1 October 2015. Subsequently, in November 2015, Roads and Maritime Services began developing a separate business case for Sydney Gateway. Sydney Gateway is not being developed or delivered by Sydney Motorway Corporation – Roads and Maritime Services is the responsible delivery agency, with the WestConnex motorway program contributing $800 million to the road component of Sydney Gateway.

No exact date was provided and Inquiry government witnesses either professed not to know the date or provided conflicting responses. In fact various players including the RMS CEO Ken Kanofski continued to refer to the Gateway project as part of WestConnex for the next two years. Three years ago RMS were working on a business case that has never been made public.

 

What’s in the air?
The second goes to the vital question of safety for school children. There is evidence before the Committee that WestConnex gave assurances to the St Peters P and C Westconnex sub-committee that results of air monitoring would be made available to school committee. The results were never been sent to the school.

Question: How many Pm10 or Pm2.5 exceedances have been recorded at St Peters School?

Answer: Sydney Motorway Corporation (SMC) and its contractors continue to meet all regulatory requirements regarding the publication of air monitoring levels. Changes to PM10 and PM2.5 levels can be caused by broader regional emission events, for example a bushfire, rather than a local emissions source related to the project. SMC and its contractors are continuing to meet all regulatory requirements in the management and reporting of air quality levels as construction on WestConnex continues.

Note that the SMC does not answer the question. There have been exceedances at St Peters school.

This is just one point to emerge from evidence on air quality which overall demonstrated that RMS claims to be using ‘best practice’ have no solid foundation.


Noise and neglect
The third non-answer reflects the contempt with which WestConnex treats communities in their path.

Question to Andrew Head, Head of WestConnex:

You say that WestConnex does everything it can to minimise impacts, so why did you not put in place noise mitigation measures on homes greatly affected by noise generated by the construction phase on the New M5?

Answer: We are committed to minimising disruption to residents who are living through and impacted by construction. As part of our review of the WestConnex business, we will seek to ensure that we are adhering to all requirements of the New M5 planning conditions of approval, EPA requirements and other requirements relating to mitigation measures.

Evidence to Inquiry from residents made it clear that impacts are horrendous and that contractors are doing nothing to minimise impacts on residents. The NSW government has contracted out its obligations and on many occasions during the Inquiry, it was clear that there had been a collapse in public accountability and transparency.

 

How much?
Finally there is the enormous question of just how much this now private tollway is costing the taxpayers of NSW – a question the organisation still refuses to answer.

Question to WestConnex CEO, Andrew Head: In respect to stage 3A, you say Lendlease Samsung has been awarded the design and construct… what is the value of the construction part of the contract?

Answer from Mr Head: Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) is currently in contract negotiations for Stage 3B (Rozelle Interchange) construction and has indicated that releasing the value of Stage 3A (mainline tunnels) at this point may impact its commercial negotiations.

This means that a contract for the Stage 3A M4/M5 that was awarded in June 2018 and is worth billions has not been made public.

It’s worth remembering that at this point, many believe the cost is now closer to $20 billion than the $16.8 billion put forward by the NSW government. Even the $20 billion estimate does not include the many billions of additional costs that the Committee heard were not included in the WestConnex cost/benefit ratio.

 

Update
On Friday December 14th, the government announced that the Stage 3b contract for the Rozelle Interchange had been given to CIMIC (CPB) and John Holland. The only second bidder was paid $20 million to enter the race. CPB is the same company that has caused the noise impacts referred to above. The government has stated that the cost of 3b is $3.9 billion, so the Coalition Against WestConnex assume that $3.3 billion is the cost of the tunnel between St Peters and Haberfield. If the Rozelle Interchange is not finished on time, the government will pay penalties to Transurban that now controls WestConnex.

 

For further information call:

Rhea Liebmann: 0410 517 343

Kathy Calman: 0421 181 057

Julie Macken: 0400 925 217

 

Coalition Against WestCONnex is a network of community groups opposing the WestConnex project.

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WestCONnex Parliamentary Inquiry videos

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A NSW Parliamentary Inquiry was established on 21 June 2018 to inquire into and report on the impact of the WestConnex project.

Public hearings were held on the 9 Oct, 11 Oct, 15 Oct and 7 Nov.

 

HEARING SCHEDULE
INQUIRY INTO THE IMPACT OF THE WESTCONNEX PROJECT

Tuesday 9 October 2018
Macquarie Room, Parliament House, Sydney
Schedule Transcript

9.15 am Government panel – Transport cluster
Mr Ken Kanofski Chief Executive, Roads and Maritime Services
Ms Camilla Drover Executive Director, Motorways Division, Roads and Maritime Services
Facebook video link

10.45 am Government panel – NSW Treasury and DPC
Mr Phil Gardner Deputy Secretary, Commercial, NSW Treasury
Mr Jim Dawson Executive Director, Commercial Assets, NSW Treasury
Ms Kim Curtain Executive Director, Infrastructure and Structured Finance, NSW Treasury
Ms Sally Walkom Executive Director, Commercial Branch, Department of Premier and Cabinet
Facebook video link

11.45 am Rozelle community panel
Mr Peter Hehir Convenor, Rozelle Against WestConnex (RAW)
Mr Brian Gorman, Representative, North West Rozelle Residents
Ms Denise Corrigan, Representative, North West Rozelle Residents
Facebook video link

1.30 pm
Dr Patrick Harris Senior Research Fellow, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of Sydney School of Medicine, representing the Public Health Association of Australia
Facebook video link

2.00 pm Local government panel
Councillor Darcy Byrne Mayor, Inner West Council
Mr John Warburton Deputy General Manager, Community and Engagement, Inner West Council
Mr Kendall Banfield Manager, WestConnex Unit, Inner West Council
Councillor Gulian Vaccari Mayor, Strathfield Council
Facebook video link Part 1 Part 2

3.00 pm Annandale and Leichhardt community panel
Mr Kelvin Riordan Convenor, NoW Annandale
Mr Richard Dudley-Smith Co-convenor, NoW Annandale
Ms Ann-Therese King Vice president and WestConnex Liaison Officer, Sydney Secondary College Leichhardt P&C
Ms Jane Crawford President, Sydney Secondary College Leichhardt P&C
Facebook video link (until 46 minute mark)

3.45 pm
Dr Glen Searle Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sydney
Facebook video link (from 47m24s mark)

4.15 pm
Ms Mary Court Secretary, Penrith Valley Community Unions, Spokesperson, No M4 Tolls
Facebook video link

 

Thursday 11 October 2018
Macquarie Room, Parliament House, Sydney
Schedule Transcript

9.30 am
Mr Marcus Ray Deputy Secretary, Planning Services, Department of Planning and Environment
Mr Glenn Snow Acting Executive Director, Priority Projects, Department of Planning and Environment
Facebook video link

10.30 am
Dr Raymond Nassar Specialist anaesthetist
Facebook video link

11.15 am
Mr John English Chairperson, Beverly Hills North Progress Association
Ms Kathryn Calman Member, Beverly Hills North Progress Association
Facebook video link

12.00 pm
Mr Jim Betts CEO, Infrastructure NSW
Ms Marina Grobbelaar Acting Deputy CEO and Head of Investor Assurance, Infrastructure NSW
Facebook video link

1.45 pm
Mr Richard Olsen State Secretary, Transport Workers Union 
Mr Robert Rasmussen Official, Transport Workers Union
Facebook video link

2.30 pm
Ms Margaret Crawford Auditor-General of New South Wales, Audit Office of NSW
Mr Scott Stanton Assistant Auditor-General, Financial Audit, Audit Office of NSW
Ms Claudia Migotto Assistant Auditor-General, Performance Audit, Audit Office of NSW
Facebook video link

3.30 pm Haberfield community panel
Mr Malachy Ward WestConnex Liaison Officer, Haberfield Association
Ms Cynthia Moore Member, Haberfield Association
Ms Sherrill Nixon Head of the WestConnex subcommittee and Member, Haberfield Public School P&C
Ms Rachel Brittliff Member, Haberfield Public School P&C
Facebook video link

4.15 pm
Ms Merilyn Fairskye Co-convenor, Newtown Residents Against WestConnex
Mr Ben Aveling Co-convenor, Alexandria Residents Action Group
Dr Lesley Treleaven Convenor, Camperdown Residents Against WestConnex
Professor Paul Torzillo Head of Respiratory Medicine at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, appearing with Camperdown Residents Against WestConnex
Facebook video link

 

Monday 15 October 2018
Macquarie Room, Parliament House, Sydney
Schedule Transcript

9.00 am Sydney Motorway Corporation
Mr Dennis Cliche Former Chief Executive Officer, Sydney Motorway Corporation
Mr Peter Jones Former Project Director, Stage 3, Sydney Motorway Corporation
Facebook video link

10.00 am
Mr Andrew Head Chief Executive Officer, WestConnex
Facebook video link

11.00 am
Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Mayor, City of Sydney
Ms Monica Barone, Chief Executive Officer, City of Sydney
Mr Kim Woodbury, Chief Operations Officer, City of Sydney
Mr Sebastian Smyth, Executive Manager Access and Transport, City of Sydney
Mr Terry Rawnsley, Principal and Partner, SGS Economics and Planning
Youtube video link

11.45 am
Professor John Sheehan AM Chairman, Desane Group Holdings Limited
Facebook video link

1.30 pm VALUERS
Mr Michael Parker, Acting Valuer General, Office of the Valuer General
Mr Paul Goldsmith, Principal Valuer Compensation, Valuation Services, Property NSW
Facebook video link

2.15 pm
Mr John Lozano, No WestConnex: Public Transport
Mr Matthew Doherty, EcoTransit
Mr Jim Donovan, Action for Public Transport
Facebook video link

3.00 pm
Dr Michelle Zeibots Research Director, UTS Transport Research Centre, University of Technology Sydney
Facebook video link Part 1 Part 2

3.45 pm
Ms Janet Dandy-Ward, Treasurer, WestConnex Action Group
Ms Rhea Liebmann, Spokesperson, WestConnex Action Group
Dr Jane Durie, Spokesperson, WestConnex Action Group
Facebook video link

4.30 pm
Ms Kate Cotis, Resident, St Peters
Ms Tamara Regan, Resident, St Peters
Dr Sarina Kilham, Spokesperson, WestConnex subcommittee, St Peters Public School P&C
Facebook video link

5.15 pm
Mr Richard Capuano, Former resident, St Peters
Ms Shelley Jensen, Former resident, St Peters
Facebook video link


Wednesday 7 November 2018

Macquarie Room, Parliament House, Sydney
Schedule Transcript

10.00 am 
Mr Marcus Ray Deputy Secretary, Planning Services, Department of Planning and Environment
Mr David Gainsford Executive Director, Priority Projects Assessment, Department of Planning and Environment
Mr Glenn Snow Director, Transport Assessments, Department of Planning and Environment
Mr Mark Gifford Chief Environmental Regulator, Environment Protection Authority
Mr Stephen Lancken Independent Chair, M4 East Air Quality Community Consultative Committee

Facebook video link

1.00 pm
Mr Ken Kanofski, Chief Executive, Roads and Maritime Services
Ms Camilla Drover, Executive Director, Motorways Division, Roads and Maritime Services
Facebook video link

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WestConnex M4 Widening Stage 1a Submission by No WestConnex

The first stage of WestCONnex was Stage 1a, the widening of the M4 from Parramatta to Strathfield. This is the submission from No WestCONnex: Public Transport on the Environmental Impact Statement, from September 2014


Submission to SSI 13_6148
Regarding the M4 Western Motorway - WestConnex M4 Widening

From NoW Public Transport Inc - September 2014

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing on behalf of the members and member groups of the non-profit NSW incorporated association: NoW Public Transport. I am writing to oppose the widening of the M4 Motorway as detailed in the Environmental Impact Statement attached to the application #SSI 13_6148.

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How the planning process was corrupted to prop up the toll road corporations

How the planning process was corrupted to prop up the toll road corporations
by Dr Chris Standen

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Recent modelling by Veitch Lister Consulting confirms the $17 billion WestConnex toll road will increase traffic and congestion in inner Sydney, making getting around more difficult for many of us. But isn’t the purpose of new transport infrastructure to improve mobility?

Well, WestConnex wasn’t conceived by skilled transport planners, aiming to improve mobility and access for Sydney’s growing population. In fact, I don't know of one independent transport expert who thinks the scheme makes sense from a transport, or economic, perspective.

Rather, the scheme was designed to optimise revenues and profits for private toll road corporations – much like the West Gate Tunnel that Transurban, already earning $2.1 billion a year from tolls, has proposed for Melbourne.

These corporations’ business models depend not on improving mobility or liveability, but on cramming more traffic onto metropolitan roads, and on locking us into paying ever-increasing tolls. Indeed, Sydney Motorways Corporation chief, Dennis Cliche, recently described the new M4 toll as “exciting”.

WestConnex has been supported by the Liberal and Labor parties – both receive large donations from toll road corporations.

It was crudely shoehorned into the final version of the 2012 NSW Transport Master Plan. Objectives such as "reducing congestion" and "linking Western Sydney to the Airport" were drafted retrospectively, to try to justify the scheme.

Embarrassingly, even these objectives won’t be met. As the new modelling shows, WestConnex will significantly increase congestion. Traffic on Parramatta Road has already surged, due to motorists avoiding the new tolls on the M4. WestConnex won’t actually “connex” to the Airport – and because the existing Airport motorway (M5 East) will be tolled $14 for a round trip from 2020, many people driving from Western Sydney will be switching to slower local roads.

A financial flop before it’s even built

The Commonwealth and NSW governments committed billions of dollars to this private enterprise before a very unconvincing business case was crafted. This funding included proceeds from the sale of income-generating public assets (electricity network).

In a reversal of a normal Public Private Partnership arrangement, the NSW Government then volunteered to build WestConnex on behalf of the private sector – saddling taxpayers with all the financial risk.

Despite public subsidies of over $5.6 billion to date, WestConnex still won’t be able to pay for itself through user charges – it’s a financial flop before it’s even built. To make up the shortfall, new tolls are being slapped on existing, publicly-owned motorways (M4 and M5 East), and extended on the M5 Southwest after 2026, when this motorway will have been paid off. Further substantial taxpayer subsidies are likely.

Will the scheme meet its objective of increasing corporate profits? Probably. While there is still significant uncertainty around future toll revenues and construction costs, the financial risk continues to be borne by taxpayers – because the NSW Government is yet to hand WestConnex over to the private sector.

I expect the future operator will acquire it at a fire-sale price. It will also want revenue guarantees. This is where this week’s announcement of a vehicle registration refund scheme for frequent toll road users comes in. This subsidy, likely to cost taxpayers $1 billion over the next 10 years, will encourage some travellers to switch from free roads and public transport to the private toll roads, shoring up traffic and revenue.

In terms of political popularity, a $358 incentive to use toll roads is unlikely to make up for new tolls of $3,300 a year on the existing M5 East, and $2,000 a year on the M4.

The biggest misuse of public funds in Australia's history?

Clearly, WestConnex is not in the public interest. The scheme involves arguably the biggest misuse of public funds for private gain in Australia's history – billions of dollars that could otherwise have been used for worthwhile infrastructure or services.

The harm to people’s lives is immeasurable. Construction is already destroying communities, affecting people's health, and disrupting sleep and travel – with years more to come. The new tolls on the existing motorways will hurt lower-income households, particularly in Western Sydney. The extra traffic generated through induced demand and toll-avoidance will lead to more road trauma and traffic noise. In particular, we can expect more trucks on local streets day and night, as they avoid the new tolls.

Traffic pollution  an invisible killer

Sydney's air already has unhealthy levels of traffic pollution. Diesel exhaust is a carcinogen in the same class as asbestos. Invisible and odourless petrochemical particulates penetrate deep into our lungs and into our blood supply while we work, exercise and sleep – and we may only become aware of the health consequences years later.

The toll road bosses and their government backers know WestConnex will cause more people to die and suffer chronic illness from traffic pollution in future. Is profit more important to them?

But it’s not a done deal. Stage 3 is still unfunded, and has major engineering challenges. Other cities worldwide have been saved from inner-city motorway schemes in the past. With jobs decentralisation, affordable housing policies, and investment in efficient and rapid mass transit, they are prospering without costly, destructive and polluting tollways.

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(This article was originally published at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-planning-process-corrupted-help-toll-road-chris-standen/ on 1 Nov 2017 and has been reproduced here with Dr Standen's kind permission.)

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Fix NSW Transport Lantern Walk posters and links

Please help us get the word out about the Fix NSW Transport Lantern Walk with these downloadable posters.

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You can print colour or B&W, as a big poster or small flyer. Make it double sided and put your local group's message on the back.

Thanks to Joel Tarling for his great hand drawn style on this one:

Colour | Black and white

Thanks to Rob Manser for this alternative version:

Colour


Links:

Facebook event - https://www.facebook.com/events/184634588836161/

Website event - http://www.westconnex.info/fix_nsw_transport_2018_city_lantern_walk

Short URL - bit.do/fixnsw2

 

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WestCONnex M4-M5 CONtractor Announced

The new WestCONnex CONsortium - Companies alleged to be involved in tax-dodging, bribery & corruption

 

The three companies selected by the NSW Government this week to build Stage 3 of WestConnex have a troubling recent history of alleged corruption, bribery and tax-dodging. But it seems their combined lack of ethics hasn't prevented Premier Gladys Berejiklian from handing over billions of dollars in taxpayers money to the consortium consisting of Lend Lease, Samsung C&T Corporation and Bouygues Construction (LSB).

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Explainer - what is WestCONnex Stage 3?

WestCONnex has been deliberately planned in stages not only to mask the cumulative impacts, but also to create the impression that each successive stage is necessary to 'link' the project together. As such, Stage 3 is an $8 billion road from the M4 at Haberfield to the M5 at St Peters, with the virtually unbuildable Rozelle interchange tacked on. The government is hoping to create the illusion that this will 'keep the traffic underground'. But if this were the case then WestCONnex would merely act as a giant u-turn.

The reality is that Stage 3 is a western bypass of the CBD, whose purpose is to allow north shore drivers to get a bit closer to the airport before they reach the next bottleneck. The shameful thing is that regardless of whether western Sydney drivers use it, this most expensive stage of WestCONnex is being paid for by forcing them to pay new tolls on previously free public roads.

You can learn more about WestCONnex Stage 3 in this talk by Terry Lee-Williams, the City of Sydney’s Chief Transport Advisor.

We hope this graphic captures some of the absurdity of the entire scheme.

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Fix NSW Transport

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Thanks to everyone who participated in the Fix NSW Transport rally and made it such a big success.

We had over a thousand people from over 25 community groups and unions attend. Our message to stop the tolls and put public and active transport first was heard loud and clear and we received prime time coverage on Nine, Seven and ABC news. A number of follow up articles appeared in the Blue Mountains Gazette, the Newcastle Herald, the Mosman Daily, the Inner West Independent, the South Sydney Herald and Australasian Bus & Coach.

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Happy Fighting New Year

Happy New Year and thanks for all your support through 2017. It was our biggest year of activity so far and no doubt our movement will continue to grow in 2018.

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(cartoon by Cathy Wilcox for SMH)

Here's a blow-by-blow account of the significant events of 2017 that have contributed to exposing westCONnex as the toxic scam that it truly is.

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Residents Demand End to 'Fake' Approval Process

COALITION AGAINST WESTCONNEX

Media Release - 15/12/2017 12.20 pm

RESIDENTS DEMAND END TO ‘FAKE’ APPROVAL PROCESS.

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Anti Westconnex campaigners today occupied the NSW Department of Planning in Pitt Street, Sydney, calling for NSW Planning to reject the Environmental Impact Statement for the Stage 3 Westconnex tollway between St Peters, Haberfield and Rozelle and for an end to ‘fake’ approval processes.

“The community is sick of being pushed aside while decisions driven by the road lobby are being made behind closed doors,” said Paul Jeffery spokesperson for the Coalition against WestConnex, a network of anti-WestConnex community groups involved in today’s protest.

A chanting chorus of activists in 'faceless' masks (stamped REJECT EIS!) and a trio of White Elephants demanded an end to Gladys' FAKE approval process.

NSW Planning received more than 12,000 submissions, including submissions from City of Sydney and the Inner West Council, documenting hundreds of flaws in Sydney Motorway Corporation’s EIS. NSW government departments have also been strongly critical of the EIS which is based only on a concept not an actual design. (http://www.altmedia.net.au/epa-rejectswestconnex-
eis/128946).

“Despite the evidence, we’re worried that political pressure will be exerted to override expert concerns so that the Gladys Berejiklian government can move ahead with privatising WestConnex. The Stage 3 project would impose more intolerable impacts on residents and waste a further $7 billion on a solution that will worsen, not solve, traffic congestion.”

“For Planning to approve an EIS based on a vague concept would show utter contempt for communities whose lives have been made intolerable by WestConnex projects, for the people of NSW who’d bear the cost and for the very idea of independent planning,“ said Paul Jeffery.


Contact: Spokesperson for Coalition against WestConnex : Paul Jeffery 0410 636 663

The CAW network includes No WestConnex: Public Transport, Rozelle Against WestConnex, Westconnex Action Group, Leichhardt Against WestConnex, Save Newtown and other groups.

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