There are no pleasant surprises in this week's state budget concerning WestConnex. Just smoke and mirrors from the premier, states community advocacy group No WestConnex: Public Transport (NoW: PT).
Under the 2018-19 NSW Budget, the government has hypocritically hitched a commitment to funding much-needed future community projects on the basis that WestConnex is privatised first. The government has committed another $2 billion of taxpayers money to construct the unpopular motorway, and through their plans to sell a 51% stake in WestConnex have earmarked any revenue generated from the remaining share to a "new sovereign wealth fund that will pay for community projects".
Just as sneakily, the government has also failed to include in its budget any provisions for cost blowouts associated with WestConnex. Reports from earlier this year suggest the construction of the motorway is already at least $700 million over budget.
And while billions of dollars have been allocated to newly planned toll roads like the F6 Extension, the budget doesn't include any new funding for the Sydney Gateway project to link Sydney Airport and St Peters: one of the main justifications for constructing WestConnex in the first place.
NoW: PT spokesperson, John Lozano, said:
"This is a 'Hide and Bribe' budget. Hide the true cost of WestCONnex mismanagement, by not mentioning the cost blowouts, and bribe voters through the establishment of a fund, supposedly to finance future public oriented infrastructure. Of course, all contingent on the fire sale of WestCONnex."
"Their plan is to use the cash generated from the fire sale of WestCONnex to build more toll roads, whilst the income generated, from the remaining 49% share of toll revenue, goes into a new generation fund. However, history shows these projects only generate profit for the private owners. Rarely does the traffic modelling used to justify their creation live up to expectations. When this occurs, contract provisions inserted by the private owner ensures that the shortfall in revenue is always picked up by tax payers. If history repeats itself, there won’t be much in that fund.”
"We really need a judicial or parliamentary commission of enquiry to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the finances, the contracts and the governments dealings with Sydney Motorway Corporation. Luke Foley needs to stand up for our community and unequivocally support an enquiry and oppose WestCONnex."
"NoW: PT welcomes the success of the Greens' efforts this week to secure a NSW parliamentary inquiry into WestCONnex. We may finally see transparency around this project."
The government claims the entire WestConnex project will cost $16.8 billion to construct but independent analysis suggests the project is likely to cost closer to $45 billion.
As well as an immediate halt to the government's planned privatisation auction of WestConnex, NoW: PT is calling for a full NSW parliamentary inquiry into the infrastructure project dubbed “Australia’s largest” but fast becoming the country’s biggest construction headache.
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