The ACCC's decision to delay Transurban from bidding for WestConnex should be a warning to all. Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the NSW government have pulled out every trick in the book to fast-track the sale of the controversial infrastructure project. But, now, it’s time to take a breath and reflect on whether this sale is really for the public’s good, or, for the good of its political masters and private toll road operators, say community advocacy group No WestConnex: Public Transport (NoW: PT).
The Australian consumer watchdog this week announced that it would delay the potential sale of WestConnex until early September as it continues to harbour "competition concerns" over Transurban's bid for a 51% stake in the government-backed infrastructure project.
Transurban, who currently controls 15 of the 19 toll roads in Australia and seven of the nine existing concessions in NSW, also has its eyes on WestConnex, partnering with large superannuation funds such as UniSuper.
If the forthcoming ACCC ruling does not permit Transurban to bid, the WestConnex sale essentially becomes a one horse race. With a conglomerate headed by IFM Investors and Dutch pension fund APG being the only bidder remaining.
NoW: PT believes this is a case where the sale must be cancelled. A one-bidder auction is also a monopoly. The auction for WestConnex would be so compromised, the only ethical thing to do would be to scrap the sale completely.
NoW: PT spokesperson, John Lozano, said:
"The decision by the ACCC is a prudent one and demonstrates the value of an independent adjudicator. Up to now, Ms Berejiklian has had a free run on WestCONnex with all the 'independent' governance coming from NSW Government departments, where influence could be asserted."
"On the subject of Transurban and a monopoly, the decision for the ACCC is a simple one. Transurban owns seven out of Sydney's nine toll roads. If that isn't monopoly then, please explain."
"With that kind of monopoly Transurban has access to an incredible amount of traffic flow data. Giving them an unfair advantage over other bidders and, if successful, would allow them to cement their stranglehold over Sydney's transport options."
"Superannuation funds like UniSuper and APG should be ashamed of themselves for financially backing environmentally destructive projects like WestCONnex and assisting the expansion of their already extensive monopoly."
A NSW Parliamentary inquiry looking into the impacts of WestConnex is accepting public submissions until August 31. Anyone impacted or with concerns is encouraged to submit.
SPOKESPEOPLE AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW:
John Lozano - NoW: PT
Serkan Ozturk - Founder / Media Consultant, PR 4 THE PPL