WestConnex Audit Report Makes No Criticisms of the Project
14 February 2017
The Auditor General’s report about WestConnex, issued today, has nothing to say about the way this transformational motorway project in Sydney is being delivered.
The report follows a 2016 political stunt by Labor infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese, writing to the Auditor General seeking an investigation into the project.
But the report has a very specific and limited focus as its title makes clear—the approval and administration of Commonwealth funding for the project.
Nothing in this report raises any questions about WestConnex’s design, the construction program, or the benefits that WestConnex will deliver to millions of people in western and southwestern Sydney—such as cutting travel time from Parramatta to Sydney Airport by 40 minutes.
WestConnex will widen and extend both the M4 and M5 motorways and take traffic off local residential streets, including large sections in underground tunnels, meaning less time stuck in traffic, quicker trips to and from work, and easier travel between western and southwestern Sydney and other parts of the Sydney metropolitan area.
WestConnex will deliver more than $20 billion in economic benefits to New South Wales, creating 10,000 construction jobs and bypassing up to 52 sets of traffic lights.
The business case shows the benefits of WestConnex exceed the costs by 70 per cent. Both Infrastructure Australia and Infrastructure NSW recommend the project proceed.
These are some of the reasons the Turnbull Government is supporting the project—with $1.5 billion in grant funding and a $2 billion concessional loan.
The ANAO report challenges none of these facts.
The report has one recommendation, essentially that the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development make some technical process changes for advice provided to Ministers when a loan is being provided to a state government to fund infrastructure. Of course, the Department has agreed to that sensible process recommendation.
This report confirms (on page 15) that in 2013 federal Labor committed $1.8 billion to fund WestConnex, which is a useful reminder of Labor’s hypocrisy on WestConnex. In 2014, Albanese was taking credit for it.
Albanese: Take WestConnex for example, we funded the work in terms of planning. $25 million was already spent from us and $1.8 billion was included in last year’s budget for the WestConnex project.
By 2016, as he was trying to fend off the Greens in his inner city seat, he changed his tune—even denying on Fran Kelly’s radio program that Labor had provided this funding.
Kelly: Did you provide that money?
Albanese: We provided $25 million for planning, Fran, that’s the whole point. They say they support planning, we provided $25 million, not for construction, not a dollar, did we provide for construction.
This is a troubling pattern from the Labor Party—to stop their voters shifting to the Greens, we’re seeing Labor start to oppose critical infrastructure.
The Turnbull Government is delivering the vital infrastructure that Sydney needs—so people can get to and from work as quickly as possible; freight can move efficiently around the city; and we all benefit from less time stuck in traffic.
The Greens and Labor left can squabble over who is more opposed to vitally needed infrastructure. Only the Coalition can be trusted to deliver the infrastructure needed to serve the whole of Sydney.