11 May 2022

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (17:11): I thank the member for Blacktown for moving this important motion. It makes perfect sense to those of us in the Labor Party who represent outer suburban or, indeed, regional and peri‑urban electorates like Blue Mountains. However, it is presumably a bewildering motion for Liberal members on the North Shore and the Eastern Suburbs who represent electorates that are beneficiaries of not just magnificent public transport services but also relatively affordable tolling regimes. Motorists from Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains knew what was in store for them when this Government introduced distance‑based tolling on the M4 but left the fixed‑tolling regime of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in place. We knew what was coming when it signed away public ownership of our motorways to a private owner with an entitlement to jack up tolls by 4 per cent or CPI every year. We knew what was coming and we knew why.

Tolls are a major impost on the household budgets of hundreds of thousands of families, yet this Government allowed them to spiral out of control—ever higher with every passing year. The Government did this because it does not care about western Sydney. It does not care about the cost‑of‑living crisis that grips working‑class families or the lived experience of motorists stuck on the motorways in peak-hour traffic day in and day out who are suffering from the double whammy of sitting in traffic purgatory while paying through the nose for the privilege. The same Government refuses to deal with the chronic undercapacity of our main western railway line and refuses to invest in its duplication—the only measure that will meaningfully improve the lives of western Sydney commuters.

Instead of doubling the capacity of our public transport system to meet the needs of today and plan for the obvious needs of the future, the Government has instead condemned us all to a lifetime of toll company direct debits and the interminable beeping of their e-tags. Every time that tag beeps is another $5 or $10 coming out of your pocket. The people of the Blue Mountains know that every year that cost goes up and up. The Government comes to the issue of distance-based road user charging with no credibility and no goodwill. People do not trust the Government, and nor should they. It will, no doubt, find a way to turn this charging into a new money-spinning venture for its friends in big business. How many of the crooks, spivs and pickpockets among the New South Wales Liberals will end up working at these tolling companies when the gravy train grinds to a halt here in Macquarie Street at the next election? As they say in the classics, it is a tale as old as time.

The Labor Party opposes the out-of-control private tolling regime presided over by the Government. Tolls have their place in raising money for the salaries of Transport for NSW maintenance workers. But, true to form, those have also been privatised. Remember the flooding earlier this year? The privatisation agenda of this Government saw highways flood in the most remarkable locations. We had flooding that defied the laws of physics because we are governed here in New South Wales instead by the laws of privatisation, cost cutting and pig‑headed economic liberalism. We had flooding at Springwood, on the side of a hill—work that out. The Roseville Bridge, which goes across Middle Harbour, was under water. But it was not because the tide was high or the river below was full. We had the remarkable situation of a roadway some 10 or 15 metres above the earth nonetheless being completely under water. Just like the highway at Springwood, Roseville Bridge was under water because the road had not been properly maintained and the stormwater drains were clogged.

So, no, we do not think there is an argument for more road user charging, and we do not think the Government can be trusted to administer it. Given the chance, the Government will devise a scheme that is completely inequitable and inefficient and then sell it to the private sector so that its mates in big business can rort it for 40 or 50 years. In the western suburbs of Sydney and beyond, into the Blue Mountains, we have seen it all before, and we are sick of it. We want investment in public transport before we see another cent raised from long‑suffering motorists, and we want a genuine alternative to a life condemned to be spent on the New South Wales Liberals' private tollways.