Opinion by JOHN MOYLE
“Not on your Nellie,” said Peter Hehir, convenor, Rozelle Against WestConnex (RAW).
Mr. Hehir is referring to an encounter with Labor leader Jodi McKay when she was shadow Minister for Transport.
“At a large public meeting held at the Birchgrove Tennis Courts in the lead up to the last State election, Jodi McKay gave a cast iron guarantee, that if elected, the ALP would not build the Western Harbour Tunnel,” Mr. Hehir said.
“She stated repeatedly that the ALP opposed the Western Harbour Tunnel.”
When questioned by Mr. Hehir, who pointed out that about 40% of the Tunnel had already been approved and would be built as part of the Rozelle interchange, Mr. Hehir said “she ignored the question and just said over and over again that ‘The ALP opposes the Western Harbour Tunnel’.”
Feeling that the record needle was stuck, Mr. Hehir then opted for a different approach by asking “What do you propose to do with the 40 per cent of the twin three-lane tunnels that were about to be built and would sit idle under the Balmain Peninsula if the ALP did win?”
Mr. Hehir said Ms. McKay never answered his question.
What a difference a few months makes in politics.
Recently Jamie Parker, Greens member for Balmain, released a statement titled “Labor Opposition Flip Flops on the WHT”.
“I was really disappointed to hear that the NSW Labor Opposition has hit the reverse on their election promise to oppose the Western Harbour Tunnel,” Mr. Parker said.
“During a petition debate on the floor of the NSW Parliament, Labor MP’s said that they no longer oppose this project, but do want more transparency over it.
The lack of transparency refers to an astonishing attempt by the NSW Liberal Government to hush the report on the concentration of toxic chemicals in the excavated sludge from the channels dug in the bed of the harbour for the tunnels.
The Government claimed that this information was deemed “commercial in confidence” and that the information should not be in public hands.
“Working with environmental experts, we have forced the release of the Government’s contamination reports that reveal the exact concentration of chemicals in the sludge that will be dredged from the harbour,” Mr Parker
Due to more than 150 years of heavy industrial activity and storm run-off, Sydney Harbour is regarded as one of the most polluted harbours in the world, even more so than New York and Tokyo.
Some of the chemicals lurking in the approximately 140,000 cubic metres of sludge to be dug up and taken to White Bay to for treatment include dioxins, hydrocarbons, tributylin, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides, heavy metals and per- and poly-fluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS).
These reports are now publicly available.
“We will continue to encourage NSW Labor to recognise the risks this project poses to homes and our environment, and ask them to support our calls for the Government to invest in world-class public transport and not another tollway,” Mr. Parker said.
“Why am I not surprised?” Mr. Hehir said.
“The promise that Jodi McKay made is just another example of the depths that ALP and coalition politicians will sink in order to win votes.”
The seat of Balmain was once one of the safest ALP seats in NSW, but claims of corruption and dysfunction in the ALP saw them lose the seat and the State election in 2011.
Jamie Parker won the seat for the Greens in 2011 and was re-elected in 2015 and 2019 with increasing margins.
“The Western Harbour Tunnel will be approved and if Berejiklian is true to form the announcement will be made about a week before Xmas,” Mr. Hehir said.