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Thursday, 28 June 2018

NSW ALP fails to cater to Sydney’s appetite for construction

The need for building infrastructure in Sydney won’t go away any time soon. The city has over 100,000 people coming into it from overseas and other states each year and these people need places to live. New construction of apartments in areas close to train lines is the only feasible answer to the question raised by their arrival. But the ALP has decided to put the priorities of NIMBYs living in those areas ahead of the interests of the city more broadly.

You can see the signs of this regressive policy in other decisions made by the party. In the 1990s and well into the next decade, Bob Carr of the NSW ALP and his successors flatly refused to build new train lines in Sydney. This despite the fact that they even had a chance to win points with voters by reversing a bad policy made earlier by the Liberals. In the 1950s, the corrupt Askin Liberal government had ripped up the electric tram lines in Sydney and replaced them with noisy, dangerous, obstructive buses. All in the name of modernity.

(The same government was fortunately stopped by the militant Builders Labourers Federation led by the mercurial Jack Mundey (who is still alive) from flattening The Rocks and Woolloomooloo and replacing their remarkable 19th century fabrics with high-rises. This government wanted to commit this kind of desecration in the name of modernity and in support of free enterprise.)

Under Gladys Berejiklian, the modern Liberals are now putting the beloved trams back into the streets and there is also discussion now on about building a new heavy rail line from Parramatta to the city through the inner west, possibly north of the river. Developers and public servants are working with politicians to decide where the new stations should be built. New infrastructure like this is the lifeblood of a city as crowded as Sydney as it opens up new areas for settlement by migrants coming into the city from interstate and overseas.

But the Australian Labor Party is doing everything it can to stop them. In the name of what? Fairness? People love riding on trains and trams where they are safe. Probity? It is up to government to spend the money needed to grow the city and enable people to live their lives peacefully. Good governance? Why did Carr refuse for so many years to build for a growing Sydney?

Policies designed to suppress development that are being adopted by the ALP in both NSW and Victoria have the same no-growth overtones that made Carr put a stop to new infrastructure development in the past. With policies like these in place the ALP will certainly lose the March election.

In Macquarie Street, Gladys Berejiklian has prepared a state budget in preparation for the poll that Sydney Morning Herald journalist Alexandra Smith calls “a Labor budget”. “It has tried to beat Labor at its own game and has turned to the traditional state services of education and health in its big budget spends,” she writes in her story. Emphasis on construction and development has been laid aside, she goes on, but the building will not stop even though it has apparently fallen down the ladder of issues being put to the electorate ahead of the poll. Go Gladys!

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