OPINION: A response to Chris Minns Telegraph Op Ed

By Brent Heber

This Tuesday past, I attended the No Westconnex Beverly Hills community meeting in Kingsgrove, just around the corner from the little semi my wife and I bought 6 years ago.

From my front yard I consider myself lucky enough to see the semis passing on the M5 at a distance, close enough to judge how fast the traffic is moving (to see if it’s worth getting on the motorway or doing the rat run to Wolli creek) but far enough away to only just hear it on a still night. That’s all likely to change as the Liberal and Labor parties of NSW agree we must have Stage 2 of Westconnex, the duplication of the M5 East tunnel.

The meeting was packed and we heard from a raft of experts on the health impacts of motorways. We heard in detail about the lack of business case. We heard that traffic will likely be worse throughout sydney once the motorway is in place. We heard about how our small strips of park and green space will disappear and what greenery that hides the concrete walls of the existing M5 will have to go, how dozens of residents will have to live with serious noise issues moving forwards once the motorway is in place – but they’ll be offered double glazing to help…

So it was with some shock that most of this seemed lost on our local MP and to read Chris Minns opinion piece in the Telegraph, after mingling with so many of his constituents who are scared and concerned about the affect this motorway will have on them and his response is to….attack the Greens? Chris published a piece in The Australian a little while ago which got him into hot water with some union members, it seems he enjoys courting a bit of controversy in the right wing papers…

The thrust of Chris’ article seems to be to blame the Greens for a whole raft of problems, but the main thrust of it is we can’t have our cake and eat it too – we can’t be anti-high rise and anti-motorway; if we don’t want to develop increasing highrise in the city to support jobs, people will have to live further away and the only feasible way for them to get to and from work is with traffic eased by Westconnex. Two serious falacies: Greens aren’t anti-high rise and motorways don’t solve congestion. However!

His first foray into misrepresenting Green policy places emphasis on the old Tele anti-bicycle hysteria…”No one likes six-lane highways. That is, until you ask yourself whether your boss would cop your two-hour bike commute from Campbelltown…”

Last I checked the Greens transport policy that we took to the state election centred around increased heavy rail, light rail, express bus services and yes, a cycle network – but no one is suggesting 2 hour bike rides as the default position for commuters…

I’m not sure how the Greens, a minority party who have never held state government, can be held responsible for planning decisions by successive Liberal and Labor controlled State governments as Chris seems to feel? If Balmain is “underdeveloped” with 2 storey height restrictions, surely the fault of that lies directly at the feet of those in planning and development, not an opposition minority party? Labor had 4 successive terms in office to deliver their transport and planning for Sydney and what did they achieve? Some might say the 8-9 train projects they announced and yet only delivered 1 of those may be in part to blame for the congestion on our roads and languishing public transport infrastructure.

Chris mentions Glebe, Balmain and Marrickville in his piece, targeting typical Green hotspots, but not a mention of St George and the 3 priority precincts that are slated for Arncliffe, Banksia and Kogarah, with height restrictions being lifted massively to accommodate higher and higher density. Like many members of the Greens, I am not anti-high rise as the mainstream right wing press would have many believe – however I feel that any high density development has to be built around meeting the needs of the community, not built to the cheapest price to extract the most profit for the developer. The NSW Greens planning policy makes this abundantly clear. I’m also irate at the constant finger pointing between state govt and local councils when our communities fall apart from lack of public transport, child care, schools and other vital services.

It’s a shame that Chris is playing these games on our dime. During the election campaign Chris promised all the voters at train stations that if he was elected he would be doing everything he can to get the cut train services restored on our lines, or at least increasing the frequency of express services lost from Rockdale, Kogarah, Beverly Hills and Kingsgrove. What have you done on that issue Chris that would mitigate travel times for residents in your electorate? What are you and Steve Kamper doing to protect us from the pollution stacks that are slated for our neighbourhoods, that again, you promised the world about in the lead up to the election?

Luke Foley is now anti-light rail, Chris is pro development and disinterested in heavy rail, Labor and Liberals agreeing on Westconnex even though Labor haven’t seen the business case for it, Labor MPs getting editorial in The Australian and Telegraph, it really does seem like a case of Liberal and “Liberal-lite” in NSW these days.

Chris Minns at Kogarah Station campaigning on restoring rail services:


*Opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of St George Greens or NSW Greens.

What are your thoughts about this?