A few years ago I seemed to stir a bit of online debate by suggesting that our politicians should be bound by the same sort of consumer laws that bind corporations.
How’s that $50 million for Appin Road going? Well, we got $5 million.
Specifically, Section 52 of the Trade Practices Act which prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct.
So if a government tells us a bare-faced porkie – such as “we’ll protect the Hurlstone green space” or “no cuts to education, no cuts to health, etc” – they should be fined, even imprisoned, when that promise is broken. It’s fraud.
Not all of you agreed, but I will now go one step further and add that all political promises should also be subjected to a sunset clause, to lock in a date. Let’s call it the Appin Road clause.
Most of us remember in May 2016, just before the last election, when both sides of politics promised $50 million to upgrade deadly Appin Road. It was never going to be a fix, mind you – at least four times that amount, or $200 million, would be needed for a dual carriageway – but it seemed a decent start, building some of it.
So, here we are in May 2017 and how’s that promised $50 million promised for Appin Road flowing forth?
We got $5 million drip. Allocated for 2018-19. And about 2.5 per cent of what is actually needed. I'm not sure whether that will be used to fill potholes, expand the dual carriageway 100 metres, or be used on a consultants report full of charts and artists impressions telling us how wonderful a new road will be if we actually get around to building it one day.
Hume MP Angus Taylor has defended the shortfall, insisting that planning is happening and “it has to be done right.”
Doing things right is important, and far better than half-baked plans like, say, building a Western Sydney airport without a rail connection. I just don’t know why planning hasn’t already been done: it’s not like Appin Road is a new thing.
And, don’t get me wrong. The sentimental side of me would much prefer it remain as it is, a pretty rural stretch which koalas can (sometimes) manage to cross alive. But developers and pollies are itching to cover those rural bits with McMansions, and very little we do or say will stop them. Remember, we are a colony of Sydney, not part of Sydney. We do what our masters say.
So, when will the rest of the promised $50 million appear? Dunno. Perhaps just before the next election when Malcolm and Bill pose in hardhats for the cameras?
$50 million is a lot of cash; it’s about how much MPs in Canberra will claim in expenses over the next six months. And $200 million can’t be provided outright to fix the deadly road, because that’s how much is needed to fund advertising campaigns telling us how wonderful the government is. A deadly road in one of Australia’s biggest growth centres has to wait.
NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey has stated that true upgrades to Appin and Picton roads could have a 20-year time frame. Given that this is the same state government that was going to give Campbelltown a giant new motor registry (it instead closed the two existing ones), I’d say we’d have to at least double, or triple, Ms Pavey’s prediction.
So, does that mean the lack of a fix will mean pollies will stop pushing housing estates along Appin Road? Don’t be silly. Why overturn half a century of local planning policy in Macarthur?
And, for locals who enjoy popping down to the beach in 45 minutes, enjoy it while you can. The way things look, it will soon take an 145 minutes. Ask Narellan Road, our other local model of fixing a road after housing estates.