how little has changed since Bob Carr came to power. Download
the PDF of Nick Possums classic 1994 comic book Roads of Doom.
pages, A4 format, 1.9 Mb
stalled in policy gridlock
my way back from an investigation in Broken Hill I stayed overnight
in a Dubbo motel. In the morning I drove to Sydney via Orange, and stopped
for breakfast. There, in a little café, I picked up the Sydney
Morning Herald and saw that the RTAs M4 East project had been
shelved, pending an all-in bureaucratic talkfest to decide where to
go next. Clearly the Carr government was in disarray.
I drove down from the mountains, Sydney was shrouded in a thick pale-brown
layer of pollution crap from car and truck exhausts. After several
windless days you couldnt even see the western suburbs, let alone
Carrs has been a government of marking time; a government of bottom-line
managerialism; a government that seems chronically incapable of making
the big changes we need if Sydney is to be, once again, a pleasant,
not as if he hasnt had time. A few months before he came to power
he had this to say in the Sydney Morning Herald (July 25, 1994):
is up against its limits. The level of air pollution will soon begin
climbing again after years of reductions. There is chronic congestion
on a basically 19th century road system and tollways just redistribute
regional rail links are the priority. Without new public transport
some families in western Sydney face a need for three or four cars.
So the Los Angeles future a sprawling city serviced only by
freeways is no rhetorical threat.
In fact a Coalition victory at the next election means the RTA having
our first term, a Labor Government will upgrade rail links in Sydney's
west and south-west. It's a centrepiece commitment. We will link Parramatta
to the other key employment centres ... and examine the feasibility
of light rail along Sunnyholt Road corridor...
Bob has had ten long years, and what did we get: the RTA has had its
head, construction of traffic-generating motorways hasnt faltered,
CityRail has deteriorated to the point where it cant even guarantee
enough drivers to man the trains, car use has steadily increased and
air pollution stains the sky brown most days of the year. And still
the government is stalled in a policy gridlock of its own making.
Since Carr came to office there have been almost no new public transport
initiatives. Those completed during his time: Airport Rail Link, the
Olympic Park rail link, Sydney Light Rail, the duplication of the East
Hills Line, were started or at least announced by the previous, Liberal,
government. The only cross regional links started under Labor are the
Parramatta-Chatswood line half of which has been abandoned
and the half-baked western suburbs busway, which ought to have been
a fast, high-quality, light rail link.
Either the man knows what is right, but is so weak he cant bring
himself to do it, or he was, all along, the greatest political conman
this state has ever seen.
what to make of the M4 East backdown? Evil Mick Costa is putting the
best possible face on the debacle even claiming it was his idea
and hinting that The Big Rethink will endorse the RTAs
dream of a super truck tunnel from Port Botany to the M4, but I doubt
it. No minister likes his department to suffer a setback on a project
in which a heap of work has been invested his prestige takes
a beating, and theres no certainty hell get his way on the
only have a certain amount of money to play with, and when one project
falters, another usually makes the running. Thats what happened
to the RTA in 1988 when the M5 East motorway project ran into determined
public opposition the airport rail link got a head start on its
rival and ultimately beat the RTA to half a billion dollars of government
money. The road ayatollahs wept tears of blood, and the M5 East took
a back seat for the next five years.
can only hope that planning minister Craig Knowles really has decided
that enough is enough, and is throwing his weight behind the push for
a comprehensive 10 year plan to get Sydneys public transport up
to scratch. Its not as if theres a lack of good proposals:
theres the Western FastRail, proposed extensions to the light
rail service, and the plan to double the rail tracks on the Harbour
Bridge and reserve lanes for buses.
sources in Cabinet tell me that after the Sydney Morning Herald broke
the proposal to build the Western FastRail project in an exclusive on
15 March, Costa bragged in Cabinet that, just to get the FastRail off
the front pages, hed revived the abandoned proposal for an M6
motorway straight through Rockdales small remaining strip of parkland.
It didnt work, but the story rings true. Mick is the sort of macho
shoot-from-the-lip wanker whod do that, just to score off his
And see also ...
Published in the anti-motorway newspaper Hell on Wheels in January
1997, Nick's hilarious behind-the-scenes look at how the Carr Government
arrives at major infrastructure decisions was an eerie foretaste of
blunders to come. A complete facsimile of the print edition. 4 pages,
A4 format, 580 Kb.