Friday, 9 October 2015

Open letter to Tanya Plibersek regarding WestConnex

Recently Tanya weighed in on the WestConnex debate with a post on her website. What follows below is WestCONnex Direct Action's response.


Tanya, your emphasis on Newtown suggests that the problem is isolated. It's not. The whole project is wrong. It's the central idea of radial motorways into urban centers that needs to be challenged.

Back in 1980, Neville Wran commissioned the Kyeemagh-Chullora road inquiry which concluded as much. You can see an interview with Justice Kirby here:
Similar studies and experts will tell you the same thing.

By stating "As it stands, WestConnex cannot and should not proceed" you leave open the possibility that WestConnex should proceed in a modified form. Well, that is just a restatement of Labor policy. That policy merely removes stage 3 of the motorway but leaves the M4 and M5 extensions intact. In fact the ALP supports running the M4 all the way into the CBD which is absurd. The approximate cost would probably be only a little less than the current $15 billion. Let's not forget it was Julia Gillard who first funded WestConnex when she did her listening tour of western Sydney:

It's clear you are not deviating from the party line, in contrast to Jo Haylen or Linda Scott.

You say "Public transport must be a major and integrated part of any infrastructure strategy." That is a total apple-pie statement that no-one would disagree with. The point is to back it up by opposing WestConnex and putting up a detailed public transport alternative, such as community groups like Ecotransit have done. Labor's recent big announcement of federal support for public transport should have included this.

Finally, you deflect attention from Federal support of WestConnex by urging the community to lobby State government. Although clearly State Government undoubtedly plays a major role, it's what you are doing at the Federal level that we are interested to know.

Labor should support the withdrawal of all federal funds for WestConnex and campaign actively against the whole project, particularly in the senate where cross-bench support may get a majority. Labor electoral success in inner Sydney will depend on it.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

St Peters WestCONnex 'Crown of Thorns' interchange

Alexandria landfill, St Peters - the proposed site of a vast WestCONnex interchange.
Halting construction here will be a key battleground in the struggle against WestCONnex. See the photos belows for the main features and entry and exit points.
The landfill is on a block nearly 1 km square bounded primarily by the Princes Hwy, Canal Rd, Burrows Rd and Campbell St/Rd.
The main exit/entry point is on the NE side close to Campbell Rd. The exact address there is 16-20 Albert St. It is a double gate with a holding area in between. This is where the asbestos laden trucks are coming out. From there they go straight ahead and turn left into Campbell St, before heading up Edgeware Rd past St Pius school.
There are two other operational gates, one on nearby Holland St, the other on Burrows Rd. They appear to be used primarily for support vehicles.
There is a disused gate on Canal Rd too.
There best vantage point to see the entire site is from the rear of the carpark in between 238 and 310 Princes Hwy. Other views are possible from the back of the adjacent KFC or scrambling onto a railing next to the big billboards closer to Canal Rd.
The waste loads all appear to be in double trucks that have stickers on the side such as WC052 with a different 3 digit number.
The approved hours of work are 7am to 6pm from Monday to Friday and 7.30am to 4pm on Saturday.
We envision that one day the land will be remediated, there will be a new train station, social housing and an extension of Sydney Park. There will also be interpretive signage explaining how the community rose up and took control. Make it so.
Main entrance at 10-16 Albert St.

Google maps

Note the inner gates.

Just to the left of the entrance

Holland St entrance. There is another gate further inside.

Burrows Rd gate

 Burrows Rd gate close up

 Disused Canal Rd gate

View from next to billboards on Princes Hwy

View from behind 310 Princes Hwy. It looks like construction has started prior to approval.

Truck WC052

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Jodi McKay MP Misleads Stop WestConnex Rally

Jodi McKay MP Misleads Stop WestConnex Rally

by Andrew Chuter


Labor shadow minister for Roads, Jodi McKay MP misled a crowd of several hundred at a stop WestConnex rally in Concord, Sydney, last weekend. This comes after a series of town hall meetings and innovative rallies organised by resident activists along the length of the proposed $15 billion plus, 33km WestConnex tollway.

Despite the LNP retaining power in the March NSW election and proceeding with the project, citizen opposition has grown, and campaigners have intensified their activities. Realising the need to increase awareness further outwards from the inner city, meetings and actions are being held in Kingsgrove, Beverly Hills, Burwood and Concord. This has been helped by the post-election revelations of acquisitions of hundreds of homes and toxic stacks along the lengths of the M4 and M5 east components.

Kathy Calman, resident activist of Beverly Hills, organised a packed meeting at a church hall in Kingsgrove. Residents there heard from Chris Minns, Labor MP for Kogarah, and Jenny Leong, Greens MP for Newtown. Immediately after proceedings, locals queued to sign the petition organised by Leong calling for a halt to construction and a parliamentary inquiry. Minns however wrote an editorial the next day supporting WestConnex and lambasting the Greens.

At Leichhardt Town Hall in June, another packed meeting heard from a panel of speakers, including John Mant, Dr Mehreen Faruqi and Dr Jude Page. Page, a medical doctor, spoke about respiratory illnesses and carcinogenic PM2.5 diesel particulates; Faruqi, a Greens MLC, opposed the entire project, and detailed the gutting of engineering expertise in the NSW public service resulting in bad decisions and cost overruns on infrastructure projects. Mant, who formerly worked for PM Gough Whitlam, drew analogies with Alice in Wonderland and the Emperor’s New Clothes.

The meeting turned sour however when McKay spoke.

McKay raised serious concerns over the toxic stacks and home acquisitions, going so far as to support the parliamentary inquiry, but stopped short of opposing WestConnex. This was in contrast to her colleague Jo Haylen MP, who has gone further and appears to hold a position counter to state Labor policy. A number of anti-freeway activists involved in the Fig St, Ultimo confrontations in the 70's were in the audience and asked McKay why she supported the project in principle.

McKay merely shrugged and failed to answer the question.

The meeting then unanimously passed strong motions of opposition to all of WestConnex.

Similar motions have now been passed at a growing number of public meetings, by resident action groups and now four local councils – City of Sydney, Leichhardt, Marrickville and Ashfield.

An innovative history walk was held a fortnight ago in St Peters, called Jurassic Car Park. Hosted by Reclaim the Streets’ artist/activist/urban visionary Chris Lego, it toured the neighborhood with a mixture of activities including an Elvis impersonator, performance poetry, speeches from resident activist Pauline Lockie and journalist Wendy Bacon, and a treasure hunt for children. RtS events occupy a productive nexus between street fair and protest where many hearts and minds are won over to the stop WestConnex cause, whilst building community.

Then most recently, a rally was held in Concord, where many homes will be lost due to a traffic interchange, and about 2 hectares of open space at Cintra Hockey field cannibalised at the centre point of the M4 east tunnelling. Joining the rally in their first public event was a new group CAW - Cyclists Against WestConnex, organised by myself. Our small group of cyclists rode in a 'critical mass' style convoy starting from Sydney Park to meet the Concord rally.

Cycling to such rallies embodies the alternatives to WestConnex at the same time as participating in protests. We intend to hold more group rides to future WestConnex rallies, hold loop rides on the first Sunday of each month from Sydney Park, and support direct actions. There is safety in numbers so please join in.

At the Concord rally, Dr Michelle Zeibots, traffic expert, told the hundreds present to continue campaigning against the entire WestConnex, and not just settle for modifications. In contrast McKay said that it was going ahead regardless but she would work to get parts moved and the toxic stacks filtered.

Perhaps as a result of sustained social media pressure since McKay’s June failure to justify the ALP’s in-principle support for WestConnex, she claimed that it would reduce traffic on Parramatta Rd. This was known to be untrue by many in the crowd, having read the official Environmental Impact Statement which states that daily vehicles would increase from 44,000 to 59,000. In the end McKay was jeered off the podium with a chant of ‘Jodi McKay! Don’t betray!’

Leong spoke next and was received with cheers when denouncing WestConnex and its proponents in strong terms. She urged the crowd to continue the fight and sign the petition. Local mother Amanda Bull also spoke with great passion and force. 

Speaking to me while milling around, Jo Haylen urged me just to 'fight WestConnex and not bother trying to change the Labor Party - I've been trying for 20 years'. This jaded resignation does little to inspire support and makes one question the force of her opposition to the tollway. Evidence from the successful East-West link campaign in Melbourne indicates that keeping up the pressure on Labor is effective and that indeed Labor can be changed and subsequently win elections.

Other parents from Haberfield Primary School were moved to tears when talking about the effects on their own children and those at The Infant’s Home, in Ashfield. Many in the area already have respiratory illnesses and the 2500 that are treated at The Infant’s Home have complex health and family issues. They will be placed in the shadow of a toxic exhaust stack should the M4 East be built.

Also present at the rally were a number of Councillors from nearby LGA's. Speaking to Greens Clr Pauline Tyrrell of Canada Bay, she was not hopeful that her council would join the other 4 already fully opposed to WestConnex, despite Greens and Labor holding a majority. 'The only effect on Canada Bay is the loss of Cintra Hockey field', she claimed while neglecting to mention the $3000 share every man, woman and child in NSW would have to pay to build the tollway through taxes or tolls. Stronger resident pressure on councils will be needed to bring more of them to full opposition.

After the Concord rally, Jodi McKay stated the she had previously read the EIS, which contradicted her earlier statement. Despite calls to apologise or acknowledge this error, she has thus far failed to do so.

Addendum: Another ALP parliamentarian readers may wish to pressure is Penny Sharpe. Please sign this petition here:

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Ashfield Council online petition forces strong WestConnex motions.

A targeted petition was run in the 6 hours leading up to the council meeting. Recognising that the proposed motions were weaker than those passed in the City of Sydney, Leichhardt and Marrickville, some stronger demands were made. As a result of the petition, items 2 & 3 were inserted and they were passed by the majority. All the Liberal councillors voted against.


Mr Chris Elenor addressed the meeting, commencing at 7.49pm and concluding at 7.55pm.

Councillors Passas and Raciti returned to the meeting at 8.00pm. Councillor Passas left the meeting, the time being 8.02pm. Councillor Cassidy PSM left the meeting, the time being 8.07pm and returned at 8.10pm.


1. Ashfield Council does not support the WestConnex project as a solution to the traffic on Parramatta Rd.

2. Council calls for an immediate halt to tenders, acquisition and construction until the full WestConnex business case is released.

3. Council calls for a parliamentary inquiry into WestConnex.

4. Ashfield Council supports a significant increase to public transport for western Sydney and the establishment of major park and ride hubs.

5. Council display appropriately worded banners opposing WestConnex highlighting the inappropriate placement of the unfiltered emissions stacks.

6. Council consider distributing corflute posters opposing unfiltered stacks and lack of transport for western Sydney to homeowners on certain streets for display on fences.

7. Council engage a consultant to advise on world’s best practice filtration systems for underground tunnels.

8. Council write to the Premier requesting that;

  • The consultation period for the Environmental Impact Statement be extended to 60 days.
  • Inform Ashfield Council how you intend to mitigate the ‘knock-on’ effect of the increased traffic in suburban streets and Frederick St.
  • Request fairness, courtesy and respect towards the local residents who are required to surrender their homes and businesses to your project. The property owners and renters have been given very short time frames with little consideration of the impact on their lives and the availability of housing stock for purchase or rent in this area. The many business owners will not be able to purchase/rent suitable sites nearby and may be forced out of business or try to establish in another area.
  • That the work-site areas marked on the maps as grey “future land use to be determined” be returned to Ashfield Council in 2019 for open space with a significant contribution towards an indoor sports stadium.
  • Council provide an information session for residents whose properties and businesses are to be compulsorily acquired. 

9. North south bike, walking and green corridor pedestrian connections be completed as a priority for the Greenway and Iron Cove Creek/Dobroyd Canal link from Ashfield Aquatic Centre to Iron Cove.

Items 1 and items 4-9 were voted on separately. A division was called and the voting was as follows:- For the Motion Councillors Stott, Wangmann, Cassidy PSM, Mansour, Wang, Lofts, Drury, A Raiola, M Raiola, Raciti and McKenna OAM. Against the Motion Nil.

Items 2 and 3 were voted on separately A division was called and the voting was as follows:- For the Motion Councillors Stott, Wangmann, Cassidy PSM, Mansour, Wang, Lofts, Drury and McKenna OAM. Against the Motion Councillors A Raiola, M Raiola and Raciti



That Ashfield Council calls on the Baird Government to be fiscally prudent in how they manage this project. Specifically, they should make commitments not to:

  • Sign taxpayers up to open-ended financial commitments to underwrite WestConnex including ‘patronage risk’ – it should stand on its own feet without burdening future generations of taxpayers to unknown subsidies 
  • agree to ‘right to compete’ clauses that prevent the future development of public transport along the routes of WestConnex 
  • extend the concession period for the private operator beyond 30 years 
  • Increase tolls over the concession period or on other motorways to pay for WestConnex. 
    • As Stage 3 is contingent on the revenue from tolls, how will the project be financed if the revenue from tolls is not realised? 

A division was called and the voting was as follows:- For the Motion Councillors Stott, Wangmann, Cassidy PSM, Mansour, Wang, Lofts, Drury and McKenna OAM. Against the Motion Councillors A Raiola, M Raiola and Raciti.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Petition to Penny Sharpe: Oppose all 3 stages of WestConnex

At the recent NSW state election, Penny Sharpe ran for the seat of Newtown with a policy to 'Stop WestConnex'. Upon looking at the finer detail voters realised that this meant only opposing Stage 3, whilst retaining or extending the other stages.
She was defeated.
Despite promises to the contrary, she nominated to return to the upper house and on the back of a successful campaign petitioning the ALP (at, she did in fact return.
Congratulations Penny.
It is amazing the power that 89 petition signatures can have.
Recognising Penny and the ALP's great responsiveness to online petitions, we the undersigned request that they respect the message sent them by the voters of Newtown by henceforth opposing all 3 stages of WestConnex.
We expect that 89 signatures will be enough to achieve this change.
Please sign the petition here:

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Council plans for Ashmore trees

The South Sydney Plan, July 1997 (South Sydney Council)

The South Sydney Plan, July 1997 (detail, showing trees retained)

Ashmore Street Masterplan Option 1, July 2004

Ashmore Street Masterplan Option 1, July 2004 (detail)

Current Ashmore DCP

Saturday, 2 May 2015

How Goodman made a killing in Erskineville

A recent article in Business Spectator shows how property speculators such as Goodman make super profits by seeking rezoning to residential or increasing density on existing sites.

According to the article the Goodman land that was recently sold in Ashmore Estate went from $16 million in value to $350 million in over 20 years.

The average annual increase on residential properties in Erskineville over the same period was 5 to 6%. Conservative assumptions lead to the conclusion that over and above this 'natural' increase in the value of the land, the value of the upzonings awarded by government were worth a minimum of $258 million.

This truly is a super profit.

The temptations of developer lobbyists to corruptly influence key politicians must be enormous. What developer wouldn't consider blowing off a few million to ensure the 'right' decision is made? The upzonings in Ashmore that have concerned Erskinevillians over the last few years occurred under the watch of Premiers K. Kenneally and B. O'Farrell and the independent team in the City of Sydney under C. Moore.

This upzoning was a gift by the people of NSW to Goodman. But it was not a gift that anyone in the area who was aware of the matter approved.  On the contrary, local residents vocally opposed these upzonings. By rights the entire $258 million gift should be demanded back and used for local infrastructure.

Should it be on schools, childcare, affordable and public housing, public transport, hospitals, parks, libraries, community halls?

Let's have a community consultation about that.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

No westCONnex strategy

I won't profess to be any great theorist of activist strategy but feel that it might be helpful to share some ideas about strategy to stop westCONnex. Please feel free to comment and I can add or modify. Or adapt and re-use for your own purpose.

There are many aspects to this campaign and there are many fronts on which to proceed. There are also many people involved in the movement and those people have varying skills and varying levels of commitment and time. It adds strength to have a number of ways for people to be involved, from family friendly, community building events, small contributions of time and money, all the way through to those who are willing to take part in civil disobedience like locking on to drill rigs, and so on.

One of the simplest things is to be well-informed. We can share what we know with others through conversations and social media, tweets, Facebook posts, blogging, youtube vids, email newsletters and so on. We can keep our eyes and ears peeled to our local media sources, City Hub, Green Left Weekly, New Matilda (esp. Wendy Bacon), local newspapers, the SMH (e.g. Jacob Saulwick, Elizabeth Farrelly), 2SER, 2RSR and so on. Share articles and spread the word - we can't assume people are across things when polls show many are unaware what westCONnex even is. Well-informed is well armed.

I use google alerts to set up an 'as-it-happens' alert on the search term 'westconnex'. It's fortunate this phrase is pretty unique so you don't get false positives. Also searching for the #westconnex hashtag on twitter and Facebook allows you to turn up new posts.

Within the social media space there is room also to like, favourite, upvote or support others posting about westCONnex. When new people enter the debate opposing westCONnex or being in favour of public transport it gives encouragement to see the 'likes' and will empower people further. It is worth debating those who disagree in a open friendly way in the spirit of shared investigation and understanding. My experience is that people in favour of westCONnex are in any case interested in traffic and movement in Sydney and are open to alternatives.

There are trolls out there too, but it soon becomes apparent who these people are. It is not worth wasting too much energy debating there, as their case is often diminished in the eyes of neutral observers if they unreasonably maintain positions that are refuted by evidence, and in the end one can't convince everyone.

One technique is to try and get in early on big articles and comment first, providing links to stop westCONnex groups and videos. This will then feed sympathetic eyes to stop westCONnex networks and also get debate off to a good start. A number of media outlets have their comment forums outsourced to Disqus and I've noticed that if you post a link to a video (such as the excellent Ecotransit youtube series on westCONnex alternatives), it will often appear as a video embed and take up a huge amount of screen real estate, a form of free advertising. Sometimes those comments also appear on landing pages and get traffic that way too.

Of course leaflets, stickers and posters on street poles help spread info and bring people to events. Chipping in for printing costs helping with letterboxing is always helpful. has a paypal donation portal as does

The stop westCONnex stall at the Newtown festival was very successful and there are many markets, festivals and council events where extra stalls are welcome and many people can be reached in a short time.

Organising meetings and forums are also important. A number of community organisations have held these in Rockdale, Erskineville, Earlwood and other places. Speakers such as Gavin Gatenby and Michelle Zeibots have given their time. Some have been candidate forums in the lead up to the state election and others more of a general informative nature. The highest profile event of this type was the Sydney Town Hall event organised by the City of Sydney. A debate style format would be interesting, between high profile proponents and opponents, but so far I've yet to hear of any expert speaking in favour of westCONnex, let alone one willing to debate.

At all times stressing the alternatives to westCONnex is important. The best articulated alternatives to turn people onto would have to be EcoTransit's videos. The 3 part "WestConnex: Greiner's folly" is a must see and should be shared widely.

There's a lot of detailed investigation and analysis work that needs to be done too. Looking back through plans, parliament Hansards, party donation lists, traffic research, international case studies, Freedom of Information requests, etc, there are any number of lines to follow that can turn up tidbits of information that can help the cause. They sometimes end in dead ends, but that is to be expected. Then questions can be asked of key people, contradictions or hypocrisy noted and pressure applied.

Rallies/marches - there have already been two very large events of this nature with help from Reclaim the Streets. The Stop WestCONnex street party in Campbell St and the King St Crawl, both proving very popular with over 3000 people at each. I'm sure there will need to be more of these, but they take a lot of organising and commitment. The Reclaim the Streets events in the 90's and 00's successfully closed down some major streets for most of a Sunday arvo, including King St by chutzpah and sheer force of numbers. It would be a real show of force if this could be achieved again. I wonder if a crowdsource platform like Kickstarter could be used to fund more events like this, although it seems it is not so much about money but getting sufficient volunteers and marshalls that gets these events going.

Part of the appeal of the Reclaim the Streets events is the party and community vibe that really builds friendships and solidarity among like-minded people willing to think outside the mass media box. Further, the philosophy of the King St crawl was to move so slowly that it would start to take on the character of a stationary street party but that was not quite achieved. When the street is re-appropriated by pedestrians it shows how this public space can be made social again.

There are also pop-up protests that occur on a few days notice and have in the order of 100 people. Examples are the Wolli Creek Preservation Society's popup in Bexley, the Town Hall steps and Enmore theatre. There is a collection of banners and props that can be reused and get significant media attention at targeted events such as WestCONnex Delivery Authority (WDA) info sessions and public meetings.

Key to success of these events is again being on mailing lists and checking for updates regularly that saves organisers having to print and deliver flyers and so on necessary to get the word out.

Sometimes there are other protests that are welcoming to different groups such as the March in March that had a significant Stop WestCONnex component. Activists in other movements such as CSG, climate change, refugees and more are often willing to help out, and those movements should be supported in return.

Related to pop-up protests are individuals or small groups getting out to WDA info stalls and expressing displeasure directly to the WDA representatives. This may take the stronger form of arguing, engaging passersby with alternative points of view, displaying signs and sharing flyers critical of westCONnex, or occupying the space until satisfactory answers are given, such as occurred at the Princes Hwy info stall.

Apart from street protests, another form of protest are 'critical mass' style bike rides. Critical Mass rides are held in cities all around the world including in Sydney every month. This is where a large group of people decide to ride bikes together on the road at a comfortable pace. The idea is that there is no official organiser and the group has the right to use the road as normal and does not require any special permission from authorities.

Ideally it reaches enough people that it is fun, safe and enjoyable and can be joined by new cyclists, families etc. A 10km circuit of the inner west could be easily completed in an hour and could pass by threatened homes or significant points. As they grow in numbers the group can be bolder and move onto main roads such as Parramatta Rd without any trouble. Cyclists can wear no westCONnex t-shirts or have flag banners and corflutes can be attached to the side of a bike so that the message is clear.

These rides allow the no westCONnex message to be spread further than the smaller distance that a traditional street march can cover. Also 10 km/hr is not that much slower than the average traffic speed on many inner west roads and highlights the efficiency of cycling to move large numbers of people. Finally the rides can end back in the park with a bbq and community spirit is increased and connections made.

I am proposing to hold the first of these on Sunday 7 June at 11am (note new new date) starting from Sydney Park chimneys so please stay tuned to see if it comes into being.

Stronger actions such as disrupting survey work have already been successful and stopped work. A number of drill sites have been unable to proceed due to group efforts, surveying equipment needs only to be nudged a little to require a complete reset which can take ages, and of course Dr Peter Ross successfully locked on to a drill rig which made the news and later he was not charged. Squatters can be called in to some houses already sold to WDA so that it will cause a scene if they try to evict them.

Holding training for these sorts of non-violent direct actions is another step that prepares people, builds solidarity and becomes a worry to WDA.

The may be some creative ideas for media prankstering of Yes-Men type actions too.

Direct political pressure must also be applied. The release of the full business case and benefit cost ratio and the environmental impact statement (EIS) has been strongly pushed by the Greens, and Labor can be nudged along too. The next pressure point is leading into the federal election with the threat to Labor and Liberal alike of voters switching to the Greens and other groups strongly opposed to the whole project. In Sydney and Grayndler Tanya Plibersek & Anthony Albanese are most susceptible to this so they must be maximally pressured to take a fully oppositional stance to westCONnex and not let off the hook with westCONnex-lite proposals. The Libs will cling on to westCONnex the longest so the first step is bringing Labor around.

Council elections are also in 2016 which presents another opportunity to apply pressure.

Campaigning should also focus on western Sydney which stands to lose the most in terms of lack of investment in public transport while having to fork out for expensive tolls and parking. It should go without saying the westCONnex is a total waste also for those outside Sydney.

In the parliaments the strongest voices of westCONnex opposition are the Greens, in particular Lee Rhiannon at the federal level, Mehreen Faruqi in the NSW LC and Jenny Leong and Jamie Parker in the NSW LA. Of course there are also independents Alex Greenwich and CoS Mayor Clover Moore. The people are able to amplify the voice of the movement.

One should not forget some of the most committed and staunch activists are within the socialist groups - Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative, the CPA and others, who have been involved in the campaign so far and have their own independent publishing outlets. At some stage progressive unions will commit resources too.

Finally, in speaking to a prominent CSG activist recently, she told me that the ongoing goal should be to "delay and disrupt". Don't expect the authorities to make a big 'ok we are not going ahead' announcement. As long as the project keeps being delayed and disrupted with small steps forward ticking over we are achieving our goals. The political damage to those supporting westCONnex will continue to accumulate and frustrate their ambitions. In the meantime the ground will continue to shift towards public and active and more environmentally sensitive transport solutions. The campaign is a journey and not a destination.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Save Ashmore Trees

Here's a new online petition from the Friends of Erskineville to save the stand of trees at the corner of Mitchell Rd and Ashmore St:

200+ signatures update:

Thank you to all supporters so far. This campaign has far exceeded our expectations only a few days in.

Thanks in particular to Jan Flanagan who brought to our attention a poem about the local fig trees by Hal Alexander. Hal was a long time resident of the Erskineville Estate and played an important role in saving it in 2002. Sadly Hal died just this last December.

Here is Hal's poem:














In other news, there was a photo shoot down at the figs in preparation for an article in the Inner West Courier. Councillor Linda Scott and Jenny Leong MLA were there to show support. Stay tuned, more to come soon.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Guardian video Greens v Labor in Newtown

I just want to pick up on a point that Penny Sharpe makes at around the 1m24s mark.

Penny Sharpe "There is an issue around the Greens wanting to contest against progressive Labor candidates and that's what they choose to do."

This is a point that I've heard Labor make on several occasions, also in relation to Tanya Plibersek here in Sydney.

If Labor wanted to protect their progressive candidates they would:
a) adopt more progressive policies, then progressive voters would be more willing to vote for them.
b) allow their more progressive candidates to vote against Labor's more conservative motions in parliament and allow more debate and see that as a strength rather than a weakness.
c) put those most progressive candidates in slightly less progressive electorates and use their considerable resources to shift voters to the left in those areas. Put Penny in, say, Strathfield. and let the Greens have a clearer run in Newtown. Then the Greens would support Labor in parliament anyway in any progressive motions they wanted to pass. The end result would be that the progressive motion would pass, and that should be the only thing that matters, not the name of the party that voted for it.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Community campaign against WestConnex tollway builds

Piece I wrote for Green Left Weekly

Community campaign against WestConnex tollway builds

Friday, March 13, 2015

About 3000 people march down King Street in Newtown on February 1 to protest against the WestConnex tollway. Photo: WestConnex Action Group/Facebook
The stop WestConnex campaign is intensifying heading into the NSW state election.
Apart from the proposed electricity sell-off, it has become one of the top issues, damaging both Liberal and Labor.
The announcement by Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore of a WestConnex forum at Sydney Town Hall, set for March 16, has ignited campaigners, and will put the unpopular and expensive plan under further scrutiny.
The WestConnex plan is a collection of tolled motorways, tunnels and road widenings that stretch in a broad horseshoe shape across the inner west and south Sydney. Expected to cost $15 billion, it is the latest incarnation of motorway plans first dreamed up in 1947.
The current campaign has built from 2012 when residents along the route got wind of their homes being compulsorily acquired and when Greens NSW MLC Mehreen Faruqi managed to make public many boxes of previously secret documents that were part of the business case.
Then late last year, the government announced an interchange in St Peters and houses to be acquired there as part of Stage 2. Further, the associated road widening will remove about a hectare of land from the popular Sydney Park and raises the spectre of clearways along King St.
The plan further pushes the car-based domination of the Sydney landscape at the expense of quality public transport. Public transport advocacy groups such as APTNSW and Ecotransit have been carefully explaining several simple and much cheaper alternatives that would be far more effective in reducing congestion and far more ecologically sound.
These suggestions include buying back the private airport stations, a kiss-and-ride facility at Kingsgrove, light rail from Dulwich Hill through Sydenham, Airport, UNSW and Randwick, creating new and connecting existing cycle paths, expanding capacity along the Western heavy rail line, and light rail along Parramatta Road.
Disturbed by the plans and armed with these alternative plans, the community his risen up against WestConnex. The largest events so far have been rally/street party-type happenings in St Peters and the King St Crawl, coordinated by groups including Reclaim the Streets. Their return to the scene with large protests is welcome since their campaigns against the cross-city tunnel and similar events in the 1990s.
Many activist, Facebook and email list-based groups have been active, such as Wolli Creek Preservation Society, WestConnex Action Group and No WestConnex. Smaller acts of civil disobedience have followed, including academic Dr Peter Ross chaining himself to a drill rig and groups managing to temporarily halt exploratory drilling.
Labor presence or support at these events has been conspicuously thin, and noted by many.
The campaign gained increased momentum with the defeat of the Liberal state government in Victoria, after Labor's Daniel Andrews announced they would oppose a similar road project in Melbourne, the East West link. Then Campbell Newman's privatisation agenda in Queensland was defeated and many believe the same thing can be achieved against the Baird Liberal government in NSW.
Regrettably, NSW Labor leader Luke Foley announced that despite pretending to be opposed to WestConnex, Labor is planning to build two-thirds of it, while absurdly deciding to extend the M4 all the way into the city. Hypocritically, Labor candidate for Newtown Penny Sharpe claims to be “saving the inner west”, clearly a last ditch attempt to stop the seat going to the Greens’ Jenny Leong, who has maintained a clear stance of opposition to WestConnex and support for public and active transport options.
As further negative information about WestConnex has come to light, the Westconnex Delivery Authority (WDA) has cancelled nearly all of its“community consultation” sessions.
One that remained was a session before an angry crowd of more than 1000 at the Enmore Theatre, dubbed the “worst gig ever”. WDA head Dennis Cliche refused to properly answer questions, spread half-truths and used straw-man arguments.
Another session in St Peters had heavy security and police were called when residents refused to leave until their questions were satisfactorily answered.
Meanwhile, Moore and the independent group have emerged as a significant establishment voice in the campaign against WestConnex. With great secrecy around the business case, environmental impact, and the absence of satisfactory public information, Moore commissioned an independent report by SGS Economics and Planning. She also spoke out against WestConnex at the King St Crawl and called meetings with local resident groups to gauge public opinion.
The report was released on February 23. It showed that WestConnex was outdated, would not achieve its objectives, does not align with the Metropolitan plan, would not improve access to jobs from western Sydney, would lead to parking and toll charges of up to $48 for a single trip, is not subject to proper governance and independent oversight and that there were rail and other projects that would better achieve the stated objectives.
After requests by local activists, Moore agreed to host a public information forum to explain the report with speakers who would argue against these terrible tollways. It ws set to be held at Sydney Town Hall from 6:30pm on Monday, March 16. It could well be a defining moment in the stop WestConnex campaign, with so much at stake for Sydney and the NSW election.