M5 East Toll

22 September 2020

Private Members' Statement

Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG (Macquarie Fields) (17:41:16) — “Buy now, pay later”, or BNPL, is a relatively new concept that has gained popularity in recent years: Purchase the goods immediately and pay them off over time. You do not have to meet the full costs upfront.

To compete with BNPL, this Liberal Government has come up with a new payment plan: Pay now, pay more, pay forever.

Take the new M5 East toll, for example. If you travel on the new M5 East, you can be guaranteed one thing: This Liberal Government has its hands in your wallet and is taking out your hard‑earned dollars, even though you have already paid for it in full.

It is highway robbery—or, as the Premier herself said, toll mania. That is right—toll mania. Forget Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street; this horror show occurs on the M5 East every time you hear the beep.

The Premier knows it is unfair to introduce a new toll on an old road; unfair to make people pay a toll of $6.95 each way at the height of a pandemic that has put Australia in the grip of the worst economic downturn since World War II; unfair to expect people to pay more than $3,300 a year on the M5 East toll, which will increase by at least 4 per cent every year for the next 40 years. Tell your grandkids to start saving.

People are angry about being taxed for driving on a road that is paid for in full and has been free since 2001.

Furthermore, they are being taxed and tolled for an old road, with no upgrade, as part of a corporate stitch‑up.

Every motorist in every electorate along the M5's south‑west corridor knows they are being taken for a ride. They know that the M5 East toll is completely unfair, unjustifiable and unnecessary, no matter how the Liberal Government tries to spin it.

The M5 East toll is a blatant cash grab that motorists can ill afford. There are no road upgrades and no cash back—just empty pockets.

My Labor colleagues and I have collected more than 10,000 signatures on a petition calling for the M5 East toll to be scrapped. The community response has been overwhelming in a short period. They have made their voices loud and clear when it comes to this unfair new tax.

Imagine how many more signatures we could have got from Members representing the electorates of East Hills, Oatley, Holsworthy and Camden — tens of thousands more and many more times to table the petition.

Since it was opened by a Labor Government in 2001, the M5 East has always been free because its construction was paid for in full.

But then the Liberals decided to slap a big new toll on the same old road. It is just unfair.

So objectionable is the MS East toll that even Liberal councillors support a toll‑free period and oppose the new toll on the M5 East.

It is a great shame that none of the Liberal MPs in the south‑west could muster the strength to stand up for their communities against this unfair tax.

The Premier should read the warning signs on this hugely unpopular new tax. But will the Premier heed the warning? Will the Premier scrap the unfair M5 East toll and remove the financial burden she has imposed on thousands of Sydney motorists?

Does the Premier want to be responsible for four of her south‑west Sydney backbenchers hitting the wall at the next State election, that is, the Members representing the electorates of Oatley, Holsworthy, East Hills and Camden. I am sure they are getting lots of feedback from their constituents about this new toll and new tax. Yet they fail to stand up for their community and against their Government on this new toll.

The Liberal-Nationals Government is a master of backflips. A few of its backflips spring to mind: the greyhound racing ban, the Powerhouse Museum, forced amalgamations and in my own electorate Hurlstone Agricultural High School.

Surely it is not hard to put money back in the pockets of the hardworking folk of south‑west Sydney and all the motorists who use this motorway.

I will not hold my breath for the Government to scrap this unfair toll but I will not give up. The economic recovery post COVID-19 starts with putting cash in the pockets of people by scrapping this toll.

The fact that this Liberal-Nationals Government will not scrap this toll is symptomatic of a tired and out‑of‑touch, nearly 10-year-old Government. It no longer thinks it needs to listen to the people it serves. It thinks it can inflict as much pain on the people as it can and get away with it through marketing spin.

The Government thinks that for all its stuff‑ups and incompetence: the Ruby Princess, iCare, the hacking of personal data of 186,000 people, 3.8 million documents being stolen, the overdevelopment of suburbs and now an unfair M5 East toll on an old road for the next 40 years.

The Liberal-Nationals Government now has an ingrained entitlement mentality. It believes it does not need to be accountable and does not need to listen to the community.

I suspect the people of south‑west Sydney have a different view of democracy and will make their voices heard in due course.