25 March 2021

Private Members Statement

Metropolitan Sydney has an enviable reputation for being one of the most attractive and liveable cities in the world.

But under this Liberal Government, liveability is being decimated at a rapid rate due to rampant overdevelopment, the cost of living, the destruction of valuable green open space and new tolls on old roads that used to be free.

It might surprise some in the House to learn that Sydney is the most tolled city in the world. That is correct: the most tolled city in the world.

It certainly comes as no surprise to my colleague the member for Kogarah and I. We took to Sydney's roads to highlight the financial impact of this Liberal Government's toll mania.

The story was picked up by news media, including theDaily Mail in the United Kingdom. So now, among our glorious harbour and beaches, we are also known for having the most expensive toll roads in the world.

That is not exactly a selling point for our city. As we in this House know all too well, reputation is everything. Our reputation for being the most tolled city in the world is shameful.

Toll mania is the Liberal Party's number one show in town and it is costing motorists, particularly those in west and south‑west Sydney, thousands of dollars every year.

A return journey from Ingleburn in my electorate in south‑west Sydney to the Sydney CBD costs a total of $42.11. I ask members to imagine for a minute the tens of thousands of commuters from Sydney's south-west travelling in and out of the city each day and paying more than $10,000 a year on road tolls. Unfair? You betcha. Highway robbery? Absolutely.

The member for Kogarah and I have been inundated by complaints from commuters, who are frustrated and fed up at having to pay hefty tolls to get to work. Many of my constituents are still reeling from the economic impact of the pandemic and, with wages being slashed and slumping to their lowest in decades, people are faced with difficult choices.

What is the Liberals' economic solution? Pay more tolls, including a new toll on the old M5 East.

One local commuter I met with made a reluctant decision to take a redundancy from his much‑loved job at Virgin Australia at Sydney Airport due to the financial impact of the new M5 East toll. He was driven to make that decision by the Liberal Government's greedy new toll agenda on an old road that had been free for 20 years and that was built and paid for by a Labor government.

Another commuter spoke of trying to avoid the tolls by taking local roads, only to find himself on roads that were already gridlocked and choked with trucks. Pay the hefty toll on an old road that was once free or get caught in traffic on suburban streets: that is a common story across my electorate and no doubt many others in south‑west Sydney.

Data shows the enormous increase in traffic volumes on local roads since the introduction of the M5 East toll.

In a desperate effort to avoid the hefty toll, which is $7 each way and growing at 4 per cent per year according to the consumer price index, commuters are crowding onto congested local roads. Of course, that defeats the whole purpose of toll roads, which is to reduce traffic on local roads. It is an absolute, complete farce.

No matter how the Liberal Government wants to spin this, the M5 East toll is completely unfair. At more than $3,000 a year and set to increase by at least 4 per cent every year for the next 40 years, you can tell your grandkids to start saving. More than 10,000 people signed a petition calling for the M5 East toll to be scrapped. Many thousands more motorists want the new toll on an old road gone. But no matter how you travel in Sydney—on toll roads or on public transport—you can always expect to pay more under this Liberal Government.

A recent report highlighted that the cost of travelling on Sydney's public transport has surged more than 10 per cent.

That comes after the Liberal Government widened the peak‑hour window and changed travel concession rules. This tired, 10‑year‑old Liberal Government is out of touch.

With more people returning to work following the easing of COVID restrictions, the Liberal Government should be making it easier and cheaper for people to do so. Instead, workers are bearing the financial pain of the Liberal Government's greedy toll mania.

I note that Liberal members in the electorates of Camden, Holsworthy, East Hills and Oatley were silent when their community wanted their voices heard on this unfair toll. I have no doubt that the very same commuters in these electorates will make their voices heard at the next election in 2023.