Ms JODI McKAY (Strathfield) [11.00 a.m.]: I thank the member for Newtown for bringing this motion to the House. We support the motion. While the Opposition understands the importance of improving travel into the central business district for the people of Western Sydney, we believe the gross mismanagement of this project is at such a level that this project must be paused until the business case and the environmental impact statement are released. It is staggering that a $15.4 billion project—the largest infrastructure project in New South Wales—is progressing without proper governance arrangements: Sound governance can determine whether a project succeeds or fails.
According to a 2013 joint University of Melbourne Business School and Caravel Group study, poor project governance causes major projects to fail. The University of Melbourne study rings alarm bells about WestConnex. The governance deficiencies with this project are at a level not seen before. In October 2013 Minister Gay announced the creation of the WestConnex Delivery Authority to "oversee the construction, financing and management" of the motorway. The following year, in August 2014, the Government created yet another organisation, the Sydney Motorway Corporation. The reason for creating a rival organisation for the same project was never explained or justified properly.
The inevitable happened: Conflict between the two competing organisations commenced and a bureaucratic turf war got underway. As the Sydney Morning Herald described it, the conflict was about "the Sydney Motorway Corporation asserting its right as financier to direct the way in which the WestConnex Delivery Authority planned the motorway". By the middle of this year it was common knowledge that the governance of WestConnex had become totally dysfunctional. In June an announcement was quietly placed on the WestConnex website advising:
The NSW Government has taken the opportunity to evolve the early governance model created to deliver WestConnex.
The status of the WestConnex Delivery Authority is now unclear. Does it still exist or has it been abolished? The Minister has not given a clear statement on that. The WestConnex website lists the members of the board of the Sydney Motorway Corporation and it is clear there has been a significant purge. It has been the motorway's night of the long knives, with several members of the old WestConnex Delivery Authority being unceremoniously dumped from the project. Incredibly, the casualties of this bureaucratic power play include Peter Duncan, Chief Executive of the Roads and Maritime Service, and Tim Reardon, Secretary of Transport for NSW. They were on the WestConnex Delivery Authority board, but they are not on the board of the Sydney Motorway Corporation.
This is an amazing and concerning outcome. The State's largest transport project is now proceeding without the involvement of the State's two most important and senior transport officials. Stripping the board of a major infrastructure project of its subject matter experts is a dangerous thing to do. But this is just the latest in a long line of errors. For example, when the Office of the Auditor-General delivered it report on WestConnex in December 2014 it advised that the preliminary business case was deficient and fell well short of the standard required. This was a damning report by the Auditor-General, with red flags raised on every important governance issue.
The secrecy and lack of transparency surrounding WestConnex is cause for alarm. This is especially so, given the amount of public money involved. When WestConnex was first proposed in October 2012 it was a $10 billion project. By the time the WestConnex Delivery Authority was created in October 2013 the cost had increased to $11 billion and then it increased to $11.5 billion. By early 2015 that cost had escalated to $14.9 billion, and in the last budget another lazy $500 million was thrown on the tab, with the cost of WestConnex now blown out to $15.4 billion.
The detailed design plans for the M4 East were released recently and the Government has begun acquiring homes, but we have not seen the environmental impact statement or the business case. Labor believes that the Government should immediately release the full and comprehensive business case for public scrutiny and the environmental impact study for the M4 East. The Government must give a straightforward explanation of the board changes and the Government must provide detailed information on the roles of the Sydney Motorway Corporation, the WestConnex Delivery Authority—if it still exists—and other committees that are involved in the governance of this project.