ROADS MINISTER CAN'T ANSWER MOST BASIC QUESTION ABOUT MAJOR NSW ROADS PROJECTS
Taxpayers could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars more for WestConnex following a disastrous appearance by the Roads Minister in which she appeared to absolve herself of all responsibility for the delivery of the giant toll road.
Melinda Pavey was unable to answer any questions put to her in NSW Budget Estimates today about major road projects, including funding coming directly out of her department’s budget.
1. Secret guarantee for New M5
Today Ms Pavey appeared to have no clue that her department, RMS, has agreed to pick up the tab for the recently-privatised Sydney Motorway Corporation (SMC) for all costs associated with a legal stoush with the contractor building the New M5 - meaning the final bill for the taxpayer could go even higher.
Under questioning by the Labor Opposition in an Estimates hearing today Ms Pavey tried to pass the buck to the Minister for WestConnex despite the agreement being made between her department and the SMC.
In May, Labor exposed an ongoing $500 million dispute on the New M5 between the SMC and the contractors building the New M5; RMS Chief Executive Ken Kanofski confirmed the dispute and the amount in the hearing today.
2. Unexplained additional $1.6 billion for WestConnex Stage 3
In a further embarrassment, Ms Pavey could not explain a new $1.6 billion funding contribution from RMS for WestConnex Stage 3 – the road that links the M4 to the M5.
This is despite WestConnex’s new part owner, Transurban, declaring the fact to the ASX (see below).
The newly-revealed funding package means that the final bill for WestConnex Stage 3 could rise even more.
3. If Rozelle Interchange is now part of WestConnex, what is the true cost of the project?
Last year, taxpayers were told that the Rozelle Interchange was removed from the control of the secretive government-controlled SMC and given to the RMS. However, today the Minister backtracked on that and indicated that the project’s delivery has gone back to WestConnex.
If the cost of the Rozelle Interchange, reportedly $1.5 billion, is on top of the $16.8 billion WestConnex budget then it raises questions as to the true cost of WestConnex.
4. Compensation for Rozelle Interchange
On Monday it was revealed in a separate Budget Estimates hearing that Transurban has also told the ASX that RMS has agreed to pay compensation for any delay in completion, abandonment or a change in scope of the Rozelle Interchange (see below).
Despite this agreement resulting in more financial risks for RMS, and therefore to taxpayers, Ms Pavey could not answer any questions about it.
On top of this Ms Pavey was unable to answer any question about other major road projects including, the Western Harbour Tunnel & Beaches Link and the Sydney Gateway.
Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for Roads Jodi McKay
“I was gobsmacked watching the Roads Minister’s performance today. She knows nothing about her portfolio.
“What is the cost of WestConnex? The people of NSW want to know who is in control of this project.
“The Minister’s performance shows she isn’t across the details of major roads projects being built across the State.”