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  Issue No 64 Official Organ of LaborNet 28 July 2000  




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Motorways Fail the Pollie Test

By Lee Rhiannon

Our daily grind of congested roads, polluted air, and frustrated motorists is putting all and sundry to the test, and not least Liberal and Labor politicians.

Members of both the big parties have gone to the last three state elections on a transport platform of more motorways. We were promised that the M4, M5 and M2 would accelerate us into the era of fast moving, modern transport.

But within a few short years gridlock has grabbed the motorways. Those strips of tar and cement, that bring such pleasure to RTA officers and state cabinet members alike, are now clogged with cars.

Now that the image of the motorway as a parking lot is becoming a symbol of Sydney, politicians from the major parties are desperate to show they have answers.

The people of Sydney are being told that with a couple of extra lanes, a few more kilometres and a toll free regime those trusty motorways will have us all whizzing along at optimum speeds again.

Once more the big party politicians have missed the point. Motorways attract more cars into our crowded city. Far from being the solution to our traffic woes, motorways are a large part of the problem.

Experience with motorways around the world tells the same story: when you increase the capacity of one part of the network more people want to use it. This means more vehicles on feeder networks and eventually on the motorways themselves.

The M5 East, the latest offering from our own Minister for Motorways Mr Carl Scully, is being promoted as the solution to traffic jams in south west Sydney. With a $1 billion price tag to the people of NSW you would think that the Minister and his RTA mates would be able to get it right.

But motorways have the perverse effect of increasing congestion, not solving it. The complaints about the M4, M5 and M2 are endemic to motorways in Australia and round the world. And this time the congestion has kicked in even earlier than the critics of motorway madness had expected.

Other countries have already travelled down the same dead-end highway and started to turn back. England, for example, has cancelled much of its motorway plans. The Carr government was well aware of the weight of international experience when it approved the M5 East and the Eastern Distributor. Obviously the pressure from its mates in the construction industry and their lackeys in the RTA was just too great.

If the NSW government would break with their fast-lane obsession, billions of dollars would be freed up for public transport.

Only a publicly owned and operated mass transport system integrated with community based transport and cycleways can meet everyone's needs, while doing minimal environmental damage.

If the Carr government doesn't abandon its motorway based transport policy, the Australian crawl * driving at about walking pace * could well become its swansong.

Lee Rhiannon is a Greens member of the NSW parliament


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*   Issue 64 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Greg Sword Unsheathed
The NUW national secretary is set to be endorsed as ALP Federal president next week. He talks about the relationship between the two wings of the labour movement.
*  Unions: Phone Rage, Headaches and Stress
A comprehensive survey of the call centre industry conducted by the ASU has revealed an industry workplace culture dominated by excessive monitoring and stress.
*  Economics: And the Winner Is .... Sydney?
Austrade chief economist Tim Harcourt looks at the export impact of the Sydney Olympics and asks if we'll win gold.
*  International: Western Sahara: Referendum Or War?
A June UN referendum in Western Sahara could have provided the people of Western Sahara a chance to exercise their right to self-determination and independence. It didn't.
*  History: The Union's Roots in Song
We look at some of the songs that kept working people going through their darkest hours.
*  Media: Unchaining the ABC
The ALP needs to rethink our public institutions to determine how they might better deliver the ends for which they were originally established.
*  Environment: Motorways Fail the Pollie Test
Our daily grind of congested roads, polluted air, and frustrated motorists is putting all and sundry to the test, and not least Liberal and Labor politicians.
*  Satire: Murdoch Launches Bid for Under-9s Netball Team
Sydney's lucrative junior league netball broadcasting market has been shaken by a bid by one of the world's most predatory entrepreneurs, Rupert Murdoch, to secure ownership of the most successful team in the league.
*  Review: Espionage a Trois
The Whitlams' brass section his teamed with some of the hippest cats in Sydney to make the sort of music you'll want to shoot baddies to.

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»  The Soapbox
»  Sport
»  Trades Hall
»  Tool Shed

Letters to the editor
»  Viva Eavesdropping Jonesy
»  Globalisation and Maintaining Our Lifestyle
»  Crappiest Music Feedback

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