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Former Treasurer Egan Blasts SMH Writer

March 24, 2011

It appeared on March 18 in the Sydney Morning Herald, an article alleging that Sydney had become an angry city, choked and congested, not because of the doubling of immigration but because a stubborn state government had wilfully refused to spend a cent on roads. Former Treasurer Mike Egan (1995-2005) strongly disputes Jessica Irvine’s allegation, and here is a copy of his reply:

You are of course entitled to hold and espouse whatever silly opinions you like. But if you want to be taken seriously as a journalist you must not make things up.

I especially have in mind your assertion that the NSW Government failed to invest in infrastructure over the last sixteen years. Not a fact or figure to back up your claim. No research other than to repeat lazy, false claims made by other journalists. If you had bothered to check the facts you could not in good conscience have written such bullshit.

Just for the record, in the ten years of the Carr Government over $60 billion was spent on infrastructure and general government debt was reduced by $10 billion. This level of capital investment was way above the level of investment by any previous government, both in nominal terms and real terms. It was also much greater than the Commonwealth’s capital spending over the same period and, I’m told, way above the capital spending of the State of New York. Each year’s Budget Papers has a separate volume on that year’s capital program. I suggest you look them up and you will find in detail exactly which school, which hospital and which road was funded from that $60 billion.  And by the way I don’t recall the Fairfax media arguing that I should be spending more. In fact the SMH routinely argued I should be retiring debt faster.

I was particularly annoyed by your silly claim that no new roads had been built. Let me just remind you of some of the transport projects during my time which include the country’s largest ever urban road project(M7 Westlink), the country’s largest urban rail project(Epping to Chatswood), large parts of Sydney’s ring road system including the Eastern Distributor, M5 extension, Cross City Tunnel, and Lane Cove Tunnel. The Liverpool to Parramatta bus transitway was delivered at a cost of $346 million, and the North West bus transitway at a cost of $500 million. The Parramatta bus-rail interchange cost $105 million.There were also 140 new Millennium trains, 122 new Oscars, and 830 new buses. The upgrade of the Windsor Road , at a cost of $500 million, was the largest urban arterial road project undertaken by any State government.

You also discussed the city and immigration without ever once touching on the issue of density. Yet this is crucial. You can’t defend high immigration without acknowledging that this will require increased density. And density is always controversial. Your article would have been more honest if you had said plainly that a bigger and bigger city requires more apartment dwellings and then referred to Barry O’Farrell’s intention to abandon State Government intervention to produce higher densities. That’s urban sprawl. As it is Sydney now achieves 70 per cent of its new housing in existing areas. That’s sound planning. It compares with Melbourne which is lagging at 50 per cent.

To put it another way, if you increase population a city goes out or it goes up(or a combination of the two).

You can’t make a city the size of Sydney work without building up established centres as the Government has done at Parramatta, Liverpool, Bondi Junction, Chatswood etc. — all built at public transport nodes. This is part of making a sprawling city work better and maximising use of public transport. Barry O’Farrell has said he will water down the centres policy, a commitment only marginally less damaging than his intention of reducing urban consolidation and allowing more growth at the urban fringe.

  1. Carolyn permalink
    March 24, 2011 3:25 pm

    The media can be so frustrating. Lots of people will have read her article, but the response you have reprinted here will get much less exposure.

    I don’t know what you can do about it.

    • Nicholas permalink
      March 24, 2011 10:12 pm

      Hello Mr Carr,

      I was wondering If you have read the piece by Tom Dusevic in the Australian newspaper A plus section of thursday 24th march, I’d be interested in any thoughts you had on it, or what your take on it would be.


      • Bob Carr permalink
        March 25, 2011 5:17 am

        Yes, I did read it and it was funny and well-researched. I will say something else about it after Saturday’s disaster.

      • Allan permalink
        March 28, 2011 4:45 am

        I think what NSW has faced is the effects of rapid immigration pushing demands of this city through the roof. In the last ten years how much has this city grown?

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