House debates

Thursday, 13 February 2020


Arts, North Richmond Bridge

4:55 pm

Photo of Susan TemplemanSusan Templeman (Macquarie, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

When the government put arts under the new Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, it sent a very clear message to Australia that the government does not think arts are important—so much so that they didn't even bother to put the name in the title of their own department. But, if we want a healthy and thriving society, we must embrace and nurture our arts, not just because of what the industry contributes economically or the positive effects the arts have on our health and wellbeing—as the Sydney Symphony Orchestra did this week in this place—and not just because, even before we have our children at preschool, our education of them starts in the home with Australian shows like Play School and Blueyand, yes, they are the arts.

The reason it's really important is that the arts teach us empathy—to understand the perspectives of people who come from different cultures and different backgrounds. Through the storytelling of film, dance, books, visual arts, song and drama, we can learn from things we might never have the chance to experience in our own lives. And, just as powerfully, we can also see an experience that we have had and, by seeing it played back to us, find clarity and meaning in our own story. When New Zealander Taika Waititi said at the Academy Awards:

I dedicate this to all the Indigenous kids in the world who want to do art and dance and write stories—

he was reminding people how important the power to share your story is. These stories, our stories, told by artists and writers, musicians and performers, are documenting Australia, our present and our history, and it's time the government was on the right side of that story.

Traffic around North Richmond Bridge is nearly always a nightmare—no less so this week with floods. The people on either side of the bridge have made it clear to me that what they want with the planned duplication of the bridge is a bypass. Of the more than 700 responses I've so far received seeking input into the proposed options, three-quarters of them are calling for a bypass. They want a route that goes north or south of the existing inadequate bridge and goes around—not through—Richmond and North Richmond. More than half want the North Richmond southern bypass route and the other 20 per cent want the northern bypass. The other options were much less preferred.

I provided the New South Wales RMS project team with an overview of the responses I've received and some of the themes that have emerged. As one resident wrote:

Of the proposals presented, the North Richmond southern bypass route is the only one with some merit. The prime aim of an additional bridge near North Richmond should be to divert as much existing and future traffic as possible away from the townships of North Richmond and Richmond by way of a bypass route.

Another said:

Only the southern bypass will be effective in stopping the terrible traffic congestion in North Richmond in peak hour.

There were, of course, other views, such as this one, for example:

The Southern bypass route does not make sense, considering all the development proposed for the north side of North Richmond off Terrace Rd. People bought in Redbank development not expecting the southern proposal.

This is a project that is funded to the tune of $200 million by the federal government, supported by Labor, with a small contribution from the New South Wales government. My fear is that, in spite of the process of consultation, the decision will ultimately be based on budget, and, seriously, what can you build for a bit over $200 million in a flood-prone area? As we've seen in the last few days with the bridge going under in the flood, it is a crucial access point. Certainly, there are calls in the feedback I received for it to be as flood resilient as the Jim Anderson Bridge that state Labor constructed decades ago—the last new bridge to be completed in the area. Strong preference reflected in the comments many people made was to have a sustainable, long-term approach, including a genuine bypass rather than a duplication. We received comments like: 'The bridge needs to have enough lanes for the growing population,' and 'Don't make it a band-aid solution.' The social impact of the proposals was also raised. One person told me:

People who live across the river rely on this bridge for everything. Consider the implications of the bridge on the community, not just people passing through.

People also want to make sure that the heritage of the region is respected. There are concerns about the impacts on polo fields, the Colo soccer club grounds and also using the project as an opportunity to improve access to the Hawkesbury River. This is an important project and these views need to be taken seriously.

House adjourned at 17:00

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Zimmerman) took the chair at 10:00.