House debates

Thursday, 17 February 2022


New South Wales: Transport Infrastructure, Constance, Mr Andrew James

4:28 pm

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

I live in, and represent people in, the fastest-growing region in the country—Western Sydney. In my part of Western Sydney there is huge population growth, with 200,000 people expected in the coming years. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and the New South Wales Premier, Dom Perrottet, love cheering on new housing supply and love taking the stamp duty of young families moving into the area but rarely put it back into infrastructure that makes people's lives easier. For example, in our part of the world, the Western Sydney rail line from Penrith is often—every three out of five days—late. It's overcrowded to nearly 300 per cent capacity. Roads like Richmond Road near Colebee are constantly congested, which is hugely frustrating for people wanting to get to and from work or just do their business on the weekend. The north-west metro that the New South Wales government cheers on, that just happens to go through, basically, Liberal seats, finishes at Tallawong and does not go down to St Marys. It is a huge missed opportunity to alleviate congestion and improve public transport in our part of the world.

You could do something about this. Certainly the New South Wales government could, but, unfortunately, they had one of the worst transport ministers in New South Wales history in the form of Andrew Constance. This is a bloke who we had to take to the Australian Human Rights Commission just to make sure he followed the Disability Discrimination Act to install lifts in Doonside Station to help elderly and disabled people. It was one of the view railway stations on the western line that didn't have a lift. Why? Because, as is often the case with the Liberals, they always rort. What should be done is always contorted into financing projects in Liberal electorates above Labor ones. So he kept doing that. Look at his record: projects delayed and projects overbudget. He couldn't fit ferries under bridges and he couldn't fit railways onto rail tracks. He outsourced—disgracefully outsourced—so much manufacturing offshore. People who could have done with those jobs, through the course of the pandemic, saw all this rolling stock and all this equipment offshored, because he and Gladys Berejiklian said that Australians aren't very good at making things. The only legacy that Andrew Constance has is that he came up with a name for a ferry, Ferry McFerryface, that made him the laughing stock of the nation.

I thought we were just being dudded in the outer suburbs, but it turns out he was a dud for his own constituents. He didn't fight for better health care in the seat he has held since 2003. We still see people who are bushfire affected living in caravans two years after the event. It's no wonder that Bega, for the first time since 1988, voted the Liberals out of that seat. Andrew Constance held that seat since 2003. He got really uptight the other night when I raised all this. He said I was being personal. No, I wasn't being personal about him; I was being personal about his terrible performance, because it's all about him. He criticised Scott Morrison and then wanted to become part of his team, in the seat of Gilmore. At least Gladys Berejiklian had the decency and self-respect to decline serving with Scott Morrison and put her self-respect above her ambition. Now, Andrew Constance reckons it's time for a career change and to go into Gilmore. It's always about Andrew Constance.

To the people of Gilmore: I respect that you will make your own decision about who you vote for, and I respect that you don't need someone from outside your area telling you who to vote for. But I plead with you to look at this man's track record. It's a terrible track record. He made life worse for the people I care about in my part of the world and always played politics with infrastructure investment. He neglected the people of Bega. He did not fight for them on health care. He certainly, while making a big deal about the bushfires, didn't follow through and deliver for people in need there. To the people of Gilmore I say this: the only constant with Andrew Constance is his self-promotion and ambition—always for him—and disappointment and neglect for the people he should be representing. He should not, absolutely not, be given the chance to let you down. I urge you to think about that if he is the Liberal candidate for the seat of Gilmore in the election in a few weeks time.