Yet another Sydney transport infrastructure project — $5.3 billion underground CBD Metro — is about to be snuffed.

The death sentence was contained in a brief statement from the Premier’s office reported in the SMH, which despite its problems, has been nailing the issues that a weak government and opposition try to confine to point scoring one-liners rather than expose themselves to the political risks that will arise from candid public discussions.

One of the few growth industries in Sydney is proposing and cancelling public transport projects. The NSW government has probably generated and spiked more plans for heavy rail and light metros than the great public transport cities of the world have built since the early 19th century.

The bills, for consultants, and the career public authority planners, engineers and lawyers who do nothing but massage these ritual bonfires of public monies, could have generated real wealth, and built a model city, and spectacularly influenced the national economy and its construction and design skills and resources for the better. But that isn’t the Sydney way, which is that of helpless, institutionalised failure.

This is not just about Sydney’s decline towards a future as a giant dementia farm in which the second largest economic activity will be social welfare for those who can still remember who they are.

It is about the transfer of business activity, remnant manufacturing, and the warehousing and distribution of imports (that are Ponzi funded by consumer debt that expands faster than consumption) to the less topographically and administratively disadvantaged super cities of Melbourne and Brisbane in the rest of this century.

A prominent Australian rang me yesterday to enthuse over the federal government’s decision not to build a second Sydney airport at Badgery’s Creek. “Ben, Albanese is a genius. He doesn’t want 7 million people in Sydney by the end of the century. He wants them somewhere else.”

He has a point. If Sydney is going to be an impossible place to do business, why help it waste money on a second airport. Just turn the land into another industrial and residential wasteland, devoid of the air and rail connections, social infrastructure and port connections that are critical to its sustainability. Take the Badgery’s Creek real estate money and run. The smart investors will find those parts of Australia where things actually come together in terms of costs and infrastructure.

The elderly and unemployed don’t need metros. Or jets. Just handouts, in one big, poor and dysfunctional sprawl, lost in obscurity between the major centres of late 21st century Australia, stretching from Geelong to beyond Cranbourne in the Melbourne metroplex, and from the Gold Coast to Sunshine coast and inland to Amberley or beyond around Super BrisVegas.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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