Wednesday, September 5, 2012

O'Farrell is a man without action #NSWpol


Transport master plan unveiled yesterday by Premier Barry O'Farrell.

Unveiling ... Premier Barry O'Farrell revealed his transport master plan.

NOT even halfway through its first term in office, the O'Farrell government clearly believes it remains entitled to be cut a bit of slack.

But as it discovered yesterday, when it comes to transport policy in NSW, that's a very dangerous assumption to make.

During yesterday's unveiling of their draft transport master plan the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian and the Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, took turns to remind those present of the sins of past Labor governments.

While Labor's approach had been to do ''back of the envelope'' calculations for plans that were never followed through on, this government was embarking on ''never before attempted'' master planning that would ''stand the test of time''.


A pity, then, that once details were requested, the whole charade fell apart.

Asked to commit to a trial of distance-based tolling for the motorway network, the closest Gay could come was to say it would ''probably'' happen ''in the future, if it adds up''.

This is despite the master plan clearly stating the government will ''investigate, develop and test'' such a regime.

Confusion about the value of the plan was increased when O'Farrell was asked if he expected the projects identified in it would be started within its 20-year time frame.

''That's not what I'm saying,'' he responded. ''Just as J.J.C. Bradfield travelled the world and changed what he thought would be the design for the Sydney Harbour Bridge, there may well be changes within the confines of this master plan.''

The comparison with Bradfield is strained when the Premier is unable or unwilling to commit to even a single project on day one of his transport master plan's release.

Clearly, planning is a sensible thing for a government to be doing, and after 16 years of Labor, the Coalition government is probably entitled to be cut some slack.

But there is also a good lesson to be heeded here: the usual approach of announcing grand plans without time frames or dollars attached no longer cuts it with the NSW electorate, no matter how large your mandate.

Voters have heard it all before, and the O'Farrell government's cautious approach means it has yet to convince them it will be any different to the previous lot.

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