Yesterday, the Federal government announced that it would fund the construction of a rail line between Parramatta and Epping. This is poor policy and worse politics.
Firstly, whose idea was it for the Prime Minister and other Federal ministers to be photographed with Keneally? Federal-State separation is all very well, but no Labor person would want to make any sort of association in the public mind between Gillard, who has a strong chance of winning, and Keneally, who has none. Keneally should have been sent to Ohio for the length of the campaign. Only if you are in denial about how bad the NSW goverment is would you risk the entire Labor campaign for federal government by giving Gillard a dose of the loser virus, Macquarie Street strain.
Secondly, it won't make any difference to Bennelong.
On a policy level, it is important to link the dormitory suburbs of northwestern Sydney to the jobs being created in and around North Ryde and northern Sydney. A Parramatta-Epping link is the cut-down version of that. The rail line is unnecessary for Bennelong, because we already live here. There is little desire or impetus for people in Bennelong communities like Gladesville, Denistone or Ermington to go to places like Greystaines or Cambridge Park.
This response from the Opposition was poor. It's gotcha politics, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. It reinforces the Abbott image of no vision. The Federal Libs could do with some of the popularity and low-profile competence that Barry O'Farrell has gradually built up - if Hockey had embraced the NSW Liberal policy of a proper northwestern rail line, it would have built credibility and synergy for the Federa Libs. Instead, Hockey did himself no favours with bombast and sliding around real issues about transport through the nation's biggest city, issues that have far-reaching political, economic and social repercussions.
The Parramatta-Epping rail line was indeed first announced in 1998. And reannounced, and reannounced. An entire generation of journalists were employed in the State Parliamentary press gallery to follow around successive ministers as they reannounced this project, and they would dutifully report on this announcement (ready by 2010, apparently). The clogging up of media space on this non-event is another reason why the mainstream media have declined in circulation and influence, within Bennelong and elsewhere.
Most of the proposed Epping-Parramatta rail line involves duplication of existing rail lines. The major engineering challenge and greatest cost will come from linking the existing stations at Carlingford and Epping via a tunnel of about 4km. People living in West Epping can look forward to rumbling, drilling sounds for months on end, including the possibility of undermining your very home, for no benefit (there should be a station between Carlingford and Epping but I bet there won't be).
That's if it goes ahead at all: NSW Labor have no credibility and can't come up with $500m, even if you believe (against all evidence) that the costs won't blow out and make a nonsense of this announcement.
Now do you see why this won't be a vote-winner in Bennelong? Everyone involved in this has railroaded themselves.