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Issue #1723      March 16, 2016


At the end of last year Optus had 9,235 staff on its books. Now it is planning to cut 10 percent of its workforce, that is 1,000 jobs, to protect its profits after embarking on a strategy of buying up expensive sports media rights. A Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union spokesman slammed the proposed cuts. “We are talking about almost 10 percent of Optus’s total workforce, serious numbers, over 1,000 staff and thousands more family members,” the spokesman said. The job losses are part of a three-year cost-cutting program. Hundreds of staff will lose their jobs in Optus’s network division, retail staff from its Virgin Mobile subsidiary, and workers in corporate support roles.

The NSW Baird government wants to give Transport Minister Andrew Constance the power to rip up railway lines in the greater Sydney area that are on land needed for “state-significant” developments, bypassing the need for parliamentary approval – and scrutiny. At the moment, a section of the Transport Administration Act prevents a rail owner from disposing of a line except by an act of Parliament. This plan has sparked concerns about the loss of key, publicly owned land from community group Save Our Rail. Save Our Rail had mounted an unsuccessful campaign to stop the closure of a two-kilometre stretch of heavy railway line into the centre of Newcastle. Kim Cross, Save Our Rail vice president, said, “it is about selling off the best tracks – that is what ‘state significance’ means. It is just the stuff with harbour views that is going to go for millions of dollars in our largest urban areas”. Mehreen Faruqi, Greens transport spokeswoman, pointed out that “the law is there for a good reason: to provide a basic check and balance on the government. Last year, the government gave the go-ahead to rip up the Newcastle rail line without any clear plan for the mooted light rail. This plan would make it easier for the government to do whatever it wants on our rail corridors”.

Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore is and an outspoken critic of the proposed WestConnex project – the most expensive toll road project in the world. The total cost of the project could reach $30 billion. “The City of Sydney asked SGS Economics and Planning (a company that prepares business cases for tolling companies) to review the updated business case and its response was damning,” writes Ms Moore in Sydney Morning Herald (29/02/2016). “The company called it ‘a confused document filled with contradictions’. It does not properly analyse potentially cheaper alternatives such as public transport and demand management, it selectively overestimates benefits and underestimates costs and ignores that the second airport will change freight and commuter traffic patterns”. Ms Moore has called for work on WestConnex to be suspended until a better business case is proved.

Next article – Region Briefs

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