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It's give then take over Redfern station funding

When it comes to Sydney power couples, they don't come much more powerful than Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his wife, former deputy premier Carmel Tebbutt. But Sydney residents might be wondering what they are getting out of the relationship, after it emerged on Thursday that Mr Albanese personally vetoed plans for an upgrade of one of Sydney's busiest trains stations because it was next to his wife's seat reports Jacob Saulwick the Sydney Morning Herald's Transport Reporter n 9 August 2013.

Community campaigners have been trying to get Redfern station, one of the 10 busiest in Sydney, upgraded for more than a decade.

There is no disabled access at Redfern, despite the station being the main gateway to Sydney University, and last year campaigners gathered more than 11,500 signatures to get the station's lack of access debated in State Parliament, where Ms Tebbutt, among others, called for the O'Farrell government to get cracking on an upgrade.

But what Ms Tebbutt did not say was that just months before she spoke in Parliament her husband personally cancelled federal funding to pay for a plan to improve the station and its links with Redfern and nearby Waterloo. The funding was to have come from a federal program called ''Liveable Cities'' which doled out $20 million in grant funding for urban improvements.

Transport for NSW and the Sydney Metropolitan Development Authority submitted a request in 2011 for the federal government to use the program to spend $500,000 to improve the ''function and accessibility of Redfern station''. That funding was to have been matched by the state government.

The application won the support of Mr Albanese's department, and on April 2 last year he approved the funding, according to an Australian National Audit Office report into the Liveable Cities program released on Thursday.

But on April 19 Mr Albanese withdrew the approval and instead set the $500,000 aside for cost overruns in other programs. The audit office tried to find out why Mr Albanese cancelled the funding.

The only explanation it could come up with was a departmental note saying Mr Albanese's office ''identified an issue with the Redfern Station Precinct Feasibility Strategy project in relation to its physical location following the redistribution of NSW electoral boundaries. The effect of the redistribution is that the project falls within the state electorate of Marrickville.''

In fact, Redfern station marks the border of the seats of Marrickville and Heffron. Marrickville is held by Ms Tebbutt.

On Thursday Mr Albanese said: "It was for a study rather than for any actual infrastructure. Under guidelines I couldn't approve it because it was in Carmel's electorate and I have always been careful to avoid conflicts of interest issues."

Ms Tebbutt said: ''I haven't got any comment to make on that.''


Responses to this Story

Still no access at Redfern Station

NSW Greens Transport Spokesperson, Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC, has reacted strongly to the news that Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese has cancelled Federal support for a function and accessibility study of Redfern station.

“The NSW Coalition Government has said the station is not a priority; the Labor Federal government has withdrawn funding for a study.

‘After more than twenty years of inaction from the old parties, nothing has changed for the 50,000 people who use Redfern Station each day.

Every day that Redfern goes without a lift, is another day of cutting vulnerable Australians from an education, from jobs and from their rights”

 “It is unacceptable that a key station on our rail network is shut off to some members of our community

‘Many community groups are working together to achieve a positive outcome for people with disabilities, older people, parents with young children, people with short-term mobility issues, and people with luggage or shopping who have great difficulty in accessing or cannot access the station at all.

‘I am appalled that neither of the old parties is taking this issue seriously.

 “It is unacceptable for a modern 21st century city like Sydney to not have accessibility at such a major train station” said Dr Faruqi.

Statement by Carmel Tebbutt

Dear Lift Redfern

I write to correct the impression that has been created by the article “It’s give then take over Redfern station funding” in the Sydney Morning Herald, 9 August by Jacob Saulwick.

Firstly, the article claims I had failed to inform the NSW Parliament of the status of  an application for funding of the Redfern Station Precinct Feasibility Study, when I spoke in a debate about  the need to upgrade Redfern Station. The facts are that I had no knowledge of the decision Anthony Albanese, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport had made in regards to this application. It would clearly be  inappropriate for Anthony to discuss with me the status of an application by a State Government agency.

Secondly, the application was for funds for a study  rather than for actual infrastructure. $500 000 doesn’t begin to touch the sides of the funding that is needed to upgrade Redfern Station.

I am disappointed that my commitment to the campaign to upgrade Redfern Station has been called into question in this article and I wish to reassure Lift Redfern that I will continue to work with you  to advocate for the long overdue upgrade of Redfern Station which the community needs and deserves.

Yours sincerely

Carmel Tebbutt

Member for Marrickville