Tony Abbott spent his first full day as Prime Minister helping to promise the biggest motorway project in Australian history. This should come as no surprise.
''For too long, policy makers have ranked motorists just above heavy drinkers and smokers as social pariahs,'' Abbott wrote in Battlelines, his 2009 manifesto for the thinking conservative.
WestConnex motorway project unveiled
Prime Minister Tony Abbott joins NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell on Thursday to explain a new series of roads and tunnels largely under the inner west of Sydney. Nine News.PT2M54S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2u177 620 349 September 19, 2013
Abbott's book, in a subchapter titled ''Kings in Their Own Cars'', laid out the case for major new investment in motorways in Australian cities and less investment in ''inefficient, over-manned, union-dominated, government-run train and bus systems''.
Partly this was because cars facilitated a sense of personal mastery public transport never would. ''The humblest person is king in his own car,'' Abbott wrote.
But mostly it was because the expanses of Australia's suburbs were ill-suited to mass transit. ''The problem is the economics of public transport in a suburban metropolis,'' he wrote. ''Mostly, there just aren't enough people wanting to go from a particular place to a particular destination at a particular time to justify any vehicle larger than a car, and cars need roads.''
"The humblest person is king in his own car." Photo: Ben Rushton
If Premier Barry O'Farrell's government does what it pledged on Thursday, Sydney will have a lot more roads. The $11.5 billion WestConnex project - partly paid for by $1.5 billion from the federal government, $1.8 billion from the state government and with the rest from tolls and future funding promises - is a monster, three motorway projects in one, 33 kilometres in total.
The project will have no shortage of critics. Many will lament WestConnex seems to be facilitating more car use in some of the most densely populated parts of Sydney - places where government policy, such as it has been, has been to encourage more people on public transport. Others will have localised concerns about new ventilation stacks, on-ramps and road bypasses. Others will say the new motorways will just shift traffic bottlenecks around Sydney- from the start of the M4 at Concord, for instance, to the end of the new M4 East tunnel at Ashfield.
But Barry O'Farrell and Tony Abbott were both elected on promises to build these roads. Abbott, at least, is making a fast start of it.