Sydney trains debacle a symptom of ‘economy-wrecking’ problem, says Freelancer boss Matt Barrie: “The whole country is mismanaged”

Emma Koehn /

Freelancer founder Matt Barrie says transport woes like those recently seen with widespread train cancellations in Sydney speak to a much bigger problem with project management in Australia that could have devastating effects.

“The whole country is mismanaged, transport woes are symptomatic of the bigger picture,” Barrie tells SmartCompany.

Sydney commuters have faced significant disruptions over the past week, with extreme weather and staff shortages blamed for cancellations and significant delays across the rail network.

Last week, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance told a press conference the government had requested a report from Sydney Trains over the issues in a fortnight, but no refunds will be given to commuters over the issue.

However, Barrie’s says there is more to the city’s infrastructure problems than train outages alone.

He has previously discussed the planning challenges for the nation in a LinkedIn post in November, calling for a rethink of how Australia positions itself as mining becomes a less and less important revenue generator.

Discussing business conditions in the city this morning, Barrie reflected that state and federal governments have done “everything they can to fuel a runaway housing market” in Melbourne and Sydney, but rapid construction of apartments and building projects is not helping Sydney citizens at all.

Soaring property prices are hurting both individual citizens and leading to expensive infrastructure and transportation challenges that emerge in the face of a property bubble, Barrie says.

“The average person takes home $61,034.60 per annum, and so to buy the average house they would have to save for 19.3 years — but only if they decided to forgo the basics, such as eating,” he says.

Meanwhile, state road projects like Westconnex are budgeted at tens of billions of dollars, because “property and construction costs are too high”, Barrie suggests.

“The problems on the rail network are symptomatic of a desperate government trying to squeeze juice out of every transport option they can to cope with this property bubble. A property bubble, that when it bursts, will wreck the economy for a generation.”

Entrepreneurs have previously said Sydney is already a difficult place to do business, with policies like the New South Wales’ government’s lockout laws wildly unpopular with customers and hospitality businesses alike.

When it comes to public transport in Sydney, the city’s business chamber has sent a plea for a long-term review of the system in the wake of the disruptions last week, saying in a statement that the business community had supported a new train timetable in Sydney last year because of “the belief that it represented a step forward in meeting Sydney’s public transport needs and we need to know that reliability has not been sacrificed”.

In a statement, executive director of the Sydney Business Chamber, Patricia Forsythe, said this was not the time for “finger pointing”, but it was critical a long-term plan was created to prevent similar situations from arising in the future.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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  • Garry

    yep the govt should have foreseen that they had opened the door to the unions screwing the public.

    • Jan

      MUCH bigger than that, Garry. The thrust of the article is long term planning – at all levels of government. Our railways are an infrastructure joke – try comparing with some of our Asian (trading) neighbours – and all staff are left managing this daily.

      • Rohan Baker

        Jan, our pollies are now only interested in winning the next election. As such they are selling out the country.

        Billion in pink Batts
        Tens if not a hundred of billions in NBN
        Billions in overpriced school halls
        Tens of Billions in desal plants and pipelines that weren’t needed
        Tens of billions in ruinable energy chrony capitalism solution and no end in sight of returning to cheap affordable power
        A tad over a Billion to not build a road
        50 billion to build 10 submarines by 2050 just to keep Prissy Chrissy in office

        It just goes on and on and on and they’re all tared with more or less the same brush.

        • jimmy55

          Johan, we are stuffed. We are nearing the iceberg and they will scream when we hit it.

          We are shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. its a shame, we have the beaches and climate, but have wasted most of what we have been given. We have some and smarts, but it shows you can be smart in some areas, and so utterly dumb in others.

    • Rohan Baker

      Yep. With the exception of the state and federal LNP governments, you also have the fact that the unions have so much influence over the government because the ALP are the unions. The CFMEU run the Dan Andrews government by simply pulling strings. That’s why we paid $1.3 billion to not build a road.

      You also have self serving public servants who’s answer to everything is to expand the reach of government. More regulation, more bureaucracy.

      Then you have the academic “intellectuals” who’s shining bright self-interested thought bubble, is to further expand the role of government. You seriously have to wonder about their cognitive abilities when they can only envisage more government intervention as the solution.

      “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’.” – Ronald Reagan

      • haydn

        Agreed but sorry, if the rail system were being run by private enterprise, the CEO of Westconnex would have 2 days not 2 weeks to come up with a fix. No private enterprise business owner would tolerate that length of a delay.

  • Justin Tyme

    Anyone who is surprised by this report has their head in the sand inserted into a part of their anatomy. It seems there is a very large element of our society which does not know how to reason or even think for themselves. They repeat party lines or union statements and believe that to be a reasoned and acceptable position. Far from it. It is not sustainable to believe that because you are a loyal and long serving party member you are automatically a good manager, much less a good Superannuation board director.
    Overall I am optimistic that we will come out of this malaise within a year or two, but! And this is a huge but, we are in for a very painful journey. As much as I hate to believe what I suggest is happening, I have accurately predicted this position and what has been happening since 2010, and included those predictions in this comment page.
    I believe a Malcolm Frazer once suggested, keep you money under the mattress, that time is once again on us but we are going to burn the house down!

    • jimmy55

      Too many takers. Look at the Qld election 4 years ago. Campbell Newham may have need better PR, but he was trying to fix a broken state.

      The state did not like pain, so threw him out. They have massive debt for their populations 2-4 times that of NSW and VIC per head. Labor did not pay off any debt in the last term, and it went up a bit more by about $5 billion.

      I dont think Qld can ever pay it back.

      The Rudd/ Gillard wasted so much and pus us $300 billion in debt. They also left a lot more we were committed too. The Coalition dont know how the massive problem they were left with well.

      The takers will keep on demanding and putting up the collective debt on the Never Never until the place crashes. We are stuffed, why do you want to work hard, and take risks in your business when you have the takers, and the system is against the doers, the SME’s like me.

  • Jimmy55

    We need governments who hassle and control the machinery behind government.

    Not the machinery controlling the pollies.

    We need new major parties.

    This country is so backward we wont make changes until we seen the place crash and smash.

    The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and we are dont take out elections and politics seriously enough. If we did we would have better governments than what we have had.

    The power is in our hands. Hassles the politicians

  • Jimmy55

    The Connex porject is about $6-8 billion over budget already. The tradies working on this via unions help are with all the shifts and rorts earning $200K plus ( a comment from people working on the project, made to a colleague).

    In my business I quote a job and am expected to stick with it. How do the people ns we give contracts t,o allowed so much variance.

    How much time in so many places is wasted by the old toolbox talk. Each group needs a few minutes. But we have them all standing around.

    The guys lap it up, as the day is shorter.

    On building sites look how the time going to the toilet is abused and used to maximize the time not working. If its its not one rort or its another.

    I know people who have worked at places that used to be government utilities after privatisation start at 7 am and take till 9 to have their paperwork sorted and only allowed to do a job a day. Most ended up 4 hours and another could not be started.

    Not good time efficiency.

    The country is stuffed. Look at the NSW and Vic desalination plants.