East West Link

Ms GARRETT (Brunswick) — The member  for Mitcham stood here in this place and said that  this is  a project about our children and our children’s children  — although  I must say she spoke with  a  lot  less passion than she has when  she talks about  unions in this state. But  we agree with the  member for Mitcham — this project is about our children and their children.

What  the government  is trying  to do  is put an $8 billion  concrete millstone around the necks of our children and our children’s children by trying to ram through this dud tunnel — not only ram  it through the homes and gardens of those in the electorates we represent, but ram it through to the exclusion of other  projects and investment in public transport. The  government seeks to put that  millstone  around  the  necks  not  just  of this generation  but  of  the generations to come.

In what time frame is the government seeking  to do this? I know there are a lot of people listening to this debate, because a lot  of  people  passionately care about this issue. They know, and members of this house know, that the sun is now setting  on the  57th  Parliament  of  Victoria,  a  Parliament  that  has  been characterised by turbulence, a lack of direction and farce — which we have seen unfolding again this morning. It has been a government riven  with  division. We have lost Premiers, Treasurers and ministers.

We now have an unelected  Premier who not only assumed the reins halfway through the government’s term, much to everybody’s surprise, in the middle of the night, but who then, with his dead, cold hand, produced the  idea that we were going to run with  an $8 billion tunnel. This is a tunnel which this government — in its various manifestations and  with  different  names  in  front of it — has never taken to the Victorian people.  It did not take it  to them in 2010 —  in  fact quite the opposite.

On 17 November 2010 on ABC radio, the member for Polwarth, now the Minister  for Roads,  who made his  usual  passionate contribution  to  this matter of  public importance today, said in relation to the  east-west  link,  ‘You made that up’, ‘You  were wrong’, ‘We are  not  going to this  election  with a plan’ for  this tunnel. Instead the government  promised  to  fix  Victoria’s  public  transport system. In January 2011, after being elected, the Minister for Roads said:

  We went  to the election to say  that we had no plans for the tunnel. And that  is our policy.

Yet  here we stand in  the  shadow of the  writs,  where the government has  the arrogance to attempt to sign contracts  on  a  project that will define Victoria for generations to come — not just in terms of the amount of money that will be tied up in  it, but in terms of the priority  of roads over public transport and what  it  will do to our  beautiful  city. The government is  trying to ram this through in the shadow of the writs, and it is a complete and utter disgrace.

It  is a  bigger  disgrace  when  we know  from poll  after published  poll that Victorians —  not  just in  the inner  city seats  but across  Victoria —  are condemning this project. They do not want  this  project.  According to a recent poll, one in five Victorians thought that this project was a good idea.

Overwhelmingly  Victorians have embraced Labor’s  plan to make  rail travel more efficient  and  clean up congestion  on  our roads  through  our  level crossing program and Project  10 000. Time and  again across electorates Victorians  have rejected  this as the direction in  which they want our state to go. Once again, in the dying days of the 57th Parliament, with no  mandate, with a project never taken  to  the  Victorian  people, this government is thumbing its nose  at  the Victorian people. It is treating them with disdain.

There is clear choice for Victorians at this election. On this side of the house we oppose this tunnel. We want that money invested in public transport. We are a matter of weeks  from the caretaker period. If this project is such  a damn fine idea, as members opposite try to suggest, then they should take it to the people and let them decide the future and the shape of this city.

As we have heard from previous  speakers at  every stage  of this thought bubble which the  unelected Premier  had and which we have all been  dragged down  this road  with, we have opposed the construction  of  the  tunnel  on  clear,  sound grounds. We say it is  an $8 billion dud and  an inexcusable waste of  taxpayers money that should instead be spent on public transport.

The opposition has  participated fully in every farcical process this government has put up. It is  opposing  the  tunnel. We know there are  a  range  of  legal actions still on  foot,  including from both  the  Yarra and Moreland  councils, about  the  tunnel  and regarding  the  latest  debacle, when  the  Minister for Planning ignored the recommendations of  his  own comprehensive impact statement process  and  decided  to  change  the  route  halfway  through  without  proper consultation, analysis or discussion.

It  is really clear  that the  Napthine government  has no  mandate to  sign any contracts, and for it to even be considering  signing  contracts  at  this  late stage of  the  day, when there is  so  much opposition to this  project,  is the height of arrogance. It is  not just about the vision for the city  and where we want  money invested;  it  is  about the  actual  process  and the  underpinning surrounding this $8 billion white elephant — an $8 billion millstone around the necks of our children.

Let me just go through some of the  problems with this over the last 18  months. This project is a circus  and  a  farce, as much as this government  has  been a circus and a farce. So why should we be surprised? Yet we are — every day there is a new little  shock  from the mob opposite.  First  and foremost, as we  have heard, the government has refused to release the business case to the Victorian people for full analysis. In fact the Labor opposition had to take the government to court and argue in a lengthy process before the tribunal, when all  it is asking for is transparency and  openness on  behalf of  the community which this government seeks to inflict this project upon.

We say the tunnel is built  on  dodgy evidence and there is a complete  lack  of transparency  and  openness.  The  government  has repeatedly refused to address concerns about the flawed methodology around this project. Whistleblowers out of VicRoads, who have resigned over these issues, have said that this just does not stack up,  it is a folly, it is a complete waste of money and the government has tried to  beat  up the figures  to  make  this look like  it  is  an appropriate project. When issues around traffic modelling and the like have been raised, the government  has run a mile — like it is running  a mile from its responsibility to let the Victorian people decide about the future of our city and our state.

We know the Infrastructure Australia  process  did  not  place this project as a priority.  That was  ignored  by  this government,  which  decided overnight  to announce  the thing, without ever taking  it to the people to start with. It has refused, and repeatedly refused, to take  into consideration the growing concern across the city and the state about this project and its impact on  how our city and  our  state will  operate. As  I have  mentioned, we  had the  quite frankly gobsmacking process around the comprehensive impact statement. In the  middle of the night, again, the Minister for Planning changed the route, with  a whole new raft of people to be  affected  by  compulsory  acquisition and changes to their environment — with not a skerrick of consultation or discussion.

This just smacks of  a  project that was ill  thought out, that was not  planned properly and that does not have  the underpinnings of a proper business case and of evidence to back up that this is exactly where our  money should be spent. It smacks of the panic and chaos that has characterised this government.

In the shadow of the writs it is seeking to inflict a massive burden not just on the inner  city electorates but on Victoria as a whole. People are really  angry about this. People are up in arms and are calling on this government to take the project to an election, which is weeks away.

Hansard, 3 September 2014