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