East West Link developer to foot cost of protest delays

Herald Sun: East West Link developer to foot cost of protest delays, Matt Johnston, September 9, 2014

The cost of any East West Link construction delays caused by protests would be absorbed by the consortium that builds the toll road.

In a move to avoid extra taxpayer-funded bills outside the planned project’s hefty $6-8 billion budget, the contract winner would be responsible for security on worksites.

Any extra construction costs or costs of delays associated with demonstrations would be the builder’s responsibility, giving it an added ­incentive to deliver the project on time.

The East West Connect group has been announced as the State Government’s preferred bidder to build the controversial road to connect the Eastern Freeway to CityLink in Parkville.

The news led to anti-tunnel groups declaring they would protest this morning outside the Melbourne office of Lend Lease — one of the companies in the consortium.

The last time there was a rally at Lend Lease it led to ­violent clashes with police.

East West Connect, which has built Peninsula Link and major overseas projects, such as the Port of Miami Tunnel, also includes infrastructure ­giants Capella Capital, ­Acciona Infrastructure and the Bouygues group.

Treasurer Michael O’Brien said the Government would exclusively negotiate with the group in the final stage of the tender process, and he hoped to sign a contract by October.

“We expect to see construction of East West Link commence this year. It will be great for jobs — we expect 3200 jobs to be created,” he said.

He dismissed potential protest action and said police would “uphold the rule of law”.

“There is a legal right to protest, but that protest right does not enable you to interfere with other people going to work,” he said.

Anti-tunnel groups immediately attacked the Government’s announcement and organised a protest.

The Public Transport Users’ Association was also critical, and community campaign spokeswoman Cait Jones said the project should be on hold until legal action was resolved.

matthew.johnston@news.com.au

Australia Anti-Protest Law: Victoria State Passes Legislation To Expand Police Powers

)

Huffington Post: Australia Anti-Protest Law: Victoria State Passes Legislation To Expand Police Powers. 13 March 2014

Freedom of speech appears to have taken a hit in Australia, as the Victoria state parliament passed a law on Tuesday night that opponents warn could stifle Australians’ freedom to protest.

The Summary Offences Act expands police powers, allowing them to give “move-on” orders to any person obstructing public access to buildings, or who is expected to damage property or turn violent. The Guardian reports offenders could be barred entirely from a public area for up to 12 months, with a penalty of two years in jail.

Protesters immediately fought back against the sweeping reforms by disrupting the Tuesday night session in Victoria’s parliament, The Herald Sun reports. Four protesters were arrested after police were called in to remove the group from the chamber’s public gallery, according to ABC News Australia.

But the specter of a police crackdown on any protest has more Australians worried.

“If police use these powers the way that the government intends them to use them, anyone that’s going to protest will be affected,” Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd told Sky News Australia. “Everyone will be in trouble.”

In Victoria’s capital of Melbourne, protesters have repeatedly tried to block the work of a multi-billion dollar road and tunnel project called the East West Link Road in recent months. The protesters have raised concerns about the project’s environmental impact and huge price tag. Victorian police have been accused of reacting with heavy-handed tactics to disperse demonstrations.

Melbourne’s lord mayor, Robert Doyle, speculated the new powers could also be used against anti-abortion protesters who hold regular rallies outside the Melbourne fertility control clinic.

While the full impact of the new law remains unclear, critics warn it will put already at-risk groups in further danger.

According to The Guardian, the Salvation Army said the expanded police powers will “disproportionately affect marginalized young people, people experiencing homelessness, poverty and mental health issues.” Australia’s human rights commissioner Tim Wilson also called the new measures “excessive.”

Aussie state gives police power to disperse protests pre-emptively

RT.com: Aussie state gives police power to disperse protests pre-emptively March 13, 2014

The Australian state of Victoria’s parliament passed a bill giving police power to suppress protests, including ordering a rally to move on based on a suspicion that it may turn violent. Opponents call the powers excessive and undemocratic.

The Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill passed through the upper house of the Victorian parliament on Wednesday morning. It will give state police the power to order protesters to disperse if they are blocking the entrance to a building, disrupting traffic, of if the police ‘expect’ protesters to turn violent.

A ‘move on’ order may be issued to people suspected of committing an offense within the previous 12 hours who return to the public place that police are trying to clear. Failure to comply may result in arrest and a AU$720 (US$650) fine.

Under the new law police would also be able to obtain exclusion orders banning protesters from certain public places for a period of up to 12 months. Violating such an order carries a maximum jail term of two years.

The bill was opposed in the parliament by Labor and Green parties, with Green MP Sue Pennicuik calling it “an absolute assault on the democratic right of Victorians to protest – whether it be on the streets or on public land – about issues of concern to them.”

Similar concerns were raised by some protest and human rights groups.

“It’s just a stab in the heart to free speech,” Garry Muratore, an activist campaigning to stop McDonald’s building a fast-food outlet in Tecoma in the Dandenong Ranges, told the Age newspaper.

”This is Joh Bjelke-Petersen stuff,” he added in a reference to a former controversial conservative premier of the Australian state of Queensland, whose economically prosperous 19 years in office were marred by heavy-handed dealing with protesters and political corruption among officials.

Friends of the Earth spokesman Cam Walker also slammed the bill, saying it would be “irony in the fullest sense” if it were used against farming communities opposed to gas exploration, a cause his group supports.

“We don’t know how much discretion will be used by police. It puts fear into average community members who are not activists who feel compelled to protect their communities against gas drilling,” he said.

Proponents defend the legislation, saying Victoria Police need extra powers to deal with some situations, including the regular anti-abortion protests outside the Melbourne fertility control clinic, an issued that the state capital’s council had difficulty addressing in the past, or the protest trying to hamper construction of the East West Link toll road, which critics believe to be a case of misspending public funds.

The laws would give Victoria Police the power to issue move-on orders to protesters who “deliberately seek to stop people going about their lawful business,” argued Attorney-General Robert Clark.

They would not affect “Victorians’ rights to engage in lawful and peaceful protest to express their views,” he said.

Ironically, as the bill was debated on Tuesday night, a group of 20 activists were told to leave the chamber’s public gallery after they started chanting and yelling in a protest against the bill. Four of the protesters were arrested for refusing to move on.

After the disturbance Health minister David Davis called on President Bruce Atkinson to “review security at Parliament House and ensure members can conduct debate in peace and without threats or thuggish behavior.”

Victoria is the second most populous of Australia’s six states. The capital, Melbourne, is home to over 4 million people.

Next Page »