Murphy v East West Toll

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Victorian resident Anthony Murphy has launched proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria asking the Court to consider whether the net economic benefit and projected traffic volumes included in the business case for East West Link – Stage 1 are deceptive and misleading representations, and if these figures have been calculated according to standard methodology as claimed.

East West Toll

The proposed East West Link is an 18 kilometre toll road the current state government plans to run from the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring Road through the densely populated and historic inner north and west of Melbourne.

It is estimated to cost $18 billion – that is $1 billion per kilometre or $1 million per metre.

The East West Link – Stage 1 would gouge a concrete tunnel, motorways and “signature” flyovers through Clifton Hill, Collingwood, Fitzroy, Royal Park and West Parkville (Part A), via a viaduct taller than Citylink through Kensington, Flemington and North Melbourne (Part B). The East West Link – Stage 2 would see a 12 kilometre extension from the Port of Melbourne west to the ring road at Laverton on a route yet to be determined.

Stage 1 alone would cost around $8 billion and take 5 years to construct.  It would have a massive impact on individuals, communities, neighbourhoods and open parkland and recreation areas.

Many homes and businesses would be destroyed to make way for a series of roads and flyovers in what are historic and densely populated residential communities.

Not only would building this road require billions of dollars up front from the Victorian and Australian Governments, but the current Victorian Government is planning to enter into contractual arrangements with a private consortium to build and operate it.  This would mean Victorian taxpayers would bear all the risk of any toll revenue shortfall for decades.

The nature of the proposed Victorian contract would expose the Victorian taxpayer to huge ongoing financial risks.

Murphy v East West TollRecent toll road projects funded under public private partnerships include Brisbane’s Clem7 and BrisConnections and Sydney’s Lane Cove and Cross City tunnels.  They have proved to be huge financial failures as traffic use falls well below the optimistic predictions of the governments concerned. In the absence of the business case there are many unanswered questions about the viability of the EWL toll road.

Communities all along the proposed project route are concerned about the way this project is being rushed through by the government before the November election without due consideration of all the impacts on the community and on Melbourne’s transport future.

Their concerns include:

  • The lack of equity for people unable or unwilling to drive (particularly the elderly), by denying access to and choice about alternative public transport modes;
  • The diversion of public funds away from other congestion solving public transport alternatives to pay for the road;
  • The severe loss of public land and recreational space in Royal Park and other open public spaces;
  • The loss of wetlands, trees and flora and fauna;
  • The addition of some 100,000 – 120,000 vehicles, including trucks, along the Eastern Freeway, and the implications of this on the connecting road networks and surrounding roads;
  • The severe consequences of higher concentrations of vehicle exhaust particulates on the health of residents, tunnel commuters and especially children and the elderly;
  • The likelihood, according to many traffic experts, that it will not solve the traffic congestion that is its main justification;
  • The large commitment of funds to an unjustified infrastructure project in a climate of federal funding cutbacks and its implications for future state budges on such areas as health, education and aged care delivery.

The missing business case

Extremely limited information has been released to the public in relation to the business case for this toll road, leading to concern that this project does not meet the robust standards required to justify an $8 billion liability for Stage 1. Even the Senate is not being given access to information in support of an Abbott government contribution.

Many Victorians believe that if this project genuinely justifies the cost, then there is no need to keep this essential information from us, indeed the state government would want it out in the public domain.

Victorian taxpayers will bear the financial risk.  Surely they have a right to know if the investment is justified.

Infrastructure Australia, an independent body that assesses and advises the Australian Government on major public infrastructure projects that it puts money into, has not seen the full business case for the East West Link – Stage 1, and does not consider the project to be ‘ready to proceed’.

We therefore strongly support the action taken by Anthony Murphy in the Supreme Court of Victoria alleging that the State Government and the Linking Melbourne Authority have engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by making the representations they have.

Supreme Court Challenge

Victorian resident Anthony Murphy has launched proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria asking the Court to consider whether:

  • the benefit cost ratio, net economic benefit and projected traffic volumes included in the Business Case for East West Link – Stage 1 are deceptive and misleading representations, and
  • these figures have been calculated according to standard methodology as claimed.

An injunction is being sought preventing the State from relying on these representations and preventing contracts being signed in relation to the project if Mr Murphy’s allegations are found to be true. An interim injunction may be sought if necessary to prevent the contracts being signed before the case is resolved.

The case involves important questions around the level of transparency and accountability that should lie on the State when engaging in public private partnerships to fund large infrastructure projects.

Barristers acting in the Supreme Court case are Ron Merkel QC, Melinda Richards SC, Simona Gory, and Caryn Van Proctor, with Fitzroy Legal Service and Shine Lawyers as the solicitors involved.

How you can help

Going to the Supreme Court is not cheap – even where extensive volunteer support is garnered and Fitzroy Legal Service is providing pro bono support. To fund the case we need your help.
The costs of this case fall into two phases:

1.    The preliminary pre-trial hearings, which are underway now; and
2.    The full trial requiring expensive expert witnesses, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

There may not be a lot of time before we need to deal with court costs and engage these experts so we are asking for your support now.

A donation for the future of your State

Major transport projects such as the proposed East West Link can define our city and even our state for generations to come.  Polls over the past 12 months show clearly that the community is not convinced this road will solve the key transport problems and deliver access to sustainable transport choices. We cannot afford to to be burdened with an $18 billion debt (which will also be inflicted on our children as this will need to be paid off for decades).  This project is not economically viable and experts agree it would not solve the traffic issues currently slowing Victoria down.

By donating to this case you are making sure the business case for the East West Link – Stage 1 is put to the test and our taxpayer dollars are spent properly and well.  Please make an investment in our future and in the accountability of our government to us.

What your donation will provide:

Fitzroy Legal Service is relying extensively on volunteer and community support in this litigation, and the team as a whole is working hard to keep costs to a minimum.  Donations are needed for unavoidable disbursements (out of pocket costs) incurred in the course of the hearing – for example, travel and accommodation for witnesses, retainers for experts, costs of counsel, court transcripts and court costs.

Some examples of what your donation would buy are:

$100+
A donation of $100 will help pay for preliminary meetings with experts who may be able to support the case in the Supreme Court

$200 – $500+
Donations of $200 – $500 will help pay for costs associated with bringing experts to Melbourne to support our case within the Supreme Court.

$1000+
Donations of $1000 will help pay for court transcripts, expert reports, and expert / counsel fees should the case go to full hearing.
DISCLAIMER – the above are estimates only and funds contributed will enter a pool to pay disbursement costs.
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How to donate

All donations made into the Murphy VS E-W Toll account for the Murphy legal case will be paid into the Fitzroy Legal Service Trust Account specifically set up for the Murphy legal case.  These donations are not tax deductible and non-refundable.
Any left over funds not needed specifically for the Murphy legal case will be gifted to Fitzroy Legal Service in recognition of their extraordinary work.

To make a non-tax deductible donation of any amount to the Murphy legal case click here.

If you are making a donation of $1000 or more:

For larger donors, there is the option of making a payment directly to the Fitzroy Legal Service trust account for the Murphy legal case. Your contribution would not be tax deductible, but if there are undisbursed funds in that trust account, you may receive a partial refund.

Please contact Albert Kuan, Finance Officer, Fitzroy Legal Services, directly on (03) 9419 3744 or please email him for further information.

If tax deductibility is important to you, please discuss your options with Albert Kuan. Tax deductible gifts to Fitzroy Legal Services will go towards the operations of Fitzroy Legal Services generally, and will not be specifically directed to the Murphy legal case.

Donate

You can donate to support Murphy v East West Toll via direct bank transfer:

  • BSB: 633-000
  • Account Number: 152419859
  • Account Name: Murphy Vs EW Toll
  • Transaction Reference: First Name Initial and Last Name

If you would like confirmation of your contribution, please email us with your name, contribution amount and the transaction reference.

More information about donating can be found here. And please spread the word!

Contact us

Have a question or comment? To contact us please send an email and we’ll get back to you promptly.

This appeal has been organised by the following:

Harriet Mantell, Residents Against the Tunnel www.rat.org.au
Cait Jones, Public Transport Users Association www.ptua.org.au
Chris Star, Yarra Campaign For Action on Transport www.ycat.org.au
Danae Bosler, Public Transport Not Traffic www.ptnt.org
Andrew Kelly
Alison Clarke

 

The appeal has been registered with Consumer Affairs Victoria under the Fundraising Act 1988, under the name ‘Harriet Louise Mantell for Fitzroy Legal Services.

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