The Age: East West Link details may come out in court. May 20, 2014. Jane Lee. Legal Affairs Reporter for The Age
Tony Murphy is taking the state government to court to try and stop the East-West Link tunnel being built. Photo: Justin McManus
The Napthine government has been ordered to fully defend itself in court against accusations it misled the public on the benefits of the East West Link.
Brunswick resident Anthony Murphy is challenging the $6billion-$8billion project in the Supreme Court. His lawyers, who include former Federal Court judge Ron Merkel, QC, argue the project has been based on ”misleading representations” that breach consumer protection laws.
”Whilst the government is fully entitled to construct and operate a tollway, it’s not entitled to do it in breach of the public duty not to engage in misleading conduct,” Mr Merkel said.
He said the government’s business case for the East West Link was ”shrouded in secrecy” and did not detail how the economic benefits of the project were calculated.
Although the government has long said that the benefits of the tunnel far outweigh the costs, it has refused to provide details, insisting the project will produce a return of $1.40 for every $1 spent.
Lawyers for the State of Victoria and the Linking Melbourne Authority filed a defence responding to some of Mr Murphy’s arguments. They sought on Monday to start the case with preliminary hearings as to whether its actions were subject to consumer law.
But Supreme Court Judge Clyde Croft said that both parties must file a full defence to Mr Murphy’s arguments by July 7.
”Given the nature of the matter and the importance of the matter, and some of the probably complex issues that may arise, it is desirable before [this issue is considered] … that the pleadings process should be completed and closed,” Justice Croft said. ”There should be defences filed and any replies filed.”
Justice Croft also asked them to tell him the latest date at which the government would enter ”any contracts” with other organisations for the East West Link, to help the court schedule the trial. Allan Myers, QC, for the Linking Melbourne Authority, said he would take instructions from his client.
It is expected that Mr Murphy’s lawyers will ask the government to produce documents about the East West Link in coming weeks, including a short form of its business case. The parties will next appear before Justice Croft on July 11.