ABC Victoria News: East West Link opponents lose appeal to delay signing of toll road contract. By Peta Carlyon. 24 September 2014
Victoria’s Court of Appeal has refused to force the State Government to alter a deadline for the East West Link project, ruling the state has too much to lose should the process be interrupted.
Brunswick resident Anthony Murphy had been seeking an injunction from the court to push back the contract signing and compulsory acquisition of homes while his court case against the project was ongoing.
Mr Murphy had appealed against a recent Supreme Court decision to refuse him access to the project’s business and stop the project.
The court was yet to decide on that issue, but were a retrial to be ordered, an injunction would stall the East West contract signing until after the state election.
The State Government had agreed not to sign the contracts before next Monday, but said it would be open to proceeding after that date, leading to growing speculation a deal could be done next week.
It had vowed to sign the contracts before November’s state election.
Risks too great for deadline delays, court rules
The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the State Government and Linking Melbourne Authority after hearing evidence about the risks associated with pulling out of the contract deadline.
It accepted the state would shoulder 100 million euros ($145 million) of foreign exchange risk and an estimated $130 million in fluctuating interest rates if the State Government’s timetable were abandoned.
The court said such a change of government policy so close to the election would constitute an abuse of the interests consumer law was designed to protect.
For the first time, the court also heard details of the cost to the successful bidder of taking the project on.
Appearing on behalf of the East West Connect, Michael Wyles QC told the court, the consortium was already losing more than $600,000 a fortnight on the project.
He estimated the consortium had already spent $60 million dollars on the East West Link.
State Government barrister Mark Moshinsky QC, said great harm would be done to the state’s interests were the contract signing set back.
“We enter into a period where real substantial prejudice could be suffered,” Mr Moshinsky said.
“The prospects of success [of Mr Murphy’s case] are just so low… the state would have to pay a high price.”
“These are very, very substantial amounts of money.”
Mr Murphy’s barrister, Ron Merkel QC, earlier urged the court to rule that protection of the public was paramount.
He said the State Government had plenty of time before Parliament went into caretaker mode at the start of November to deal with the issue, and an injunction should be granted in light of the risk to the public of the project running “at a substantial loss to the public”.
Mr Merkel had already flagged a High Court appeal against the injunction ruling.
A separate challenge brought on by the Moreland and Yarra councils has been put back to December.