East West Link protesters fear Labor will backflip on pledge to ditch project

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Herald Sun: East West Link protesters fear Labor will backflip on pledge to ditch project. Tom Minear. 25 November 2014

East West protester Keith Fitzgerald and his sister Fay Ryrie outside their Bendigo St, Collingwood home. Picture: Nicole Garmston

East West Link protesters fear the Labor Party will ditch its key election promise not to build the major road project, in light of revelations of a $1.1 billion compensation bill for ripping up the contracts.

Dozens of protesters gathered this morning in Bendigo St, Collingwood, where the Napthine Government moved to acquire 17 homes to build the tunnel.

While 11 residents accepted offers to sell, six remain and protest leader Stephen Jolly said they would fight on.

“We’re not going to give up. We’re going to occupy these houses, we’re going to sit in them 24/7, and we’re going to go back to direct action,” the Yarra councillor said.

Cr Jolly, the Socialist candidate for Richmond in Saturday’s election, said there was a growing distrust of Labor and a fear that Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews would “flip-flop” on his promise not to build the road.

Keith Fitzgerald, 71, who has lived in Bendigo St for 69 years, told the Herald Sun his “gut feeling” was Mr Andrews would “wilt under pressure” and backflip on the East West Link.

He said his local Labor member, Richard Wynne, had promised him if Labor wins on Saturday that “they won’t build the road and we get our house back”.

But Mr Fitzgerald said he feared Labor would reverse their position, saying Mr Andrews was “in a corner” and needed to “show himself as a person of strength”.

Cr Jolly said the Labor Party would “pay a major price” if it backflipped on the controversial project.

“The Labor Party needs to know we’re not stupid,” Cr Jolly said.

“If they’re going to build this road with a different name … They’re going to have to drag us away kicking and screaming.”

He called on Mr Andrews to promise before polling day that affected residents would be able to keep their homes.

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