ABC Victoria: East West Link: Victoria will owe Commonwealth $3b if road project ditched. By Alison Savage Thu 2 Oct 2014
Tony Abbott says Victorians will have to return $3 billion to the Commonwealth if the East West Link does not go ahead.
Victoria will have to repay $3 billion to the Commonwealth if Melbourne’s East West Link (EWL) toll road is not built, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned.
Mr Abbott and Victorian Premier Denis Napthine have visited the project office responsible for building the road to mark the signing of contracts for the first stage of the project.
Labor has said it would not build the $6.8 billion road if it wins the November 29 election, declaring the contracts invalid because of ongoing court action involving two local councils.
The Commonwealth has already given Victoria $1.5 billion for each of the two stages of the project.
Mr Abbott said the money was specifically tied to the East West Link and would need to be repaid if Labor abandoned the project.
“The money that we’ve given is for East West Link,” Mr Abbott said.
We made it very clear pre-election that we thought the role of the Commonwealth Government is national freight, national roads, roads of national significance.
“If contracts are torn up against all principle, against all precedent and East West Link doesn’t go ahead, that money goes back to Canberra.”
Mr Abbott also rejected calls for the federal funding allocated to the project to be redirected to Melbourne’s rail network instead.
“We made it very clear pre-election that we thought the role of the Commonwealth Government is national freight, national roads, roads of national significance,” he said.
“The urban rail systems are owned and operated by the State Governments and we think they should be funded by state governments and we’ve made that very clear all along.”
Dr Napthine said the East West Link project was vital, not only for motorists in Melbourne, but to boost Victoria’s economic productivity.
“I personally thank the Prime Minister for his contribution of $3 billion to the East West Link,” Dr Napthine said
“The Commonwealth contribution makes a real difference to this project and makes sure that we can deliver this project at great value for Victorian taxpayers.”
Labor’s Martin Pakula said the party would try to negotiate to keep the $3 billion to spend on other infrastructure projects.
“We will fight for the infrastructure priorities Victorians vote for,” he said.
“We would not expect Tony Abbott to punish Victorians for making a decision that they have different priorities to the current State Government.
“We’re not surprised that right now he’s trying to do a solid for his mate Denis Napthine.”