Victorian Labor to rue planned reversal on East West Link

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The Australian: Victorian Labor to rue planned reversal on East West Link. 15 November 2014, John Ferguson Victorian Political Editor, Rachel Baxendale Reporter Melbourne

Victorian Labor’s gamble of tearing up the contracts on the $7 billion first stage of the East West Link road and tunnel project has backfired, delivering the ­Coalition its best chance of ­remaining in office.

Internal Liberal polling ­obtained by The Weekend Australian shows that a clear majority of voters back the nation’s biggest inner-urban infrastructure project, including nearly two-thirds of Labor voters, who either support it or are neutral.

Only 6 per cent of Liberal voters oppose the project and 40 per cent of Greens voters either support the road or are neutral, underpinning the extent to which traffic congestion is a core voter concern that crosses the political divide.

As the statewide gap between Labor and the Coalition tightens ahead of the November 29 election, the Liberal surveying casts a cloud over Labor leader Daniel Andrews’s decision to tear up the contracts for the project if he is elected to power.

The move could cost Labor billions of dollars when federal funding — which would have to be handed back — is included in the price to be paid for opposing the project.

If finished, the project would link Melbourne’s traffic-clogged eastern and western suburbs.

It is understood the Liberal polling shows 75 per cent support for the East West Link among Geelong voters, which is significant because the government is ­attempting to win at least one marginal seat in the area 80km southwest of Melbourne.

The polling is believed to show a 3-2 split in favour of the project in Ballarat, Victoria’s second-biggest regional centre, where three marginal seats are either based or motorists pass through on the way to Melbourne.

Mr Andrews maintained yesterday that there would be no change to his decision to oppose the East West Link. “I’ve got … very different priorities,’’ he said.

“Labor equals removing the 50 most dangerous and congested level crossings, because too many people have died, too much time has been wasted, and these level crossings that are a relic of the past simply must go, and they will go, but only under a Labor government.’’

Liberal focus groups are believed to show strong support for the road and tunnel project to improve economic growth, create jobs and reduce travel times.

The full project, which would be at least a decade away, would cost upwards of $17bn and connect all the major Melbourne road networks. The Liberal polling shows that, when factoring in Liberal, Labor and Greens voters, 54 per cent support the project, 22 per cent are neutral and 24 per cent are opposed. Of the Greens voters, 60 per cent are opposed.

The survey results bring into question Mr Andrews’s decision to oppose construction of the project, given that contracts have already been signed and land acquisitions have started in some suburbs.

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