The Law of Large Numbers – How much does it cost to stop a freeway?

Big ticket: Victorian premier Daniel Andrews (centre) and treasurer Tim Pallas answering questions about the decision to abandon the East West Link project in April 2015. Joe Castro/AAP Image

Honest figures about cancelling East West Link, with an attempt to include everyone else’s time and expenses.

Inside Story: The Law of Large Numbers by James Murphy (2 July 2018)

If, like me, you’ve been following the fallout from Melbourne’s East West Link freeway fiasco, you will have noticed that the bill for the Andrews government’s decision to stop the project somehow keeps growing. In April 2015, cancelling the contracts was going to cost the state $339 million in compensation. In December 2015, the ABC reported that the price tag had risen to $1.1 billion. Last week the Age had the cost reaching $1.3 billion.

Victorians will be relieved to hear that the real number is nothing like $1.3 billion. Publicly available information shows that the cost directly incurred by cancelling the contracts was $527,600,000 — a lot of money, but less than half the Age’s figure. That’s $339 million in compensation to the private sector for costs incurred (including compo for losing bids to build it); $81 million in bank fees for a facility set up for the project; $217 million in losses on swaps and other hedges; $600,000 spent by the government on legal and consulting fees to get out of the thing; and subtract from that $110 million in cash returned to state coffers. The figure has shifted a little — some of the bank fees and swaps have fluctuated in price or been repurposed for other projects — but it has remained well short of the billion-dollar mark. Read more

East West Link developer to foot cost of protest delays

Herald Sun: East West Link developer to foot cost of protest delays, Matt Johnston, September 9, 2014

The cost of any East West Link construction delays caused by protests would be absorbed by the consortium that builds the toll road.

In a move to avoid extra taxpayer-funded bills outside the planned project’s hefty $6-8 billion budget, the contract winner would be responsible for security on worksites.

Any extra construction costs or costs of delays associated with demonstrations would be the builder’s responsibility, giving it an added ­incentive to deliver the project on time.

The East West Connect group has been announced as the State Government’s preferred bidder to build the controversial road to connect the Eastern Freeway to CityLink in Parkville.

The news led to anti-tunnel groups declaring they would protest this morning outside the Melbourne office of Lend Lease — one of the companies in the consortium.

The last time there was a rally at Lend Lease it led to ­violent clashes with police.

East West Connect, which has built Peninsula Link and major overseas projects, such as the Port of Miami Tunnel, also includes infrastructure ­giants Capella Capital, ­Acciona Infrastructure and the Bouygues group.

Treasurer Michael O’Brien said the Government would exclusively negotiate with the group in the final stage of the tender process, and he hoped to sign a contract by October.

“We expect to see construction of East West Link commence this year. It will be great for jobs — we expect 3200 jobs to be created,” he said.

He dismissed potential protest action and said police would “uphold the rule of law”.

“There is a legal right to protest, but that protest right does not enable you to interfere with other people going to work,” he said.

Anti-tunnel groups immediately attacked the Government’s announcement and organised a protest.

The Public Transport Users’ Association was also critical, and community campaign spokeswoman Cait Jones said the project should be on hold until legal action was resolved.

Australia Anti-Protest Law: Victoria State Passes Legislation To Expand Police Powers


Huffington Post: Australia Anti-Protest Law: Victoria State Passes Legislation To Expand Police Powers. 13 March 2014

Freedom of speech appears to have taken a hit in Australia, as the Victoria state parliament passed a law on Tuesday night that opponents warn could stifle Australians’ freedom to protest.

The Summary Offences Act expands police powers, allowing them to give “move-on” orders to any person obstructing public access to buildings, or who is expected to damage property or turn violent. The Guardian reports offenders could be barred entirely from a public area for up to 12 months, with a penalty of two years in jail.

Protesters immediately fought back against the sweeping reforms by disrupting the Tuesday night session in Victoria’s parliament, The Herald Sun reports. Four protesters were arrested after police were called in to remove the group from the chamber’s public gallery, according to ABC News Australia.

But the specter of a police crackdown on any protest has more Australians worried.

“If police use these powers the way that the government intends them to use them, anyone that’s going to protest will be affected,” Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd told Sky News Australia. “Everyone will be in trouble.”

In Victoria’s capital of Melbourne, protesters have repeatedly tried to block the work of a multi-billion dollar road and tunnel project called the East West Link Road in recent months. The protesters have raised concerns about the project’s environmental impact and huge price tag. Victorian police have been accused of reacting with heavy-handed tactics to disperse demonstrations.

Melbourne’s lord mayor, Robert Doyle, speculated the new powers could also be used against anti-abortion protesters who hold regular rallies outside the Melbourne fertility control clinic.

While the full impact of the new law remains unclear, critics warn it will put already at-risk groups in further danger.

According to The Guardian, the Salvation Army said the expanded police powers will “disproportionately affect marginalized young people, people experiencing homelessness, poverty and mental health issues.” Australia’s human rights commissioner Tim Wilson also called the new measures “excessive.”

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