Labor split over new tollway plans

The Age: Labor split over new tollway plans

A new tollway proposal in Sir Rod Eddington’s transport plan for Melbourne has split the Victorian Labor Party’s transport policy committee.

The committee’s secretary has resigned in disgust at a decision to endorse all 20 recommendations in Sir Rod’s report to the State Government, including a new multibillion-dollar road tunnel linking the city’s east and west. The committee’s response to the Eddington proposals will be presented to the ALP state conference today, and Premier John Brumby will release his transport plan for Melbourne next month.

The secretary, Pat Love, has written to his committee colleagues, along with Roads Minister Tim Pallas and Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky saying he would bring forward the end of his term because of the committee’s support for more freeways.

“Recent decisions of the committee, most importantly the decisions to support all 20 recommendations from the (Eddington) study, prompted me to bring this forward prior to the state conference. I handed my resignation to Kevin Bracken last Monday,” he wrote in an email sent on Thursday night and obtained by The Age. “As you know, I have argued both internally on the committee and externally in public forums that now is not the time to build another road tunnel.”

Mr Love, who has been secretary of the committee for three years, said: “If it is implemented by State Government, I firmly believe that it will lead to more long-term problems than solutions for people in Melbourne, and especially the people living in the west.”

It was wrong to argue that the “massive expenditure of an 18-kilometre tunnel, whether funded by government or private or both, will solve our congestion problems in the inner west, north and inner east”.

“I don’t believe it will improve transport options for many people in the west, but will further entrench them in car dependence,” Mr Love wrote.

“Overall, it will lead to more greenhouse gas emissions from transport in Melbourne, not less.”

Transport is expected to be the subject of passionate debate at today’s conference, with one draft resolution accusing the Government of failing “to establish an effective process for the development of transport policy for Melbourne in the wake of the Eddington review”.

It says the Government manipulated its consultations with the community about transport policy to prevent many ALP members being involved. The process had degenerated into an exercise “in which people were asked little more than to pick their favourite problem and project”.

Other draft resolutions seen by The Age call on the Government to:

    ■ Urgently implement a manufacturing strategy for Victoria “to ensure the ongoing viability of the industry”.■ Immediately ban logging in all water catchments.

The keynote speakers at today’s conference will be Mr Brumby and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard.