Parliament Debates East-West Link Contracts

From Hansard Sept 3 2014

Member for Monbulk- James Merlino (ALP)

 8 royal children’s hospitals, 11 Burnley tunnels, 12 000 family homes and 20 million school kids bonuses.

“The Napthine government is so scared of a verdict on its dud $8 billion tunnel that it cannot even bear a vote in this chamber, let alone a vote at the election in November.

“Four years later our public transport system has ground to a halt, and the Napthine government says it will build this tunnel after all — a project that Victorians never wanted, that Victorians
never voted for, but that every Victorian and their children and children’s children will have to pay for. It is a project that will do precious little to fix congestion.

“In fact at most intersections it will make congestion worse. It has not been properly planned. It has barely been planned, full stop. It was thrown together with the sort of haste and artificial enhancement that would cost an accountant their job. Most importantly, it will take billions of dollars away from the other projects that Victorians actually need.

“Let us start in 2010 when the Liberals said they were not going to the election with a plan for the east–west tunnel. I give them full marks for consistency, because they do not want to take the east–west link to this election either. In 2010 they buried their intentions for the east–west tunnel. Now they are doubling down — nothing to see here, nothing you may vote on, nothing
you may know. The early life of this project was  bookended by denial in the lead-up to 2010 and is being bookended by denial in the lead-up to 2014. There is no mandate for this tunnel, and in the intervening period  there is its ungodly birth. As the artists’ impressions of east–west roll across our TV screens during every second ad break, I suggest ordinary Victorians are asking themselves,

‘How much will that thing cost?’. Here is the answer: 8 royal children’s hospitals, 11 Burnley tunnels, 12 000 family homes and 20 million school kids bonuses. It will cost $8 billion — and that is just for the dud tunnel itself.

All up, Victorians are looking at a price tag of $20 billion for the project, or 3 billion visits to your local GP under Prime Minister Tony Abbott. A responsible government might consider setting aside a decent sum for the no. 1 infrastructure priority, something that could truly change the face of a state. But this is not it. The Napthine government’s dud tunnel is not Victoria’s no. 1 transport priority. It is not even in the ballpark. The umpires at Infrastructure Australia have given it a bronze medal, putting it in category 3 out of a possible 4 categories. What an endorsement. It does not even qualify for the top 2 categories of necessity and urgency, but the Liberals are giving it the gold. If it gets built, we can call it Steven Bradbury Boulevard. And what are we getting for it?

How many minutes of travel time will it shave off? What is this project ultimately worth? The government knows the details but it is not telling the Victorian taxpayer. I wonder why that is. A business case is not just some lofty strategic governance plan. Ordinary Victorians conduct modest business cases of their own when they sit around the kitchen table and work out whether they can afford a new car. It is the principal statement of cost, benefit and risk. If I am signing myself up to a $20 billion mortgage, it is the one thing I would want to see. That is a mortgage that the Napthine government is imposing on every single Victorian, but Victorians will not get to see the business case. It is locked up like a Pentagon file, held in a safe under the Premier’s desk. What is the Napthine government hiding? Is it the bit that Infrastructure Australia described as ‘woefully inadequate’? The bit where the cost-benefit ratio, on Infrastructure Australia’s conservative estimate, is 80 cents to the dollar? Maybe we should listen to the words of the Napthine government’s own traffic modelling expert, Mr Doug Harley, a 27-year veteran of road building in Victoria
and a former manager at VicRoads. He quit VicRoads in disgust over this dud tunnel. He said the road had been assessed using ‘a dodgy model to make it look like a huge economic success’.

[Read the full debate on Hansard]

The Member for Brunswick Jane Garret ALP

This project is about our children and their children. What the government is trying to do is put an $8 billion concrete millstone around the necks of our children and our children’s children by trying to ram through this dud tunnel — not only ram it through the homes and gardens of those in the electorates we  represent, but ram it through to the exclusion of other projects and investment in public transport.

On 17 November 2010 on ABC radio, the member for Polwarth, now the Minister for Roads, who made his usual passionate contribution to this matter of public importance today, said in relation to the east–west link,  ‘You made that up’, ‘You were wrong’, ‘We are not  going to this election with a plan’ for this tunnel.  Instead the government promised to fix Victoria’s public transport system. In January 2011, after being elected, the Minister for Roads said:

We went to the election to say that we had no plans for the tunnel. And that is our policy

The Member for Richmond, Richard WYNNE (ALP)

I want to make the position of the inner-city members crystal clear: we do not support this project. We have never supported this project, and we will fight this project into the ground.
We will fight this project all the way to the election.

This entire project is being underpinned by the state. This is not a public-private partnership; there is no risk to the consortium that bids for this project. We as the state will underpin this project for years and years to come and at what opportunity cost?

What do you say to the students at Clifton Hill Primary School about where the vent stack is going to be placed? What an outcome for that community. We will never stand by silently and allow this
government to rip the heart out of the inner city and displace decent people who deserve to live in dignity in their community. We will never let that happen

 The Member for Gemebrook Mr Battin

The Leader of the Opposition talked about the east–west link and said, ‘No, if the government signs contracts, there are no dramas. We will continue with it. If we win government, then I am sure we will take the pat on the back as everything gets built’. He might like to speak to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who  recently talked about Swinburne TAFE and said, ‘If any contracts are signed by this government, we will tear them up’. I suppose the question then is: how can we trust those on the other side not to tear up any contracts we sign for the east–west link? Why does the
opposition not tell Victoria that it is going to tear up contracts for one project but not another.


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