East West Link court challenge thrown out after injunction bid by serial protester Tony Murphy

Herald Sun: East West Link court challenge thrown out after injunction bid by serial protester Tony Murphy. Shannon Deery. Annika Smethurst. 29 September 2014

Tony Murphy outside the court after his appeal was upheld. Picture: Hamish Blair

The State Government has signed contracts for the East West Link after a bid to halt the project was today thrown out of the High Court.

Premier Denis Napthine and Transport Minister Terry Mulder put their signatures on the contracts at Linking Melbourne Authority Headquarters in Melbourne shortly before 5pm today.

Dr Napthine said details of the multi-billion dollar road project, including the route and some costings, would be released later this week.

“This is a day that will live in the history of Melbourne and Victoria as a day we’ve taken that massive step forward to make a real difference to our great city and our great state,” Dr Napthine said.

“This is about investing in key infrastructure that will improve our productivity and efficiency and make sure we retain our title as the freight capital of Australia.”

“As Premier of the state I am proud today that we have signed contract that will make a real difference to ordinary Victorian families.”

Julian Burnside QC arrives at the High Court. Picture: Hamish Blair

If Labor wins the November state election it will dump the controversial project with Victorian taxpayers expected to be hit with a multi-million dollar bill for tearing up the contracts.

The government is yet to detail the “kill clause” penalty but said more details would be made available later this week.

Roads Minister Terry Mulder said the contracts cover East West Connect consortium to design, construct, operate and manage the road project.

“The state in its own right collects the tolls and we make payments available to the company for managing, operating and running it and also some capital payments,” Mr Mulder said.

Tony Murphy is removed from Queens Parade by police during a protest against the East West Link. Picture: Nicole Garmston

Earlier today High Court judge Justice Susan Crennan this afternoon refused to grant an interim injunction prohibiting the signing of the contracts.

Throwing out the application by protester Tony Murphy, Justice Crennan said the state had more to lose if an injunction was granted than Mr Murphy did.

Government lawyers told the court any deal done beyond today risked costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mr Murphy took his case to the High Court, seeking the immediate injunction, after a Court of Appeal win this morning.

He wanted the government blocked from signing any contracts before October 17.

Ron Merkel QC, for Murphy, said if the contracts were signed Victorians would be left hundreds of millions of dollars out of pocket.

He said the project’s business case was based on incorrect economic modelling that would see it “lose 20c in every dollar invested”.

Mr Merkel told the court government lawyers today handed him an affidavit stating the government was ready to sign the contracts.

Mr Murphy’s case against the project was thrown out of the Supreme Court before today’s successful appeal bid.

It has now been remitted back to the Supreme Court for a new trial.

Outside court, Mr Murphy, flanked by dozens of supporters, said he would fight on.

“Earlier in the day we were very successful and we were granted an appeal because we were denied natural justice in the first trial in the Supreme Court,” he said.

“The government is still trying to keep the business case secret, and we need to see that as part of the retrial.

“Obviously it’s disappointing we were denied the injunction today. But we’ve still got special leave to appeal in the High Court.”

The appeal will be heard in Sydney on October 17.

“All in all, it’s been a good day,” Mr Murphy said.

He said he was fighting for access to the project’s business case to uncover government secrets.

He wanted an injunction to ban the government from entering into any contract for the design, funding, developing, or construction of the East West Link.

He also wanted the government and Linking Melbourne Authority restrained from compulsorily acquiring properties.

Mr Murphy is being represented pro bono by former Federal Court judge Ron Merkel QC and Julian Burnside QC, one of the country’s most prominent lawyers.

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