East West Link: Court of Appeal holds expedited hearing on challenge to road project

ABC Victoria News: East West Link: Court of Appeal holds expedited hearing on challenge to road project. By court reporter Peta Carlyon. Mon 22 Sep 2014

Opponents of the Victorian Government’s East West Link project have taken their fight to the Court of Appeal.

The Victorian Supreme Court rejected a request by Brunswick resident Anthony Murphy to gain access to the Government’s business case and potentially halt the project earlier this month.

Mr Murphy was granted leave to appeal against the Supreme Court decision last week and is back in court today for the hearing of the appeal.

The case has been expedited because the State Government wants to sign the contracts for the project before the Victorian election on November 29.

Mr Murphy’s lawyers, including barrister Ron Merkel QC, have filed 34 grounds of appeal.

Mr Merkel told the court a number of “fundamental” errors were made by the trial judge, Justice Clyde Croft, in rejecting his client’s case.

He said Mr Murphy had been denied “procedural fairness” because he was not given the Government’s business case.

That meant he was forced to proceed on limited facts and the state “reaped the advantages” of that decision.

Mr Merkel said the case “brings into question the administration of justice”.

“We’re talking about a $6–8 billion project … that doesn’t just drop out of the sky,” Mr Merkel said.

“He was denied access of discovery and was unable to provide evidence.

“It’s a catch 22 that is not really a proper administration of judicial power.”

The case is being fought under consumer law and the argument that the project is a business is one of the key points being relied upon to gain access to the business case.

Mr Merkel told the court there was no doubt the Government was conducting a business in its management of the project.

“The state conducted repetitive and continuous activities for the purpose of funding, designing and constructing the tollway,” Mr Merkel said.

“The key question never really grappled with by His Honour (Justice Croft) is whether the state was conducting a business.

“A tollway is a business.”

Mr Murphy also wants the Government and Linking Melbourne Authority to pay the costs of the appeal.

The East West Link is an 18-kilometre cross city road connecting the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring Road in several stages.

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