East West Link protests have cost taxpayers $5 million

Herald Sun: East West Link protests have cost taxpayers $5 million. Matt Johnston. 24 May 2014

Police protect a drill site from East West Link protesters. Source: News Corp Australia

Protest action over the EastWest Link has already wasted a whopping $5 million of taxpayers’ money and police resources well before a contract has been signed.

The Linking Melbourne Authority, which is planning the $6-8 billion stage one road from the Eastern Freeway to CityLink in Parkville, had to fork out $220,000 for security just to get test drilling done.

And the Sunday Herald Sun can reveal that extra equipment and LMA overtime costs added almost $400,000 to the mounting protest bill.

But the biggest costs were from policing the sites, with officers diverted to the inner north to try to keep the public safe and deal with physical clashes and mid-street rallies.

In total, thousands of shifts and overtime payouts added up to a startling $4.3 million.

Victoria Police figures, provided to the Napthine Government and seen by the Sunday Herald Sun, include all costs related to the diverted resources that have been calculated by its human resources department.

Rally organisers have refused to shy away from their costly action, with Yarra councillor and state Socialist candidate Stephen Jolly declaring: “We haven’t even started.”

Public Transport and Roads Minister Terry Mulder said the EastWest Link was “absolutely necessary for Victoria” and a part of the Coalition’s $24 billion investment plan for roads and rail.

“While everyone has the right to protest, it is such a shame that so many taxpayers’ dollars and police resources are wasted on a handful of serial pests,” he said.

Some of the things Linking Melbourne Authority has had to fork out for include extra trucks to avoid frequent water disposal trips, when protesters often struck. Extra drill rigs were also required to be on standby for location changes, and overtime bills were large.

A source confirmed the cost of policing the EastWest test drilling site had run to $4.3 million as at March 26.

This includes costs of shifts that were sucked away from other areas of Melbourne extra shifts, overtime, and other expenses.

Some arrests occurred and minor charges were laid in relation to physical scuffles.

Mr Jolly said “we didn’t write the cheque” for what he said was unnecessary security.

“We haven’t even got started, that was just the entree,” he said.

“We will be having a 1998 MUA-style peaceful protest.”

The 1998 waterfront dispute, between “wharfies” from the Maritime Union of Australia and a stevedore company, resulted in widespread industrial battles.

Contracts for stage one of the EastWest Link are due to be signed before the November state election.

A Brunswick resident and his team of lawyers have launched a Supreme Court bid to try to halt the project.


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