Legal challenge to Melbourne’s multibillion-dollar East West Link

The Guardian: Legal challenge to Melbourne’s multibillion-dollar East West Link. Tuesday 22 April 2014

Test case claims the Victorian government has been ‘misleading and deceptive’ in promoting the road project

East-West Link protesters picket a test drilling site in Collingwood, Melbourne in January. Photograph: Joe Sabljak/AAP
It’s a legal test case designed to derail a road project.

A Melbourne resident is going to court to stop the multibillion-dollar East West Link from going ahead, claiming the Victorian government has been “misleading and deceptive” in promoting the road.

He is calling for the full business case to be released and for an injunction to halt the project until it can be independently assessed.

The resident making the allegations, Anthony Murphy, wants to stop the tender process and to prevent the government and Linking Melbourne Authority from seeking finance and entering into contracts for its first phase.

“It seems due process to evaluate major projects in this state has been sidelined,” Mr Murphy said.

“That’s the basis of our case. We want to see the full business case. So far all we’ve seen is the short-form case.”

The claim, filed in the Victorian supreme court on Tuesday, alleges the benefits of the project have not been based on standard methodology for major projects.

“It is alleged the project’s benefit cost ratio (1.4), net economic benefit ($1.476bn), and projected traffic volumes (100,000 to 120,000 vehicles) are misleading representations, and have not been based on standard methodology for major projects, as claimed,” the Fitzroy Legal Service said.

High-profile lawyers including former federal court judge Ron Merkel will act on behalf of Murphy.

A legal service solicitor, Meghan Fitzgerald, said the case was about transparency.

“We’re looking at those representations and requiring some sort of basis to be put forward for the reasonable grounds that underpin them,” she said.

“It is a form of a test case in terms of these types of arrangements between government and private corporations and the way that type of activity might be characterised as trade and commerce and therefore captured by Australian consumer law.”

The Victorian premier, Denis Napthine, said he was not concerned about a court challenge, which he said would only vindicate the project.

“We are confident that we have been up-front and have provided more information to Victorians about this important project than any previous project,” Napthine said.

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