Melbourne man loses fight for East West Link delay until election

Guardian Australia: Melbourne man loses fight for East West Link delay until election. Wednesday 24 September 2014

Anthony Murphy wanted to stop Victorian government from going ahead with project until after election

Opponents of the East-West Link project in Melbourne in September. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP

A Brunswick resident has lost his bid to put Melbourne’s controversial East West Link project on hold until after the state election.

Anthony Murphy had sought an injunction preventing the Victorian government from signing contracts for building the $8bn road while he continues his legal fight against the plan.

His application was dismissed in the court of appeal, with justices David Beach, Geoffrey Nettle and Joseph Santamaria ruling the injunction would impose “profound” losses on the government and its construction contractor.

Michael Wyles QC, for the consortium chosen to build the roadway, East West Connect, said the delay in signing the contracts was costing it more than $600,000 a fortnight.

State government barrister Mark Moshinksy QC said if the injunction was granted the state government was risking an 100m euros ($150m) foreign exchange loss.

It could also face a potential $130m loss if interest rates went up by 1%, he said.

But Ron Merkel QC, for Murphy, said the taxpayers would lose out if the project went ahead.

“The loss to the public may be huge by the execution of this project, not by restricting it,” he said. “We say this is a loss-making project.”

The Victorian government goes into caretaker period on 4 November ahead of the 29 November election.

Murphy is arguing the East West Link, which would link the Eastern Freeway to the western suburbs, is based on deceptive and misleading figures.

His argument was rejected in the Victorian supreme court earlier this month, but he has appealed that decision.

Justices Beach, Nettle and Santamaria, who are also ruling on the appeal, have reserved their decision until Monday at the latest.

The government has given an undertaking that it will not sign any East West Link contracts until Monday at 10am.

Merkel indicated Murphy may appeal the court’s decision in the high court.

The Victorian treasurer, Michael O’Brien, said the government was keen to get the contracts signed so construction could begin as soon as possible.

“The government has been working towards this very important contract for Victoria,” said O’Brien. “We understand there’s been legal action by disgruntled citizens but we need to get on and build the major infrastructure that this state needs.”

The opposition leader, Daniel Andrews, who has vowed to dump the project if Labor is elected on 29 November, said the contracts “are not worth the paper they’re written on”.

“Infrastructure should be about people, not about one political party just weeks away from an election desperately trying to avoid scrutiny, desperately trying to avoid Victorians passing judgment on a dud project that they didn’t vote for, put forward by a premier that they didn’t vote for,” he said.

Fairfax Media also reports the East West Connect consortium wants a $500m kill clause in its contract in case the project is scrapped.

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