Melbourne’s East West link drives wedge through the middle

The Australian: Melbourne’s East West link drives wedge through the middle. 16 September 2014, Rick Wallace, Journalist, Melbourne

Melbourne’s East West Link — the decisive issue in the looming poll — is shattering political bonds, a former Liberal candidate establishing a party to run against the Coalition-backed project and a Labor councillor defying his party to support it.

Ex-Liberal candidate Cam Nation has resigned from the party and says he will use his No East West Link party to steer preferences away from the Liberals, while Labor’s Oscar Yildiz says he is not afraid to say his party is making a mistake in opposing the project.

In another twist, the two councillors are friends. “It’s kind of interesting — he’s Liberal and opposes it, I’m Labor and I support it … and we are friends, but that’s democracy.” Mr Yildiz, a two-time mayor of Moreland, said.

“But it’s true — I do support it and don’t understand why we are spending ratepayer money on a fruitless legal case. This could cost us in excess of $150,000 to challenge the state government on an issue we will most likely lose.”

The $18 billion road project is designed to give Melbourne another east-west crossing to supplement the heavily congested Westgate Bridge. The Napthine government is forging ahead despite not releasing a detailed business case, while Labor recently affirmed its opposition, threatening to rip up any contracts signed before the November election. The Greens oppose the project.

Protests against the East West Link have been held in ­left-leaning inner-city seats, but Mr Nation, who stood for the state Liberal Party in 2006 and sought preselection again this year, says residents in his ward aren’t necessarily radicals, but they are incensed by the project.

He is the driving force behind the No East West Link party, which has applied for registration and hopes to stand candidates in several seats.

Mr Nation, a Moonee Valley city councillor in Melbourne’s inner northwest, said he had lost faith in the Liberal Party for its support of the project, and for housing developments at the Moonee Valley and Flemington racecourses. “I can’t put my name to being a Liberal when they are making decisions that completely ruin the amenity for residents in Moonee Ponds, Essendon, Travancore and other regions,” he said.

ALP operatives in the area were immediately suspicious that Mr Nation’s party would feed preferences back to the Liberal Party, helping its upper house candidates in the northern and western metro areas to cling to power.

However, the businessman and swimming coach said yesterday he had unequivocally committed to putting the Liberal Party below the Greens and the ALP. “We will always preference Liberal last.” he said.

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