Murphy’s law a waste of taxpayer’s money

Herald Sun: Murphy’s law a waste of taxpayer’s money. 17 October 2014

Tony Murphy leaves the Melbourne High Court after losing an injunction to block the construction of the East West Link. Picture: Brendan: Brendan Francis

Victorians will be waiting a long, long time for serial protester Tony Murphy to cough up the estimated $1.7 million he has cost taxpayers in his legal attempts to stop the East West Link.

Unemployed Murphy, who has a history of fines and sanctions for illegal protests — ranging from a 1977 anti-Eastern Freeway demonstration through to running on to Warrnambool racecourse in 2011 before a steeplechase event — appears to revel in his pointless crusades.

It was only last week he got a dressing-down from magistrate Graeme Horsburgh for blocking traffic on Alexandra Pde as part of the anti-East West protests and refusing repeated police requests that he move.

Fining Murphy $250 and placing him on a good behaviour bond, Magistrate Horsburgh told Murphy that while people had a right to protest they must do so within the law.

Murphy yesterday lost his latest legal foray — this time in the High Court, which dismissed his leave to appeal application following a flawed Supreme Court bid to have the $8 billion East West project stopped.

He will still battle on at the Court of Appeal to test that Supreme Court result.

How much time and money has this one man wasted? Plenty.

The Linking Melbourne Authority and the Department of Transport have incurred about $1.7 million in legal costs on Murphy’s injunction applications and his failed court action to try to force the State Government to disclose the full business case for the tunnel and arterial project.

The Herald Sun today reveals the Linking Melbourne Authority has spent $530,000 on barristers, $530,000 on solicitors and another $150,000 on internal legal advice.

But the massive bills don’t stop there.

The Department of Transport spent $390,000 on legal counsel and another $100,000 within the department responding to Murphy’s court actions.

In the end, the costs will need to be paid by someone.

But, perhaps not surprisingly, the Brunswick East resident and cycling enthusiast has not worked for some time and his Magistrates’ Court hearing was told he relies on government welfare in the form of Newstart payments.

A single adult on Newstart receives $515.60 per fortnight, meaning it would take about 127 years to pay off the $1.7 million in taxpayer-funded legal costs he has now wasted.

And that’s only if an order of costs against him is made if or when his final appeal fails.

East West was identified in the comprehensive Sir Rod Eddington report as a priority project needed to help fix Melbourne’s crippling gridlock.

Numerous times police have had to drag Murphy and other protesters from roads and drilling rigs this year.

The cost of extra police hours to control these several dozen demonstrators amounted to a whopping $1.6 million.

Murphy argues the legal costs are a “ tiny amount compared to the total cost of the project”, and claims he is acting “on behalf of the public”.

Balderdash. Murphy is entitled to have a passionate view about anything he chooses.

But he should not be entitled to squander significant public resources and court processes on what has repeatedly been shown to be an ill-conceived, ideologically driven case against a democratically elected Government. The final money the Government spends on this case should be on arguing for Murphy to pay all its costs.

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