PM Tony Abbott offers support for East West Link stage two

Herald Sun: PM Tony Abbott offers support for East West Link stage two. Matt Johnton. 19 February 2014

Premier Denis Napthine has pressed the case for the second stage of the multi-billion-dollar East West Link during a meeting on the state’s economy with Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The two leaders met after a fortnight of bruising shocks for the Victorian economy, including the announcements that Toyota and Alcoa would close major manufacturing plants.

The second stage of the toll road, which would connect CityLink to the Western Ring Rd, would enable commuters and freight companies to bypass the city when travelling from East to West.

A contract for the first stage of the road, which would connect the Eastern Freeway to CityLink in Parkville, is due to be signed within months, with the Napthine Government hoping construction will begin this year.

Premier Denis Napthine and Prime Minister Tony Abbott meet in Melbourne. Picture: Sarah Matray

Mr Abbott indicated strong support for the full project, which is likely to cost up to $14 billion.

“The great thing about this particular project is that it’s really important for Melbourne, but it’s also important for Geelong because just about everyone coming to Melbourne from Geelong is going to benefit from the full East West Link,” Mr Abbott said.

The Federal Government has already promised $1.5 billion for stage one of the project.

Both leaders pointed out the benefits of the project for people from Geelong travelling to work in Melbourne.

“People from Geelong put the West Gate Bridge bottleneck as one of their major problems and major impediments to business efficiency,” Dr Napthine said.

“That’s an important project and I also appreciate the broader discussion on the work that your team are doing on Victoria in transition and the opportunities that will provide in the weeks to come.

Toyota will close its Altona factory.

The meeting between Dr Napthine and Mr Abbott was to discuss the Victorian economy in light of recent announcements that major manufacturing operations would end.

Fears for Victoria’s jobs market were compounded yesterday, when Alcoa announced it would shed about 800 staff when it closes its aluminium smelter in Point Henry later this year.

Mr Abbott said a federal report on the Victorian economy, ordered after Holden revealed it would stop making cars locally in 2017, was nearly finished.

“We will be getting our report on the Victorian economy, we will be getting in 10 days time,” he said.

“Early in March we will have some announcements to make, and then in the build-up to the Budget we will have some further announcements to make, because what we want to ensure is that the people of Victoria can face the future with confidence.

“Sure there have been some shocks, I mean Holden was a shock, Toyota was a shock, Alcoa was a shock. But there is a lot of fundamental strength in this state and we need to build on that.”

Dr Napthine said, “Victoria is facing transition”, but key infrastructure projects like East West Link will help provide jobs.

Alcoa plans to close its Point Henry works.

“As I say, we have got stage two on the drawing boards and well planned. This is a major infrastructure project that will give us a second crossing of the Maribyrnong, which would be advantageous,” he said.

“Infrastructure projects that provide jobs and long term economic benefit are a way forward, so we appreciate the way you are actively engaged with us on these sorts of projects.”

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