Protester a rebel with so many causes

Herald Sun: Protester a rebel with so many causes. John Masanauskas. 22 April 2014

Police remove protester Tony Murphy as East West Link objectors break through security. Picture: Nicole Garmston Source: News Limited

A serial protester is the public face of a major legal challenge to the Napthine Government’s East West Link tunnel project.

Brunswick resident Tony Murphy campaigned against the Eastern Freeway in the 1970s and most recently chained himself to a drilling rig during an anti-tunnel protest.

He has also been involved in anti-duck hunting protests and other environmental campaigns.

Mr Murphy, 59, on Tuesday admitted that his house was not affected by the proposed tunnel but that he had attended a “reasonable number” of protests against the $6-8 billion project.

“We’re taking this legal action because we allege that in promoting and beginning work on the East West Link road tunnel, the government has been misleading and deceptive,” he said.

Mr Murphy’s Supreme Court case is being handled by the Fitzroy Legal Service and Shine Lawyers, with top barrister Ron Merkel, QC, retained.

The Fitzroy Legal Services states on its website that it receives funding from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, the City of Yarra, Victorian Legal Aid and the Victorian Department of Health, among other organisations.

When Mr Murphy chained himself to the drilling rig last October he was reported as saying “when you are pushing for progressive change, you have to be prepared to break some minor laws”.

But on Tuesday he denied being a professional protester and said he was not aligned to militant Leftist groups.

“I would describe myself as an environmental campaigner more than anything,” he said.

“I regard myself as representing the community.”

Tony Murphy is removed from Queens Pde by police. Picture: Nicole Garmston Source: News Corp Australia

Rachel Obradovic, a spokeswoman for state Treasurer Michael O’Brien, would not comment specifically on Mr Murphy’s involvement in the case, but said: “That opponents of this vital transport project are seeking to use the courts to further their political agenda is entirely unsurprising.”

Anti-tunnel protest leader Anthony Main is due to face the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court this month over a wilful damage charge.

RACV public policy general manager Brian Negus said it was vital the tunnel was built as soon as possible.

“The RACV has strongly supported this project for many years, along with a number of other important road and public transport projects, and we look forward to this matter being settled expeditiously so the government can get on and make sure it’s delivered,” he said.

John Roskam, from the free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, said people had the right to take legal action but he would be concerned if any taxpayer funds were used through the Fitzroy Legal Service’s involvement.

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