State Liberal MP makes east-west link gaffe

The Age: State Liberal MP makes east-west link gaffe. January 31, 2014. Henrietta Cook. State Political Reporter at The Age

The Napthine government has been embarrassed by a blunder in which a Liberal MP inadvertently agreed to take part in an anti east-west link campaign.

Prahran MP Clem Newton-Brown agreed to catch public transport to state parliament on Thursday with local constituents involved in the Public Transport Not Traffic campaign.

The campaign, which pushes for increased spending on public transport and is opposed to the Napthine government’s east west link, included Mr Newton-Brown’s name on their press release.

“Our goal is to stop this expensive project – a tunnel and toll road that could cost Victorian taxpayers up to $14 billion – and demand our money be invested in public transport infrastructure,” the campaign’s website reads.

But Mr Newton-Brown said he had no idea the constituents were part of a campaign opposed to his government’s signature major project – and will no longer take part in the event.

“I was invited by some local constituents to travel to Parliament with them by train which I was happy to do. At no point was I told that this was part of an anti-Government protest so was very surprised to see my name on the PTUA press release.”

He said the east-west link was a vital piece of infrastructure which “complements the public transport and cycling initiatives of the Napthine government.”

“I won’t be travelling with this group on this occasion but will welcome the opportunity at a later date to discuss the significant improvements Minister Mulder has made to our public transport system”

South Yarra resident Milan Urban was one of the constituents who approached the Liberal MP and asked him to take part in the event.

He said he had previously been in contact with Mr Newton-Brown about his concerns around the east west link but emphasised that Thursday’s event was about public transport and not the road tunnel.

“I’m extremely disappointed that he’s no longer taking part. We are opposed to the east-west link but wanted to leave that aside, travel with him and talk about public transport.”

Campaign manager Danae Bosler said the event aimed to put public transport high on the agenda in the lead up to November’s state election.

The group have sent out a revised press release which omits Mr Newton-Brown’s name.

The campaign is funded by the by the Public Transport Users Association and endorsed by Friends of the Earth.

Other MPs who have agreed to catch public transport to work in support of the campaign include Labor MPs Jennifer Kanis, Jane Garrett, Wade Noonan, Anthony Carbines, Richard Wynne, Jill Hennessy, Tim Pallas and Greens MPs Greg Barber and Colleen Hartland.

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