Vic link benefits to be detailed in court

Nine News: Vic link benefits to be detailed in court. May 19, 2014

The Victorian government will have to detail the economic benefits of its controversial East West Link tollway project in court.

Its lawyers have been given until July to prepare a defence to a claim that “misleading” figures are contained within public documents in support of the multi-billion dollar project.

On Monday, they unsuccessfully argued for a narrowing of the case, which they said should only proceed if it can be shown the Victorian government’s actions were subject to Australian consumer law.

“The second element of the case is wide-ranging, involving consideration of economic analysis of a public project that has been proceeded with under the authority of an act of parliament,” Allan Myers QC, representing the Linking Melbourne Authority, told the court.

“… The evidence will be wide-ranging and complex, and we wish to avoid that.”

The court was told preparations for such a defence could take months, and that contracts to commence work on the $8 billion stage one of the link were due to be signed in September.

Former federal court judge Ron Merkel, who is leading the case against East West Link as lawyer for the residents, argued its projected $1.476 billion in net economic benefit contained wider factors – such as time savings for commuters – and this was not standard.

Mr Merkel said the government was seeking interest in East West Link from commercial parties, and so its actions fell under Australian consumer law.

“While the government is a entitled to build a tollway, it is not entitled to do so in breach of a public duty to not engage in misleading conduct,” Mr Merkel said.

Justice Clyde Croft set a date of July 7 for documents to be provided to the court, with a further hearing on July 11.
“This is a major project, a great deal of money is involved … It is in the interest of all parties to have proper pleadings on all sides,” Justice Croft said.

The case is being heard before the Commercial Court of the Victorian Supreme Court.

Mr Merkel is representing Melbourne resident Anthony Murphy.
Stage one of East West Link, which will connect the Eastern Freeway to Melbourne’s western suburbs, is scheduled to begin this year for completion by 2019.

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