As Michael Petit (Moreland Community Against the East West Tunnel (MCAT)) says, "It is impossible to comprehend how Labor could rationalise funding what is repeatedly called a 'dud' project and curtail any hope of funding their own transport policy should it prevail on 29 November." He notes that on 4 September 2014, "The Age" carried an article on page 4 describing MP Geoff Shaw as not supporting the East West project and comments, "It makes you wonder who does."
This article contains the Hansard Parliamentary debate for Wednesday 3 September on the East-West Link, with some reformatting to make it easier to read than the Hansard copy. It includes scathing comments and assessments by Labor members including Shadow Ministers James Merlino and Tim Pallas.
MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE East–west link (SOURCE: PROOF PARLIAMENT OF VICTORIA LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY DAILY HANSARD Wednesday, 3 September 2014)
The SPEAKER — Order! I have received the following matter of public importance from the member for Monbulk for discussion.
That this house (1) notes that the Napthine government has no mandate to build the east–west link, a project that remains shrouded in secrecy; (2)notes that the Premier has refused to let Victorians vote on the east–west link, and now refuses to allow the Legislative Assembly to vote on the east–west link; and (3)calls on the Premier to withhold from signing any contract for the east–west link until after the 2014 Victorian election.
Mr MERLINO (Monbulk) — The political cowardice of those opposite is on full display today.
Labor proposed to debate the motion of the Leader of the Opposition that is currently on the notice paper rather than have a standard matters of public importance debate today. This is allowed under standing order 37, but the Liberal Party has declined.
The Napthine government is so scared of a verdict on its dud $8 billion tunnel that it cannot even bear a vote in this chamber, let alone a vote at the election in November.
The rank hypocrisy of those opposite, which was demonstrated by the government’s stunt this morning, makes obvious the cowardice of the Premier —he was not prepared to deal with the member for Frankston three months ago when a by-election was at risk, but he does so now, just 87 days before the general election.
What an amazing coincidence that this should happen after the member for Frankston declared he has no confidence in the Premier and, on Friday, declared he has no confidence in the dud east–west link tunnel.
That is what the member for Frankston said on Friday, and then today, in an act of political cowardice and rank hypocrisy, the government and the Premier moved their motion to expel him.
The SPEAKER — Order! I advise all members not to anticipate tomorrow’s debate.
Mr MERLINO — Let us go back to 17 November 2010. The then shadow Minister for Public Transport, the member for Polwarth, fronted a forum on the east–west tunnel and said We are not going to this election with a plan.
He also said … the answer is an efficient, reliable public transport system.
That was then. Four years later our public transport system has ground to a halt, and the Napthine government says it will build this tunnel afterall — a project that Victorians never wanted, that Victorians never voted for, but that every Victorian and their children and children’s children will have to pay for. It is a project that will do precious little to fix congestion.
In fact at most intersections it will make congestion worse. It has not been properly planned. It has barely been planned, full stop. It was thrown together with the sort of haste and artificial enhancement that would cost an accountant their job. Most importantly, it will take billions of dollars away from the other projects that Victorians actually need.
Let us start in 2010 when the Liberals said they were not going to the election with a plan for the east–west tunnel. I give them full marks for consistency, because they do not want to take the east–west link to this election either. In 2010 they buried their intentions for the east–west tunnel. Now they are doubling down —nothing to see here, nothing you may vote on, nothing you may know. The early life of this project was bookended by denial in the lead-up to 2010 and is being bookended by denial in the lead-up to 2014. There is no mandate for this tunnel, and in the intervening period there is its ungodly birth. As the artists’ impressions of east–west roll across our TV screens during every second ad break, I suggest ordinary Victorians are asking themselves, ‘How much will that thing cost?’.
Here is the answer: 8 royal children’s hospitals, 11 Burnley tunnels, 12 000 family homes and 20 million school kids bonuses.
It will cost $8 billion — and that is just for the dud tunnel itself.
All up, Victorians are looking at a price tag of $20 billion for the project, or 3 billion visits to your local GP under Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
A responsible government might consider setting aside a decent sum for the no. 1 infrastructure priority, something that could truly change the face of a state.
But this is not it. The Napthine government’s dud tunnel is not Victoria’s no. 1 transport priority. It is not even in the ball park. The umpires at Infrastructure Australia have given it a bronze medal, putting it in category 3 out of a possible 4 categories. What an endorsement. It does not even qualify for the top 2 categories of necessity and urgency, but the Liberals are giving it the gold. If it gets built, we can call it Steven Bradbury Boulevard. And what are we getting for it? How many minutes of travel time will it shave off?
What is this project ultimately worth? The government knows the details but it is not telling the Victorian taxpayer. I wonder why that is. A business case is not just some lofty strategic governance plan. Ordinary Victorians conduct modest business cases of their own when they sit around the kitchen table and work out whether they can afford a new car. It is the principal statement of cost, benefit and risk. If I am signing myself up to a $20 billion mortgage, it is the one thing I would want to see. That is a mortgage that the Napthine government is imposing on every single Victorian, but Victorians will not get to see the business case.
It is locked up like a Pentagon file, held in a safe under the Premier’s desk. What is the Napthine government hiding? Is it the bit that Infrastructure Australia described as ‘woefully inadequate’? The bit where the cost-benefit ratio, on Infrastructure Australia’s conservative estimate, is 80 cents to the dollar? Maybe we should listen to the words of the Napthine government’s own traffic modelling expert, Mr Doug Harley, a 27-year veteran of road building in Victoria and a former manager at VicRoads. He quit VicRoads in disgust over this dud tunnel. He said the road had been assessed using ‘a dodgy model to make it look like a huge economic success’.
Honourable members interjecting.
The SPEAKER — Order! If the Treasurer and the member for Richmond wish to have a conversation, they should leave the chamber. The member for Richmond has been interjecting for most of the time that the member for Monbulk has been on his feet. I ask him to cease interjecting.
Mr MERLINO — He said that the Napthine government ‘appears to be using an inflated value … to artificially inflate the benefits’. Here the VicRoads manager of traffic modelling publicly condemns the Napthine government’s traffic modelling, the very forecasts that will make or break this costly project. By his own admission, he was drummed out of VicRoads.
In Victoria’s great billion-dollar stitch up, the whistleblower got the fix up. His words are backed up by leaked cabinet documents, which say the dodgy figures were built on the proposition that the cost of running and fuelling a car will decrease. What an extraordinary assumption to make, considering that the government immediately went on to increase the cost of car registration to record levels.
Just like everything with this government, its concern is not about Victoria’s priorities; it is about politics. How else can this be explained? A leaked communications strategy coming from the heart of the government, admitting in clear print that the Liberals planned to promote the economic benefits of the project even if there were not any. Ready, fire, aim. That is the Napthine government’s world, where spin doctors think they know more about traffic modelling than a VicRoads manager of traffic modelling. But now we will never hear the Liberals quantify the precise economic benefits of the project. They have moved onto a new science —fake travel times.
Last month, the Napthine government released a report, which may just as well have said, ‘With the east–west link, you will arrive at your destination before you have even left home’. The government could not back up the report nor would it release any details. Then it was revealed that the authors of the report were not accredited, qualified or even knowledgeable in the field of traffic forecasting.
Here are the real facts from the real experts from the real report that was leaked. With the east–west link, traffic congestion on Hoddle Street will increase by 35 per cent in the morning. I can tell members that the vast majority of my constituents in Monbulk are travelling to work when they are travelling on the Eastern Freeway and they get off at Hoddle Street. For my constituents in Monbulk the dud $8 billion tunnel and east–west link will make their travel worse. Traffic congestion will increase by 35 percent. With the east–west link, traffic will increase by over 40 per cent at Thompsons Road, Bulleen, and Earl Street in Kew. It will increase by between 10 and 25 per cent as far east as Templestowe, as far north as Bell Street and as far west as Mount Alexander Road. And it will increase a massive 60 to 70percent every morning and every night on the Eastern Freeway, the very road this project is designed to relieve.
No wonder 104 Exhibition Street has taken over the Ringwood campaign. The member for Mitcham cannot even sell the benefits of the Liberal Party’s flagship project to the community at the end of the Eastern Freeway. Nobody is fooled. That is what happens when you cut before you measure. And all of us — every single Victorian man, woman and child — will be burdened with the cost. Taxpayers will foot the bill for this project when it fails. It will be a dark cloud in our skies for half a century.
Under the Liberals and their dud deal for this dud tunnel, if construction is delayed or if toll revenue is lower than predicted, the cost will be worn by the taxpayer. That was not the case with Labor’s Peninsula Link. Under that deal, if something had gone wrong — construction delays, changes in policy or industrial disputes—then the cost would be carried by the private company that was building it. The fact is that all the risk on this dud $8 billion tunnel is to be borne by the Victorian taxpayer —that is, the money that comes out of our pocket, out of our rates, out of our registration fees, out of our schools, out of our hospitals, out of our workplaces, out of our roads, out of our trains, out of our everything.
It has already started. The Napthine government dropped $90 million on 173 boutique apartments that it wants to encircle in a concrete moat of freeways.It is another planning disaster, because locals were not consulted and experts were not consulted. They were locked out of the process and their voices were silenced.
If this dud tunnel goes down, I can think of a few people who will be relieved — members of Youlden Parkville Cricket Club, workers at the Seeing Eye Dogs training centre, kids from country schools who stay at the urban camp in Parkville, locals who visit the Moonee Ponds Creek, kids at the Flemington housing estate, residents at the Chinese aged-care home in Parkville, families who use the Flemington Community Centre, students at Clifton Hill Primary School and residents in Bendigo Street. At the moment their community is hanging in the balance. The east–west link will destroy it, carving through the lungs of our city like a bulldozer.
My community, Speaker, will be relieved. They do not want this dud $8 billion tunnel. Your community does not want this dud $8 billion tunnel. When I am on the hustings, they are telling me that they want real investment in public transport. They want to have greater capacity on the Belgrave and Lilydale lines, and the only way that can be done is through Melbourne rail doubling the size of the city loop. They want buses in the Dandenong Ranges. They want the level crossing at Lilydale station removed, and that is what Labor is going to do.
However, the Liberals are not about people; they are about politics. They called this project a game changer.
But for the Liberals, it is just the same old game where the priorities of Victorians come last. If they want me to talk in a language that they understand, if they want a political analysis, then here is one: why will they not take this dud tunnel to the election? Do they think a mandate from the Victorian people does not matter, or do they think the verdict will be merciless? Either of them is an indictment of this government. The government is displaying contempt for our democracy, our rules and our community through the deeply flawed and fragile project on which it has gambled everything.
Today marks 62 days until the writs are issued for the next election. That is barely the time a settlement takes when you buy a home. If the Premier really believes this dud tunnel is the game-changing, congestion-busting, nation-building, century-defining project that he says it is, he should take it to the election and stop being the political coward that is.
Mr O’BRIEN (Treasurer) — I am delighted to join this debate. Let me start with a quote The evidence is clear: doing nothing is not an option.
Melbourne needs better east–west transport connections to address core congestion problems within the transport network, to meet rapidly increasing travel demand, to support a growing population and to keep pace with the changes taking place in the city’s economic and urban structure. The evidence is also clear that a failure to take action will undermine Melbourne’s future prosperity and reduce the benefits being generated by the city’s growth and development. Yes, the cost of improving these transport connections is substantial — but the cost of inaction is far greater.
These are not my words. These are the words of Sir Rod Eddington in his east–west link needs assessment study commissioned by the former Laborgovernment.In2006theLaborPremier of the day, Steve Bracks — who I see is back mentoring the Leader of the Opposition, Daniel, Dan or Don, or whatever he is calling himself today—commissioned Sir Rod Eddington to undertake a study. In Sir Rod’s words In 2006, the Victorian government asked me to investigate the best solutions for improving transport connections across Melbourne’s east–west corridor.
When he handed his study to the then Labor government in 2008, Sir Rod recommended, amongst other things, a new cross-city road corridor to connect the Eastern Freeway at Hoddle Street with CityLink, the port of Melbourne and the Western Ring Road.
Sir Rod Eddington was right then and he is right now.
Labor is wrong now, just as it has been wrong on every major transport infrastructure project in the last 30 years. There is no denying that Victoria is a large and growing state and that Melbourne is a large and growing city. We have population growth of over 100 000 people each year. If members opposite think we can get away with doing nothing to provide for the future growth of our city and keep our status as the world’s most livable city, they are kidding themselves. We know that their record is a record of absolute failure.
Ms Duncan interjected.
The SPEAKER — Order! The member for Macedon is out of her place and is disorderly.
Mr O’BRIEN — She is also wrong. A headline from the Age of 18 March 2011 reads, ‘Melbourne growth got away from us: Labor’. Who said that? The Leader of the Opposition, Daniel Andrews. The article states Daniel Andrews has conceded Labor lost government because it failed to meet community expectations as Melbourne’s runaway population growth ‘got away from us’.
Labor members did nothing. They commissioned a report and said, ‘We support the report’, and then they did nothing about it. Labor has always made the wrong call on infrastructure. Remember when before the 2006 election they said the desalination plant was a hoax.
Then they were re-elected and panicked because they had done nothing about water infrastructure. They delivered the biggest white elephant — —
Ms Duncan interjected.
The SPEAKER — Order! The member for Macedon is back in her place, but she is still disorderly.
I ask her to cease.
Mr O’BRIEN — They delivered the biggest white elephant in Victoria’s history. Where was the mandate for the desal?
Ms Duncan interjected.
SUSPENSION OF MEMBER Member for Macedon The SPEAKER — Order! Under standing order 124 the member for Macedon will leave the chamber for half an hour.
Honourable member for Macedon withdrew from chamber.
MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE East–west link Debate resumed.
Mr O’BRIEN (Treasurer) — Where was the mandate for desal? There was no mandate for desal. Where was the mandate for the north–south pipeline? Labor said it would never take water from across the Great Dividing Range and pump it to Melbourne. It got re-elected and it did just that. Where was the mandate for that? Where was the mandate for myki? Do members remember going to an election where Labor members said, ‘We want to blow billions of dollars on a public transport ticketing system that doesn’t work.
Vote for us’? I do not remember that either. Every single transport and infrastructure project the Labor Party has touched has turned to rubbish. That is why it cannot be trusted.
The one thing Labor did was to ask Sir Rod Eddington to compile the east–west link needs assessment (EWLNA). The study was clear: the no.1 road priority for Melbourne and for Victoria, according to Sir Rod and his eminent panel, was the east–west link.
It was not just Sir Rod who said that. I have a copy of a submission to the east–west transport options review dated 15 July 2008. Part of that submission says As part of an integrated transport solution, the 4WSMPS — four western suburbs MPs — support a cross-city road link from the western suburbs to the Eastern Freeway.
As the EWLNA report stresses, the consequences of ‘doing nothing’ are negative and far-reaching. They will threaten Melbourne’s future economic success and livability.
Who made that submission? The Honourable Brendan O’Connor, MP, the Labor federal member for Gorton; the Honourable Nicola Roxon, MP, the then Labor federal member for Gellibrand; the Honourable Julia Gillard, MP, the then federal member for Lalor; and the Honourable Bill Shorten, MP, the federal member for Maribyrnong. The current leader of the federal opposition and a former Labor Prime Minister wrote to the then state Labor government saying, ‘We need the east–west link’. What do members opposite say about that?
It is not just Labor royalty — the current federal opposition leader and a former Labor Prime Minister — who supported the east–west link, their mates from the union movement did as well. There was a submission on the Eddington east–west link needs assessment study from the Australian Workers Union (AWU) Victorian branch. Who was the state secretary of the AWU Victorian branch in July 2009? It would not be a current member of the state Labor Party, would it? It would not be Cesar Melhem, a member for Western Metropolitan Region in the other place, would it? I think it was. The submission states The new road link recommended by the EWLNA will create a direct, connected east–west route across the city for around 150 000 vehicles each day. It will provide an additional high-capacity river crossing and an alternative to the M1. It will eliminate ‘choke points’ in the cross-city road network, improving travel reliability and reducing the incentive for ‘rat-running’. The link will also provide much improved connections for freight transport to Melbourne Airport and the port of Melbourne.
I do not think I have ever said that before, but there is a union leader who speaks sense. So Julia Gillard, Bill Shorten, Brendan O’Connor, Nicola Roxon and the AWU all supported the east–west link.
Of course it is not just those. The then Premier, John Brumby, said on 15 August 2008 I think what is undeniable, in Rod Eddington’s report, is that the city does need a second east–west crossing … … one way or another we’ve got to address this issue of a second east–west crossing … The current member for Lyndhurst when he was in the other place on 19 August, 2008 — I think he may have been Minister for Public Transport at the time — made this statement on the 2008 east–west link needs assessment report …the Greens have told motorists in the middle and outer west to ‘stick it’ … I am not sure that that is parliamentary language down here, but he might have got away with it in the other place. He went on … no new river crossings and no new roads for them. Car drivers in the west are to be punished, sacrificed on the altar of green ideology.
What a strong and stout argument for the east–west link. Just look at the absolute hypocrisy of members opposite. This was a project they sought when in government. They commissioned Sir Rod Eddington to undertake a needs assessment. He delivered the report.
He said this was the no.1 road project priority for Melbourne. It has taken a coalition government to deliver it. This is not the first time we have seen the Labor Party take a completely hypocritical and opportunistic position when it comes to major infrastructure.
In the 1990s the coalition government of the day had the foresight to commence building CityLink. This provided the first proper freeway grade crossing of our city from east to west. Of course it was opposed by the Labor Party at the time. On 13 March 1996, the Age reported Mr Brumby made an absolute commitment to scrap the CityLink project.
That is what would have happened if Labor had won the 1996 election. What did Labor members say about CityLink at the time? They said, ‘It is too expensive. It is not needed. People will not pay tolls and people will not use it’. Does that sound familiar? It is exactly the same tired old rubbish arguments they trotted out nearly 20 years ago and the same tired old rubbish arguments they trot out today. Labor was wrong about CityLink then, it is wrong about CityLink now and it is wrong about the east–west link today. Twenty years on is there a single Labor member who does not believe that CityLink was a good idea? Is there a single Labor member who is prepared to stand up and say, ‘We were right back in 1996. CityLink was a bad project that should not have gone ahead’. We have the sounds of silence.
Mr Wynne — Just get on with it.
Mr O’BRIEN — And we are!
The SPEAKER — Order! The house will come to order. The member for Richmond!
Mr O’BRIEN — The member for Richmond is right. We are getting on with it. That is exactly what we are doing. This matter of public importance claims that the house has not had a chance to vote on the east–west link. I refer — — Mr Wynne interjected.
The SPEAKER — Order! The member for Richmond is on his last warning.
Mr O’BRIEN — I refer to a bill that was debated in this place just over a year ago on 22 August 2013. The title of the bill was Major Transport Projects Facilitation Amendment(East West Link and Other Projects) Bill 2013. There might be a clue in the title of that bill for the member of Richmond that it was actually about the east–west link. There was considerable debate in this very chamber on this important bill because it was about facilitating major transport projects, including the east–west link.
That bill passed this house, and one of its strongest supporters was the member for Frankston. And why would he not support it? Back then he said it would create jobs, which it will. He said it would benefit people in his electorate, which it will. He said it will benefit Victorians, which it will. He made the point that Labor’s concerns and complaints that there was no business case were wrong because the Linking Melbourne Authority had produced a business case, and he was right.
We know there was a business case because the member for Richmond gave evidence at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) asking to have the business case released. So the member knows there is a business case. Hopefully members opposite will stop telling this untruth that there is no business case. The member for Richmond knows there is a business case because he sought access to it under freedom of information laws. The evidence of the member for Richmond at VCAT was extraordinary. He said, ‘In Labor’s day we had these business cases, but we never read them’. Fortunately VCAT found that the coalition government operates a bit more sensibly. We do read business cases.
This project is absolutely vital for Victoria. It is vital because Melbourne is a growing city and Victoria is a growing state. For a while the opposition has been trotting out the argument — they have gone a bit soft on it lately — that if you do the east–west link, there will be no money for anything else. What can you say when in this budget we have funded the Melbourne rail link with a 35 000 person per hour capacity increase?
We are funding the Melbourne Airport rail link. We have 40 level crossings either done or being done at the moment. We have the Cranbourne-Pakenham rail corridor upgrade with 25 new trains, high-capacity signalling and grade separations. We have the CityLink Tullamarine widening project. We have the Murray Basin rail project— a $220 million project.
This government is investing in public transport and in roads because with a city the size of Melbourne and a state the size of Victoria the government cannot make the choice to invest in either public transport or roads — it needs to do both. That is what a sensible government does. It builds finances and invests in the projects that make abig difference to this state. What we see from members of the Labor Party in this chamber is absolute hypocrisy. This was the party that commissioned Rod Eddington to advise on the need for the east–west link. Those opposite accepted that when they were in government. Their federal colleagues, including the current leader of the federal opposition, has supported the east–west link. Julia Gillard, the former Prime Minister, has supported the east–west link. The Victorian branch of the Australian Workers Union has supported the east–west link. Cesar Melhem supported the east–west link. This is a project that needs to be built. It needs to be built because our state is growing. Unlike Labor, the government is not prepared to let that growth get away from us. We are going to build a better Victoria, we aregoing to get on with it and we are going to build the east–west link.
Mr PALLAS (Tarneit) — There is only one certainty in this debate on the east–west link, and that is that the people of Victoria deserve a right to have a say on a key piece of infrastructure. By the government’s own admission, this project could cost up to $18 billion, but this government, which is so afraid of its own shadow but is so arrogant in its direction and intent that it wants to cast aside the will of the people, seems to be intent on hurtling towards introducing a piece of infrastructure for which there is no evident need in terms of the case that the government seeks to put to the Victorian people. There is no evident need for it because those opposite are so afraid of the Victorian people and their judgement.
One of my favourite television shows is Utopia on the ABC. It is a show about the difficult process of taking uncosted, inadequately planned and fundamentally flawed schemes and passing them off as nation-building. I have news for members of this government: that show is not a documentary but a satire. If it wants to be identified as the foolish government that it is, it should rush headlong into building a piece of infrastructure that it has failed to justify to the Victorian people. There is nothing more transparent than that this is a government hurtling towards disaster and seeking to drag the Victorian people with it.
Just days out from the 2010 election, after having sneakily refuted on ABC radio the idea that the members of the now government had any intention of building an east–westlink, those members rushed out a media release in which they actually accused me of a Laurel and Hardy routine, of all things. The only slapstick renditions we are getting in this place come day to day from members of this sick joke of a government, which is afraid of its own shadow and definitely afraid of the people of Victoria and their judgement.
The government put that panicked protest forward before the people of Victoria because it was worried about what the people of Victoria would say about this project. When members of the then government went to the people and said, ‘They have a secret plan for an east–west road link joining the Eastern Freeway to the Tullamarine Freeway’, what did those opposite say?
They said, ‘We’ve got no plans’. I should read to the house the words of the now Minister for Public Transport, because they are important. He said You’re not going to drive yourself out of problems … our view is that the answer is an efficient … public transport system.
Just to complete the fraud upon the Victorian people, he went on to say that they had no plans for an east–west road link. Of course they have no plans! Why do we have to take their word when they say that they have plans? They have certainly produced nothing that would demonstrate that they have a coherent view about delivering infrastructure. This is a government whose members, after getting rid of the Premier the people voted for, the Premier who actually never saw this plan come to a point where the government had committed to it, then installed a bloke nobody voted for, a Premier that nobody wants. It is a government that specialises in avoiding votes because its members are so afraid of the judgement of the people of Victoria.
What cowardice. There is $18 billion of taxpayers funds being committed to a project that government members do not even have the intestinal fortitude to put to the Victorian people. It is cowardice upon cowardice.
It is a government whose members are not prepared to make their case in a transparent way to the Victorian people.
Who says that you should put to the Victorian people these things that are so critically important to the livability and the effective delivery of infrastructure and ultimately to the performance of Victoria? The answer is that it is no less an authority than Infrastructure Australia. It has basically said that all public infrastructure projects valued at more than $1 billion should be subject to a cost-benefit analysis, with the results made public before the project starts. That is Infrastructure Australia’s preference.
As members know, the idea that this government would hold itself to account before the people of this state is a joke, because this is a joke of a government. Not only are its members prepared to get rid of the Premier the people voted for and install a Premier nobody voted for — at the head of a government that nobody in this state wants —but avoiding votes has clearly been at the front and centre of their minds. They have been acting with their typical signature panic to sign up on a project only weeks before an election. What cowardice from a government whose members will not hold themselves up to account by the Victorian people. Let us not hear any more bloated lecturing from those opposite about democracy and Westminster principles. They have done nothing but distort them. You could see no greater distortion of the Westminster principles than this government’s fear of the Victorian people, the fear of government members about a vote in this place on a project that goes so fundamentally to the wellbeing of Victoria and its livability into the future.
This project is simply not a priority of Victorians, as is shown in an Age/Neilsen poll. Perhaps even the Liberal Party is doing some polling of its own. I suspect that it is and that its polling is saying to Liberal members, ‘Avoid a vote on this, whatever you do. Present the people of Victoria with a foregone conclusion. Treat them like serfs. Whatever you do, don’t bring them into your confidence — don’t believe that the people of Victoria have a genuine role to participate in a judgement about where $18 billion of their funds should go’. Labor has taken the people of Victoria into its confidence. What we have said is that there are 50 level crossings that will be removed from across Victoria and will be fully funded. That is what a government should do. A government should have the courage of its convictions, and that is what those opposite do not have. For all the Treasurer likes to boast and for all his boasting and excitement in this place, let us not forget about what he told this place just yesterday when he said When you make the wrong choices on infrastructure … you are not fit to run this state. Who ultimately makes choices on infrastructure?
Ultimately it is the people of Victoria, and those are the people this government has excluded. Its refusal to allow a parliamentary vote is nothing short of cowardice from this government. What this government has refused to tell the people of Victoria — — Mr O’Brien interjected.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The Treasurer will stop interjecting.
Mr PALLAS — The Treasurer refused to tell the people of Victoria the facts when he was before the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee, when he was given the opportunity.
Mr K. Smith interjected.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member for Bass is warned.
Mr PALLAS — The Treasurer was asked whether the people of Victoria would know before the election what the level of tolls would be and what the availability charge would be. That is a recurrent payment of hundreds of millions of dollars that the Victorian people will have to pay every year for this project, but will they know about that before the election? Will they know what impact this project will have on state debt — state debt that this Treasurer has tripled under his watch? Will they know that?
Mr O’Brien interjected.
Mr PALLAS — It has gone from $8 billion to $25 billion. The Treasurer is a clown; he does not even know what impact his stewardship has had on the state of Victoria. That is the problem with this bloke: he has no idea.
Mr O’Brien interjected.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The Treasurer will stop interjecting and the member for Tarneit will stop inviting interjections.
Mr PALLAS — The Treasurer ran away; he did whatever he could to avoid the scrutiny of the people. He was offered the opportunity to tell the people of Victoria before the next election how much they were going to pay, how much debt they would have and how much would come out of their schools and hospitals every year. What was the answer he gave? ‘We will tell you in about 90 days’. The magic number of 90 days after the signing of this contract happens to be after the next election. What a bunch of cowards. The people of Victoria can see through this government, and they will make their judgement accordingly.
Mr MULDER (Minister for Public Transport) — What a pleasure it is to follow the former Minister for Roads and Ports in the Labor government. His major legacy to this state was going to be that he could stand back from his seat in Tarneit and watch those fairy lights flashing on and off on the West Gate Bridge.
That was his major contribution as the then minister for roads throughout the period under Labor in the former government — fairy lights on the West Gate Bridge. I stopped that dead in its tracks, and that money was reallocated to major infrastructure and repairs on our road network, which is where it should have been spent in the first place. What an absolute joke that was, and how hard it must be for members on the other side of the house to sit there and prepare speeches when they know very well that in government they set plans in motion for the east–west link. They commissioned Sir Rod Eddington’s report and they embraced that report for the east–west link. When you look across the house at the heads down — and they know who they are — you see that they all supported the east–west link.
It is amazing what a difference a day makes. The former government was thrown out of office on its ears for failing to plan for growth, which was acknowledged and admitted by the Leader of the Opposition when he said that the former government got thrown out because it failed to plan for growth. What is the opposition doing now? It is attacking the project that it embraced when it was in government — the east–west link. It attacked WestLink, which was a project it embraced when in government. It is attacking the upgrade of the metropolitan rail network, the Melbourne rail link. It will not deliver an airport rail link. Only a coalition government will deliver an airport rail link. As for the Cranbourne-Pakenham rail corridor, I was told that 1 in 10 people in metropolitan Melbourne use that corridor. People will turn up, but they will not get on a train because there is no capacity. The opposition turned its back on what it calls the third track between Caulfield and Dandenong and left the system in an absolute mess. It has been up to this government to clean it up.
We can build good public transport infrastructure and we can build good road infrastructure, but it can only be done if the state’s finances are managed well, and that is exactly what the Treasurer of Victoria has done. I, as Minister for Public Transport and Minister for Roads, have $24 billion to spend on public transport and road projects as a result of the sound financial management that this government has put in place. There is no doubt about it, when Labor was in government it loved the project, wanted the project, but now in opposition it has gone to ground because of the pressure it is under from the Greens, and that is what it is all about. With pressure from the Greens, the opposition has gone to ground on it, and it is running scared. It is facing an election — and have a look at where all its emphasis is placed. The opposition is trying to fend off the Greens and trying not to acknowledge the fact that it loves the project and was committed to the project, but now it stands back, hiding behind the coat-tails, without enough ticker to go ahead on a very valuable project for the people of Victoria.
The opposition talks about a plan; it has no plan. I have a document here in front of me which is called ‘Going places: better transport for all Victorians — Delivering on the plan’. This was Labor’s plan. It states Transport is one of our biggest challenges, and as we tackle those challenges we will prepare Victoria for the future with planning, geotechnical surveying and community consultation on the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel, WestLink, the critical second river crossing … That was Labor’s plan to move forward. Recently, on 22 May, the Leader of the Opposition conceded that the government had ‘struggled to keep pace with the unprecedented growth of the last decade’, and that had contributed to the November election loss.
You cannot honestly come in here and knock major infrastructure programs that actually deliver for the growth of this state going forward and for the world’s most livable city. Opposition members honestly cannot come in here with their hands on their hearts and say they believe what they are saying. It is not true — no-one believes them — and we all know very well that if there were to be a Labor government after the election, this project — the east–west link and other projects that we have put our hands up to fund and support — would go ahead. A Labor government would jump straight on board, because we know very well what its plans are. We also know what various members on that side have said about this project.
Can I just say, in relation to not having a mandate for this project — —
The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order!
Mr MULDER — I think it is very important to understand what was released by the president of the RACV RACV members had told us they support the East West Link.
That was published in the February issue of the RACV’s publication, Royal Auto. The Royal Automotive Club of Victoria represents 2.13 million members, and they support the east–west link. The Australian Industry Group represents the interests of more than 60 000 businesses, and it supports the east–west link. The Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which has 15 000 members, supports the east–west link. The Master Builders Association has 9000 members, and it would know the cost to its businesses and its members’ businesses of not having smooth-flowing traffic along the Eastern Freeway road reservation. The Master Builders Association, as I say, has 9000 members, and it supports the east–west link. The Committee for Melbourne represents more than 100 member organisations, and it is also supportive of it, as is the Australian Logistics Council, which represent more than 50 member organisations. The G21 Geelong Region Alliance represents 300 community leaders, and it supports our proposal. The Australian Workers Union represents 135 000 working men and women and their families, who all support the building of the east–west link — all of those union members!
Engineers Australia represents 107 000 members, and Engineers Australia supports the building of the east–west link. The regional cities of Victoria, the 10 largest cities outside metropolitan Melbourne — —
Mr Trezise interjected.
Mr MULDER — The member for Geelong would know — —
The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member for Geelong will desist!
Mr MULDER — Geelong wants to see this road built. The people of that city want to see the WestLink built, they want to see the east–west link built and they want to see the port connection built. Members of the Ballarat City Council and people in Bendigo all want to see this road built. People in the major cities want to see this road built.
Former Premier John Brumby and members of the former Bracks government want to see this road built.
They said in the past that they want to see this road built and that it is important for Victoria. Of course there are some state opposition MPs who want it too; those members are usually not in the chamber during debate on this issue. The member for Footscray, the member for Williamstown and Cesar Melhem, a member for Western Metropolitan Region in the other place, are all great supporters of this project, as is the member for Niddrie. Every time we have this debate in relation to the east–west link, they seem to up and off.
Recently I spoke to a young lady who travels along the Eastern Freeway of a morning, and I found what she said interesting. She said, ‘You know, it has its advantages coming in on the Eastern Freeway: I can put on my make-up while I’m driving to work!’. She said, ‘I can do that, because I am stuck in traffic, sitting there with nothing else to do. I jump into the car, throw the make-up pack in alongside me, and as I’m heading out on the highway I sit there as the traffic grinds to a halt and I bang the lippie on and put the rest of it on. I am ready to go to work as soon as I pull up in the car’.
It is a shocking situation when you get that sort of commentary about one of our major road networks. We have been rated the world’s most livable city, and we received a 100 per cent rating for infrastructure. We can run efficient public transport and we can build the roads we need this state, because we manage money well.
Labor governments cannot manage money; they cannot manage major projects. That is why they stop, stall and stutter each time it comes to running these projects. All you get is a plan, a major plan, but there is never any genuine money put on the table. It is only a coalition government that can manage the state’s finances well and that can actually put up the dollars and deliver.
It is not just the infrastructure; it is the services as well.
The member the Tarneit referred to efficient public transport. I say to him he should go back and have a look at the 11 years of the former government and compare that to the coalition’s one term in office. He should look at how that has turned around. We are not just building the major infrastructure — the east–west link, the Tullamarine Freeway widening, the airport rail link, the Melbourne rail link, the Cranbourne-Pakenham-Dandenong corridor — it is also about service delivery and looking after customers who use our public transport network on a day-to-day basis. Opposition members should hang their heads in shame, because their record is absolutely appalling!
The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The minister’s time has expired.
Ms KANIS (Melbourne) — The new ABC satire Utopia provides plenty of laughs about poor government planning.
Honourable members interjecting.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! Opposition members should show some respect to their own speaker.
Ms KANIS — Thank you, Deputy Speaker.
Unfortunately, the reality is not terribly funny. The state of Victoria has been writing its own script for an episode of Utopia. It involves an $8 billion road tunnel, more than 100 property owners facing dispossession, hundreds of residents whose homes will be next to a roaring toll road with no compensation and vast swathes of heritage parkland and precious sportsgrounds under threat.
The plot of this episode revolves around a government intent on building the ultimate infrastructure white elephant, against all planning, economic and transport advice. The government spends millions advertising its road, promising that it will reduce congestion, improve public transport, improve pedestrian routes and deliver enormous community benefits. The government then spends millions of dollars defending its project in a 30-day expert committee, and then ignores the majority of recommendations made by planning experts. The government ducks and weaves through FOI cases and is brought before the Supreme Court to defend its unpopular project.
The twist in the plot is that, despite all this, the government refuses to produce evidence of the economic benefits of the project, the east–west link.
The government hides the business case in a box in a courtroom. ‘Trust us’, the government tells the community. I, along with thousands of residents in the electorate of Melbourne, do not trust the coalition government and its secret business case.
This real-life episode of governmental secrecy, spin, misrepresentation and wastage is not at all funny. For hundreds of residents who have been told their homes will be acquired, this episode is heartbreaking.
It should not be the case that residents in my electorate of Melbourne are living with the possibility of a concrete flyover being built within 5 metres of their homes, but this is the scenario facing residents of Bent Street, Kensington. Residents of Parkville and North Melbourne do not know if a tollway exit slated for Flemington Road will emerge on or nearby their properties. Members of the Friends of Royal Park do not know if wetlands, trees and open space will be demolished. Sports clubs have been left without playing fields while the coalition charges ahead with its wasteful east–west link. Nothing about this episode is at all entertaining or beneficial for residents of Carlton, who will have a tunnel dug beneath their homes and ventilation stacks puffing exhaust fumes, for the Friends of Royal Park, for heritage flora and fauna sites, for residents of Manningham Street, for residents of the Flemington housing estate or for properties and residents in Kensington.
A few weeks ago the Premier tried to convince people that travel times on the toll road will defy reality. He argued that people will be able to travel at 75 kilometres per hour through the tunnel during peak hour. This tunnel, which will carry an estimated 100 000 vehicles per day, will connect a congested Eastern Freeway to a congested CityLink, yet somehow cars will be able to zip between those two congested freeways. Maybe that is because it will be so expensive that very few people will choose to use it. The Premier cannot have it both ways. He cannot say the road is needed for thousands of cars and that travel times will be exceptional. That is a plot inconsistency that does not fool anyone.
It is worth noting that traffic projections for the east–west link hardly make the case for its necessity.
The government has predicted that somewhere between 80 000 and 120 000 vehicles will use the east–west link every day. There are over 4 million registered vehicles in Victoria. If 120 000 use the east–west link, that is a total of 3 per cent of Victoria’s vehicles. There are 1.5 million cars in Melbourne, and the government expects only 8 per cent of them to use the east–west link. CityLink carries 800 000 vehicles per day; the east–west link is projected to carry 120 000 at best. This project will use up billions of dollars that could be spent on public transport, schools and hospital beds but will service, at best, only 3 per cent of Victoria’s vehicles.
Who will benefit from this project? Most of the residents of my electorate of Melbourne certainly will not benefit, and at best only 8 per cent of Melburnians and 3 per cent of Victorians will use the road.
I want to make something very clear to the coalition, to the Linking Melbourne Authority and to Melbourne: I do not support the east–west link. The Labor opposition does not support the east–west link. A Labor government will not support the east–west link, because it will do nothing to reduce traffic on our roads; because it will steal money from schools, hospitals and public transport; because it is not warranted by traffic data; because the planning processes have been hasty, chaotic, slapdash and flawed; and because no-one other than the government has seen the secret business case.
The project has been marketed by the coalition as a second river crossing. I am not sure which maps the Premier is consulting, but on my maps there is no river between Parkville and Collingwood, so I am not sure which river stage 1 of the east–west link will cross.
The assessment committee report made public in June highlights dozens of concerns about the project and recommends that part B — a four-lane duplication of CityLink from Flemington to Footscray — be removed.
The Minister for Planning ignored this advice and requested a development plan for this section. We are now just weeks away from the advertised starting date for the construction of the project, and the Linking Melbourne Authority has said it has not even started drafting a plan for part B.
Labor MPs, community members and councils have worked tirelessly to challenge the completely substandard planning that is propping up the coalition’s east–west link. The coalition has been challenged by two FOI cases, two court cases, a Senate motion and thousands of community members taking action. Even the Productivity Commission has spoken out against infrastructure projects that are not subjected to rigorous public scrutiny. The commission wrote this year Properly conducted cost-benefit studies of large projects, and their disclosure to the public, is an important starting point for guiding project selection and improving the transparency of decision-making.
Further, the commission said that processes should be immediately reformed for planning and selecting public infrastructure projects, including rigorous and transparent use of cost-benefit analyses, evaluations, public consultation and public reporting of the decision, so as to maximise the net benefits for the whole community.
A transparent cost-benefit analysis and genuine consultation are missing from this project. In opposition, the now planning minister said he respected consultation. He said When we had public consultation, people meant it. I remember being an adviser in the Premier’s office — in the Kennett years, when — we actually did take things into account, particularly from industry groups and from councils, and those submissions meant something. Nowadays, it’s just done as part and parcel of spin.
Yes, nowadays it is just part and parcel of spin. The planning minister wrote recently … we have reformed our planning system to give real certainty to investors, councils and residents so that our suburbs are protected once and for all … That is not so when it comes to the east–west link.
There has been no protection for wetlands, trees, parkland, homes, Vision Australia, Urban Camp, the Flemington Community Centre, the Debneys Park playground, Manningham Street residents, Clifton Hill residents and Bendigo Street residents. None of these have been protected.
Members of the audience for this episode of real-life infrastructure planning are not laughing. This episode of Victoria’s Utopia needs a satisfying ending. The east–west link should not be built. A Labor government will not allow such cavalier disregard for people’s homes, parkland, community facilities, sports grounds, planning law, heritage and taxpayers money. Along with the thousands of community members who have fought this economic flop and planning and transport fiasco, we will continue to fight the coalition’s east–west link. We demand that this project be taken to the election so that Victorians can vote on it. Let us see what people actually think about it.
Ms RYALL (Mitcham) — From the outset it is important to establish what the east–west link is about.
The east–west link is about the future. It is not just about us sitting here today. It is about our children and our children’s children and making sure that they have a city that works. It is not just about the political expediency that we have seen from those opposite.
There are significant benefits to the east–west link. As many members know, I live adjacent to the Eastern Freeway. I am very familiar with the amount of traffic that uses that freeway.
When I look back, I see that it was Labor that in 2008 commissioned the Rod Eddington report which recommended the building of the east–west link. It was Labor that trumpeted the east–west link. It made sure everybody knew about it. It was on the lips of every Labor member. In fact on 15 August 2008 former Premier John Brumby said I think what is undeniable, in Rod Eddington’s report, is that the city does need a second east-west crossing … So, one way or another we’ve got to address this issue of a second east-west crossing … The member for Lyndhurst said in 2008, and I quote from Hansard … the Greens have told motorists in the middle and outer west to ‘stick it’ — no new river crossings and no new roads for them. Car drivers in the west are to be punished, sacrificed on the altar of green ideology.
Who is telling who to ‘stick it’ now?
The Leader of the Opposition in a speech to the Melbourne Press Club in October 2012 said A back-up for the West Gate, which currently handles more than 165 000 vehicles a day as well as the significant commercial and residential growth in the west, makes the case compelling.
The member for Tarneit in his former role as roads minister said WestLink is an important project for Melbourne that will reduce over-reliance on the West Gate Bridge, cater for the planned expansion of the port of Melbourne, remove cars and trucks from local roads, create more jobs and improve our way of life.
Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten supported the east–west link. Bill Shorten and Cesar Melham stated in a document entitled Submission to Study by Sir Rod Eddington East–West Link Needs in 2009 The Australian Workers Union (AWU) believes that the new east–west link is crucial to jobs and economic growth. A new transport link from Melbourne’s booming west to the south east and eastern suburbs has the AWU’s strong support because the Victorian economy relies on the efficient movement of freight and people.
You have got to ask: what has changed? What has changed in that time that would suddenly make those opposite change their minds from saying, ‘This is what we need. There is a compelling case. The unions say it and the federal opposition leader says it’. What has changed? Nothing has changed apart from there being a few inner city seats at risk for those opposite Richmond, Northcote, Brunswick and Melbourne.
Labor has no choice but to oppose the east–west link because of those inner-city seats. There is no choice.
There is nothing scientific about this change. There is no sense to it other than political advantage.
This was a report commissioned by Labor when it was in government, trumpeting a second east–west river crossing and detailing all the reasons why it was important. Now members opposite want our kids and our grandkids and future generations to be relegated to Bangkok-style traffic congestion. That is what they want for our future generations. Do they think for a moment that our kids are going to thank us for it? Will they say thank you for the massive congestion on our roads? In my community this is about building for future generations. In my electorate we only need to look at the level crossing removals — the Mitcham and Rooks Road level crossings are gone, and every week I have people coming up to me saying thank you for removing that level crossing. The removal of the Blackburn Road level crossing is funded. The preliminary work on the level crossings at Bayswater Road and Scoresby Road in Bayswater has been commenced. The new Mitcham station has been completed. The tender for work on the Ringwood station and bus interchange has been let.
It has taken this government to deal with the road congestion in the Mitcham and Ringwood areas. It has taken this government to relieve and reduce that road congestion. Now people are saying, ‘Get on with the east–west link. Deal with it’. Week after week when I am out the community people are telling me to get it done. Tradies, businesspeople, workers and families are all saying, ‘Get it done’. They also want to see work being done for the Melbourne rail link, which will move an additional 35 000 people per peak hour. They are saying, ‘Get that done’. They are also asking, ‘Is the airport link going to happen? We have wanted it for so long’. They are saying, ‘We are so grateful that you are the only government that has committed to it. You are the only government that is putting our money where your mouth is’. Other infrastructure includes Box Hill Hospital.
Mr Angus — Hear, hear!
Ms RYALL — I agree. It is very much a ‘Hear, hear!’ for our community. The Box Hill Hospital is an incredible new facility with more than 200 additional new beds. There is the expansion of the Maroondah Hospital. There is the rebuilding of Blackburn Primary School, Mount Pleasant Road Primary School and Eastwood Primary School, as well as upgrades to Mullauna Secondary College, Ringwood Secondary College, Ringwood North Primary School and Ringwood Heights Primary School. This is what this government is doing to build for the future of our children and our children’s children. It is not just for now. It is about the future.
My father loved Slim Dusty. Slim Dusty sang a song called Looking Forward, Looking Back. On this side of the house is a government that looks forward to what needs to be done, not just now but in the future. Those opposite are looking back in the rear-vision mirror. It seems they were looking forward back in 2008 and 2009 when the Eddington report came out, but now they are looking back and saying, ‘No, we won’t do it’.
This government looks forward. It is planning for the future, building for growth and making a city and state that works. That is where we sit. If we followed Labor’s agenda, this state would be full of white elephants — just to complement their existing white elephants.
Mr Angus — Desal!
Ms RYALL — The desal plant! The member for Forest Hill talks about the desal plant, which is costing $1.8 million a day. Do members think that Victorians would rather spend their $1.8 million a day on their water bills or on hospitals, schools, rail and roads? Over the course of one week $1.8 million a day is sufficient to build an entire primary school, and on top of that it is providing no jobs. With our east–west link, our Melbourne rail link, our airport link, our Tullamarine Freeway widening and the Pakenham-Cranbourne train line upgrade we are talking tens of thousands of jobs.
It is not just about now, it is about the future and about job creation. We have to put all the factors in, based on very sound economic management — thanks to the Treasurer of this state — to make sure we have the funds to create jobs and build the infrastructure of the future. That is what the east–west link is about; it is part of an overall plan that is funded to make sure we have a state that works, to make sure that our kids and their kids can look back and say, ‘Thank you’, like we look back at Henry Bolte and say, ‘Thank you for the vision you had. Thank you for setting apart that land around the port of Hastings. Thank you for having the vision that we would have another port there’. People look back on coalition governments and say, ‘Thank you for the Bolte Bridge, thank you for the West Gate Bridge, thank you for CityLink’.
I think the member for Melton talked before about the amount of traffic on CityLink. We can only imagine that traffic being stuck there without CityLink. We have a mountain of people who need to get from A to B, and we have got Ringwood Secondary College that absolutely needs infrastructure.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member’s time has expired.
Ms GARRETT (Brunswick) — The member for Mitcham stood here in this place and said that this is a project about our children and our children’s children — although I must say she spoke with a lot less passion than she has when she talks about unions in this state. But we agree with the member for Mitcham — this project is about our children and their children. What the government is trying to do is put an $8 billion concrete millstone around the necks of our children and our children’s children by trying to ram through this dud tunnel — not only ram it through the homes and gardens of those in the electorates we represent, but ram it through to the exclusion of other projects and investment in public transport. The government seeks to put that millstone around the necks not just of this generation but of the generations to come.
In what time frame is the government seeking to do this? I know there are a lot of people listening to this debate, because a lot of people passionately care about this issue. They know, and members of this house know, that the sun is now setting on the 57th Parliament of Victoria, a Parliament that has been characterised by turbulence, a lack of direction and farce — which we have seen unfolding again this morning. It has been a government riven with division. We have lost Premiers, Treasurers and ministers. We now have an unelected Premier who not only assumed the reins halfway through the government’s term, much to everybody’s surprise, in the middle of the night, but who then, with his dead, cold hand, produced the idea that we were going to run with an $8 billion tunnel. This is a tunnel which this government — in its various manifestations and with different names in front of it — has never taken to the Victorian people. It did not take it to them in 2010 — in fact quite the opposite.
On 17 November 2010 on ABC radio, the member for Polwarth, now the Minister for Roads, who made his usual passionate contribution to this matter of public importance today, said in relation to the east–west link, ‘You made that up’, ‘You were wrong’, ‘We are not going to this election with a plan’ for this tunnel.
Instead the government promised to fix Victoria’s public transport system. In January 2011, after being elected, the Minister for Roads said We went to the election to say that we had no plans for the tunnel. And that is our policy.
Yet here we stand in the shadow of the writs, where the government has the arrogance to attempt to sign contracts on a project that will define Victoria for generations to come — not just in terms of the amount of money that will be tied up in it, but in terms of priorities of roads over public transport and what it will do to our beautiful city. The government is trying to ram this through in the shadow of the writs, and it is a complete and utter disgrace.
It is a bigger disgrace when we know from poll after published poll that Victorians — not just in the inner city seats but across Victoria — are condemning this project. They do not want this project. According to a recent poll, one in five Victorians thought that this project was a good idea. Overwhelmingly Victorians have embraced Labor’s plan to make rail travel more efficient and clean up congestion on our roads through our level crossing program and Project 10 000. Time and again across electorates Victorians have rejected this as the direction in which they want our state to go.
Once again, in the dying days of the 57th Parliament, with no mandate, with a project never taken to the
Victorian people, this government is thumbing its nose at the Victorian people. It is treating them with disdain.
There is clear choice for Victorians at this election. On this side of the house we oppose this tunnel. We want that money invested in public transport. We are a matter of weeks from the caretaker period. If this project is such a damn fine idea, as members opposite try to suggest, then take it to the people and let them decide the future and the shape of this city.
As we have heard from previous speakers, at every stage of this thought bubble the unelected Premier had that we have all been dragged down this road with, we have opposed the construction of the tunnel on clear, sound grounds. We say it is an $8 billion dud and an inexcusable waste of taxpayers money that should instead be spent on public transport.
The opposition has participated fully in every farcical process this government has put up. It is opposing the tunnel. We know there are a range of legal actions still on foot, including from both the Yarra and Moreland councils, about the tunnel and regarding the latest debacle, when the Minister for Planning ignored the recommendations of his own comprehensive impact statement (CIS) process and decided to change the route halfway through without proper consultation, analysis or discussion. It is really clear that the Napthine government has no mandate to sign any contracts, and for it to even be considering signing contracts at this late stage of the day, when there is so much opposition to this project, is the height of arrogance. It is not just about the vision for the city and where we want money invested; it is about the actual process and the underpinning surrounding this $8 billion white elephant — an $8 billion millstone around the necks of our children.
Let me just go through some of the problems with this over the last 18 months. This project is a circus and a farce, as much as this government has been a circus and a farce. So why should we be surprised? Yet we are — every day there is a new little shock from the mob opposite. First and foremost, as we have heard, the government has refused to release the business case to the Victorian people for full analysis. In fact the Labor opposition had to take the government to court and argue in a lengthy process before the tribunal, when all it is asking for is transparency and openness on behalf of the community which this government seeks to inflict this project upon.
We say the tunnel is built on dodgy evidence and there is a complete lack of transparency and openness. The government has repeatedly refused to address concerns about the flawed methodology around this project.
Whistleblowers out of VicRoads, who have resigned over these issues, have said that this just does not stack up, it is a folly, it is a complete waste of money and the government has tried to beat up the figures to make this look like it is an appropriate project. When issues around traffic modelling and the like have been raised, the government has run a mile — like it is running a mile from its responsibility to let the Victorian people decide about the future of our city and our state. We know the Infrastructure Australia process did not place this project as a priority. That was ignored by this government, which decided overnight to announce the thing, without ever taking it to the people to start with.
It has refused, and repeatedly refused, to take into consideration the growing concern across the city and the state about this project and its impact on how our city and our state will operate. As I have mentioned, we had the quite frankly gobsmacking process around the CIS. In the middle of the night, again, the Minister for Planning changed the route, with a whole new raft of people to be affected with compulsory acquisition and changes to their environment — with not a skerrick of consultation or discussion.
This just smacks of a project that was ill thought out, that was not planned properly and that does not have the underpinnings of a proper business case and of evidence to back up that this is exactly where our money should be spent. It smacks of the panic and chaos that has characterised this government. In the shadow of the writs it is seeking to inflict a massive burden not just on the inner city electorates but on Victoria as a whole. People are really angry about this.
People are up in arms and are calling on this government to take the project to an election, which is weeks away.
Mr WELLER (Rodney) — When you go to business training or leadership training people talk about one constant — that is, that there is change. In this case the Labor Party is proving that it consistently changes. It was not so long ago that the mention of a second crossing for Melbourne had Labor MPs reaching for a petition to sign or pointing to an unfunded promise to finally deliver a second crossing for Melbourne. Such was their commitment to this project that when the coalition government announced stage 1 of the east–west link between the Eastern Freeway and CityLink, Labor begged us to start the western end first.
Now things have changed. Labor has turned its back on its heartland in the west. It has turned its back on Geelong, turned its back on Ballarat and turned its back on Melbourne. At one point Cesar Melhem, a member for Western Metropolitan in the other place, declared, ‘You’d be crazy not to build the east–west link’. He stood side by side with the member for Williamstown and the member for Footscray in front of a billboard declaring that the west was choking and pleading with Premier Napthine to stop the neglect. Now he has been told by the Leader of the Opposition, ‘Sorry, mate, we’re not going to do that’. They have walked away from the western suburbs.
I will quote a few statements by some Labor Party people. I will start with the Leader of the Opposition, who said I think a second river crossing, an important redundancy for the West Gate Bridge and a link direct into the port, is a stronger project.
Stronger when you consider the productivity benefits and stronger when you acknowledge that funds are of course limited.
The price tag for the entire project is astronomical — some $12 to $15 billion.
A backup for the West Gate, which currently handles more than 165 000 vehicles a day as well as the significant commercial and residential growth in the west makes the case compelling.
It was compelling.
West–east is the way… In other words, he wanted to start at the other end. They still wanted to build it, but now they are saying they do not.
A newspaper article states Despite previously backing the western end of the project, which would provide Melbourne with a second river crossing and much-needed relief for the booming western suburbs, Labor leader Daniel Andrews yesterday announced he was now opposing both stages. He has gone from ‘It’s absolutely crucial to do’ to now opposing it.
I suppose it has something to do with its Greens coalition members.
The federal Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, is a good Labor man — if there is such a thing — and he said in a submission to Sir Rod Eddington The Australian Workers Union (AWU) believes that the new east–west link is crucial to jobs and economic growth. A new transport link from Melbourne’s booming west to the south-east and eastern suburbs has the AWU’s strong support because the Victorian economy relies on the efficient movement of freight and people.
Then the member for Tarneit in a 2010 Labor press release stated WestLink is an important project for Melbourne that will reduce over-reliance on the West Gate Bridge, cater for the planned expansion of the port of Melbourne, remove cars and trucks from local roads, create more jobs and improve our way of life.
What is happening to the once strong Labor Party?
Obviously it is its coalition partner, the Greens, which is ruining Labor. The member for Williamstown, who is not in the chamber, told the Williamstown Star Reducing the reliance on the West Gate Bridge is absolutely critical for Melbourne’s growing western suburbs. The WestLink project is as vital to Melbourne’s west as the construction of the West Gate Bridge was back in the 1970s.
He was saying that this second option is as important as the West Gate Bridge was in the 1970s, yet Labor is out there now saying no. Another current member of this Parliament, the member for Lyndhurst, said on 19 August 2008, when he was a member in the other place … the Greens have told motorists in the middle and outer west to ‘stick it’ — no new river crossings and no new roads for them. Car drivers in the west are to be punished, sacrificed on the altar of green ideology.
One of Labor’s up and coming stars, the member for Niddrie, told the Herald Sun on 7 May 2013 I think it’s good the government is providing funding for the east–west link tunnel but I have a preference the funding should be directed to the western part of the project given that’s where our freight is.
These are great endorsements for the east–west link from many Labor members, but they are in here today saying they do not want that. Why do they not want it?
They are opposed to it because Labor is in coalition with the Greens.
I listened intently to the member for Brunswick, who spoke about not liking this road. It is history repeating itself. As a former Leader of the Opposition, John Brumby opposed CityLink, but what did we see shortly afterwards? When Labor was in government it was all over the opening of CityLink, and it talked about how crucial it was to the state. We have to understand that if you are in government, you have to be responsible when managing the growth of this state. The current Leader of the Opposition says that during the 11 years Labor was in government it let population growth get away from it. It did not plan for population growth or build the infrastructure to prevent Melbourne from becoming congested, and that is why it is no longer in office.
The member for Brunswick also spoke about public transport, but what she forgot to say was that the coalition has introduced over 10 000 extra public transport services per week during this term of office.
Labor tends to say that you can have only road transport or only public transport, but what it does not understand is that, because people on this side of the house are good, responsible managers of money and major projects, you can have both. If they read the budget papers, they will see that there are provisions to do both with metro rail tunnel and the airport train link, for which Victoria has been waiting some 30 years.
The opposition also speaks about grade separations of rail and road. It is saying it is going to do it, but we must remember what it did during its last 11 years in power. We have delivered more in our three and a half years in government, going onto four years, than Labor delivered in 11 years. A commitment from us to do more can be taken as truth, whereas you must be concerned if Labor wins government. We actually do these things. We also hear from the member for Brunswick about the business case. There is a summary of the business case available, and it is the practice of governments to not release business cases — as was the case with the Labor government and the north–south pipeline. When was that business case released? And where was the business case for the desalination plant?
The plant has not even been used. No water has been ordered from the desalination plant, yet it costs us $1.83 million a day. I am looking for a new primary school in Echuca. We could pay for it in a fortnight if we did not have to pay for the desalination plant.
We also need to remember that regional Victoria will benefit from the east–west tunnel. What members on the other side do not understand is that if you want to get to Melbourne from Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong, Wodonga or Echuca, you need to have free-flowing access. My family owns some dairy enterprises, and for the dairy industry to get butter, milk powders and cheese to the port, we need an efficient system. We do not want freight clogging up the roads. East–west link will free up the roads for us to get our agricultural products to the port efficiently and bring the cost of transport down. If you make travel more efficient, you also bring pollution emissions down. The member for Melbourne talked about stacks that will pump emissions from the tunnel; however, if trucks travel more efficiently, there are fewer emissions, benefiting the environment. This east–west link is a game changer.
It is a winner for the environment, it is a winner for productivity in the state and it is a winner for employment in the state by generating 3000 jobs in the first stage of building. It is a productivity creator for this state, and I commend it.
Mr WYNNE (Richmond) — I rise to make a contribution following the excellent presentations by my inner-city colleagues, the member for Melbourne and member for Brunswick. I want to make the position of the inner-city members crystal clear: we do not support this project. We have never supported this project, and we will fight this project into the ground.
We will fight this project all the way to the election.
In 2008, when the Eddington report was commissioned by the previous government, my position was that this project should not proceed. This project was never taken to the election by the then Labor government as a project that was a priority for the Labor Party. It is important to understand the history of the Eddington report, because the traffic figures provided in that report in 2008 are very illuminating. Anyone who knows the inner city, and anyone who knows the traffic exiting off the Eastern Freeway, will tell you even by casual observation that of the vast majority of traffic coming off the Eastern Freeway — according to Eddington — more than 73 per cent wants to go into the city or further south or north. It does not want to cross the city.
There is a very small amount of traffic that wants to take that particular route. Whilst there may be some marginal benefit for people who seek to cross to go to the universities, hospitals and so forth that are clustered around Melbourne University, that is the start and stop of that conversation. It is our clear belief that this project is based on folly. It is based on assumptions in relation to traffic management and forecasting that are fundamentally wrong.
Why is that important? It is important because it absolutely underpins the business case for this project.
The Treasurer came in here and derided me. He said, ‘You were at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and you were arguing in relation to the release of the business case’ — and we lost. Yes, indeed we did lose that case, but as the member for Brunswick indicated, a number of other matters are still afoot. I will come to those in a moment, but the question of the business case is absolutely fundamental. Why is that so? It is because it is underpinned by traffic forecast figures which have essentially remained secret, and it is also underpinned by projections in relation to tolling.
All of these things can be manipulated. All of these things can be massaged to achieve, frankly, whatever outcome you would like. In that context, I simply say that a number of independent authorities have already cast extraordinary doubt on the veracity of this business case. This unelected Premier comes into the Parliament, struts around, and says, ‘This is going to be a return to the state of $1.40 for every $1 invested’.
Mr Angus — Hear, hear!
Mr WYNNE — The member for Forest Hill says, ‘Hear, hear’. Let me remind members of this house that it was Dr Michael Deegan, the head of the independent body Infrastructure Australia, who gave sworn evidence to Senate estimates in February 2014. It is not us saying this; the head of Infrastructure Australia himself said that the cost-benefit ratio would only be 80 cents if wider economic benefits were excluded. Let us go to the question of wider economic benefits. This is a bit of a black science because ultimately you can wrap into this anything that you think can justify your case. We know absolutely that this government has pumped up the tyres of this business case like there is no tomorrow to try to get to these frankly bodgie figures that the Premier claims of $1.40 for every $1 that is invested in this project. The Premier also struts around in here at question time and says, ‘This is going to be an absolutely magnificent congestion buster’.
Mr Hodgett — A game changer.
Mr WYNNE — It is going to be a game changer, as the Minister for Ports, who is at the table, says. Let me tell the house about leaked traffic reports published in the Age. Of course these are traffic projections that the government kept hidden. This is the other part of the Veitch Lister Consulting traffic study, which talked to the question of what were the actual traffic increases that would come from this project. I will just give members couple. For Hoddle Street near the Eastern Freeway in the morning peak, there would be an estimated 35 per cent increase; for Manningham Street in Bulleen — good luck for the members out that way in Doncaster — a 25 per cent increase; for the Eastern Freeway near the proposed east–west link tunnel, a 69 per cent increase; for Templestowe Road, a 25 per cent increase; for Thompsons Road, a 43 per cent increase; for Racecourse Road in the precincts of the member for Melbourne and member for Brunswick, a 20 per cent increase; and for Mount Alexander Road west of CityLink, there would be a 25 per cent increase.
These are leaked figures. No wonder the government never wanted these figures exposed, because we know that not only does the traffic not want to go in this east–west direction but also that if this thing ever gets built, it will be a congestion nightmare right through inner-city Melbourne.
Why do we want the business case released? We want the business case released because this is the biggest investment by a Victorian government in history — $8 billion for stage 1 and potentially up to $18 billion for stages 1 and 2 without any public ventilation of these issues, any public scrutiny or any public transparency about this. We are reminded of what opportunity costs come with this.
This entire project is being underpinned by the state.
This is not a public-private partnership; there is no risk to the consortium that bids for this project. We as the state will underpin this project for years and years to come and at what opportunity cost? As my colleagues have already indicated, we are unambiguously for the Metro tunnel. That is the true game changer. That is the nation-building project which will double the size of the city loop to shift people around this city and change the way it operates.
I am not prepared — I was not prepared in 2008 and I am not prepared now — to stand by quietly and allow the inner city to be ripped apart. I will be meeting with my constituents who reside in Bendigo Street, Alexandra Parade and Alexandra Parade east in the next few days. I will have to look those people in the eye and say to them, ‘I am sorry, under this government your home is going to be demolished’. Their community and the homes they have lived in for 60-plus years are being taken from them. What have these people done wrong? Why should a government seek in such a vicious way to destroy the lives of these people, tear up Royal Park and not even provide the community at the other end of this tunnel with information about where the exits will be? How are people going to bid on these projects when they do not even know the route of the link or where the exits will be? What do you say to the students at Clifton Hill Primary School about where the vent stack is going to be placed? What an outcome for that community.
We will never stand by silently and allow this government to rip the heart out of the inner city and displace decent people who deserve to live in dignity in their community. We will never let that happen. This is a dud project. This government has no mandate for this project. This Premier has no mandate; he is unelected. I say: take it to the people and test it before the people.
Mr BATTIN (Gembrook) — I have a question for the member for Tarneit. We have all heard that prior to the last election he came out in support of the east–west link, yet today he came into the chamber and spoke in support of this matter of public importance (MPI). Not once did he say he opposed the east–west link today.
Not once in the entire time he was on his feet did he say that he opposed the east–west link. I ask him: why did he not say that? It is because he supports the east–west link. The reality is that those who do not support it happen to be at most risk of losing their seats to the Greens. I think it is very important to put that on the record.
What is this tunnel? It is an 18-kilometre game-changing tunnel that will improve traffic flows in
Melbourne and around Victoria. What are the alternatives? What has happened in the past with former governments? The former government, without a mandate, built its own little tunnel — all the way from Wonthaggi to Melbourne. The only thing is it is a tunnel that does not get used for anything — not by traffic, not by people and not for water. To add to that, the former government built another tunnel called the north–south pipeline for which there was no business case and no plan and which was not taken to the people.
The Labor government did not even consult the people from whom it was taking the water — stealing the water — to bring to Melbourne. It did not support our farmers up there because it was a city-centric government which forgot to consult with the farmers who needed that water. I think it is important to also put that on the record.
The Leader of the Opposition talked about the east–west link and said, ‘No, if the government signs contracts, there are no dramas. We will continue with it.
If we win government, then I am sure we will take the pat on the back as everything gets built’. He might like to speak to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who recently talked about Swinburne TAFE and said, ‘If any contracts are signed by this government, we will tear them up’. I suppose the question then is: how can we trust those on the other side not to tear up any contracts we sign for the east–west link? Why does the opposition not tell Victoria that it is going to tear up contracts for one project but not another. The opposition leader and the deputy opposition leader cannot even get their messages straight. One of them wants to tear up contracts while the other is saying, ‘No, that would be wrong for a government to do’. The reality is Victorians cannot trust Labor with these major projects.
Turning to Project 10 000, what a joke it is! What a bunch of dreamers they are on the other side of the house. The former government delivered eight grade separations in 11 years. Now opposition members are turning around and saying, ‘We are going to deliver 50’. In three and a half years this government has delivered 18 and funded or planned up to 40. We will be delivering 40 grade separations. We are not talking about what we are going to do in the future; 18 have been delivered and the numbers speak for themselves.
We have already delivered grade separations. One of the grade separations I find most interesting is the one on Clyde Road, Berwick. The member for Narre Warren North will probably touch on this one, and the member for Narre Warren South would also like to talk about it. They will say, ‘We are going to do the grade separation at Clyde Road’. I see the member for Narre Warren North nodding his head in agreement, yet when the former government looked at funding the duplication of Clyde Road, the member for Narre Warren North failed to do that. Instead that government spent $57 million on contracts to duplicate 0.8 kilometres of road and did not do the grade separation that everybody was asking for at the time.
Opposition members are now saying, ‘Don’t stress. We have just spent the $57 million, but we will rip it up and put in a grade separation’. Victorians did not believe them then, the residents of Gembrook did not believe them for 11 years and they do not believe them now, yet the opposition is telling us that is what it is going to deliver.
It is important to put on the record what the benefits of the east–west link will be for residents in the Gembrook electorate. This is so important because the Monash Freeway is their only access to and across the city at the moment. You do not have to be Einstein or Rod Eddington to sit on the freeway and see that the traffic is at its peak during peak hour. We must do something now in preparation for the future. It is essential that we have an alternative route across and around the city.
The tradies out there travel to work on the other side of the city at the moment, and they travel around Victoria.
No longer is it the case that you do all your work in your local area. People travel around the state for their employment, and it is important that we provide the infrastructure to allow them to do that.
Businesses in the Gembrook electorate are also affected by traffic congestion. If you chat to the potato farmers in the electorate who have to get their produce to the market, they will tell you that they think the east–west link is a wonderful idea. They will get the opportunity to travel on an alternative route through the city to the markets on the other side of the city. There are businesses like Jurgens Caravans, which has drivers continually driving around Melbourne dropping off caravans at its various sales sites. At the moment during the day they get stuck in the traffic on the Monash Freeway. They are looking for an alternative route.
More of Jurgens caravans are sold on the western side of the city than are sold on the eastern side, so most of its transporters go from Pakenham through the city to the other side The east–west link is something for them.
Europa Cheese is a cheese company in Pakenham which has just signed up international sales. It is a family business which, with the support of this government for new infrastructure and technology — particularly the Minister for Manufacturing, who visited the facility quite recently — now has the capability to start exporting cheese. It exported its cheese to New Zealand for the first time recently and is now looking at deals in Taiwan and other Asian countries. This is huge for a business out there, which currently runs at capacity for about 12 hours per week. This factory could run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and provide cheeses to international customers. What does it need?
It needs access to the airport. It needs to transport its products, and to improve productivity it needs the east–west link.
Robert Gordon pottery is another local business. Those members who are not aware of Robert Gordon pottery need only go into the members dining room to see the fantastic crockery used there which is all made in the Gembrook electorate. The Gordon family has built the business up over the years. It is now a wonderful business, which is now exporting and importing. Robert Gordon is the only large manufacturer of pottery left in Australia. We need to do everything we can to support that business and its productivity. It employs 40 people in my electorate. Again, it needs to transport its products with access to not just airport but also the other side of the city. Robert Gordon transports its product across Victoria and across Australia. I thank the company for the crockery we use here.
Mountain Fresh is located in Gembrook as well. It is a potato grower on a few hundred acres and is an example of what a business has to do or must do in order to survive. Most members would not have heard of potato cyst nematode or PCN, and I am sure those on the other side of the house will not heard of it. It is a pest that has been around for a while. In the past it hit Gembrook potato growers very hard, and their produce was quarantined — their potatoes could not be sent outside Victoria; they had to be sold within Victoria.
One can only imagine what that did to the price of the potatoes. There used to be about 30 potato farmers in the area and now the figure is down to 10. Mountain Fresh went out of its way to put its own processing plant on-site. It grows its potatoes a bit bigger than the standard and turns them into potato cakes. I think it is one of the leaders in the market, creating potato cakes that are both hand dipped and processed in a standard machine. The potato farms up there also have another issue.
Coles and Woolworths do not want potatoes that grow too big. When they get too big and look a little bit on the ugly side, Coles and Woolworths knock them back. They are what are called class A and class B potatoes.
Believe it or not, Mountain Harvest Foods go around to all the potato farmers in Gembrook and say, ‘Your class B potatoes are actually class A potatoes because they make bigger potato cakes’. Mountain Harvest Foods is not only supporting itself; it also supports all the other businesses in town by buying potatoes from them. Mountain Harvest Foods wants to expand its operations. Currently it has 30 staff, but it wants to increase that number to 120 staff. It wants to start making fries on site in Gembrook and supply them to businesses all over Australia. As well, it will have a frozen product that can be exported. The business is on a very good path to do that.
What does Mountain Harvest Foods need? It not only needs support from the government with local infrastructure to expand its building, but it also needs help from the Minister for Manufacturing to make sure the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation is working adequately with it so that going forward it can build a really good business case for a purpose-built plant on site to employ 120 people in Gembrook. Most importantly, it needs the support of the Victorian government. It needs the government to continue building infrastructure so that it can access different markets. It needs us to build the infrastructure so that its trucks out on the road can get from one side of the city to the other without being stuck in traffic, wasting time and money.
While members on the other side continue to go to the media and talk about the east–west link taking money away from everything else, I am sure that if the member for Narre Warren North is up next, he will be more than happy to say in his contribution how proud he is to see this government building a $2 billion to $2.5 billion upgrade to the Pakenham-Cranbourne rail corridor. We are going to improve that line with new rail signalling systems and 25 new and longer trains so that it has 30 per cent extra capacity. There will be upgrades to railway stations and four grade separations in that $2 billion to $2.5 billion upgrade. A new siding yard and a maintenance yard will be built in Pakenham East, creating local jobs. If we get local people working in Pakenham, more people will be out of their cars and off the freeway. If cars are off the freeway, we will ease congestion out there, and that is fantastic for the Gembrook electorate.
I notice that the Treasurer has just walked into the chamber. He is doing a fantastic job, because the $2 billion to $2.5 billion upgrade would not have come around if we had poor financial management in this state. The Treasurer has done a wonderful job to ensure that we are in a position where we can spend money on the Pakenham-Cranbourne rail corridor upgrade. We can keep people moving on rail, but more importantly, we can improve productivity by building the east–west link, and I support that link 100 per cent.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! I call the member for Caulfield.
Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — I rise to speak about — — Honourable members interjecting.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! I waited, and nobody from the opposition jumped. The member for Caulfield jumped.
Mr Nardella interjected.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! While I was on my feet the member for Melton was yelling across the chamber. It is totally inappropriate. I call on the Speaker to return to the chamber.
The SPEAKER — Order! As members understand, the call is usually given to the person who is first on their feet. However, because this is an opposition matter of public importance and the opposition has six members to speak, I will reverse the decision of the Acting Speaker. She acted in good faith by calling the member for Caulfield, who was on his feet. I call the member for Narre Warren North, and I suggest that in the future he is quicker on his feet.
Mr DONNELLAN (Narre Warren North) — Thank you, Speaker. I was being courteous to the member for Gembrook, who was finishing his speech. I do not think it was a matter of being a bit slow. The issue here, above all else, is the utter cheek of this lot of no-hopers, these gutless cowards, who will not put their big, shiny new toy — and it is a big, shiny new toy — to the public. We are a month out from an election, and we have this gutless, hopeless group of people going around telling everybody what a marvellous project the east–west link is, but they will not put this grand showpiece to the public, and that is an absolute, utter disgrace.
Worst of all, members opposite have not done anything for three and a half years, but they are running stupid advertisements that suggest that in the future, maybe over the next four years, they will get on with the job of actually doing something instead of sitting still, which is what they have done for three and a half years. For three and a half years all that government members have done is move the east–west link project from the west to the east, and yet they are running around telling the Victorian public what a pack of heroes they are.
They did nothing for three and a half years and suddenly, on your death knell, you jokers are going to sit there and say, ‘We are going to sign a contract’. You are not going to put it to the public. You are going to steal the opportunity from the Victorian public to vote on this big, shiny new toy; you will not put it to the public. As a group of politicians, what a gutless group of individuals you are. If this project is so good, then you should put it to the public.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! The member for Narre Warren North will address his remarks through the Chair.
Mr DONNELLAN — My comments include the Chair. This project should be going to the Victorian public, instead of the opposition having the enormous cheek — — The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! I ask the member for Narre Warren North to show respect to the Chair.
Mr DONNELLAN — I am showing respect to the Chair.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! The member for Narre Warren North will return to the substance of the debate.
Mr DONNELLAN — I will address my comments through the Chair. My comments are addressed to all members of the Liberal Party and The Nationals, including the Chair. I suggest that if this is shiny new toy is so great, it should be put to the Victorian public. I suggest that government members cease being a pack of no-hopers hiding behind dodgy figures and put the issue of the east–west link to the Victorian public.
The SPEAKER — Order! The member for Narre Warren North will not try to engage with or include the Chair in debate. If he continues in that manner, I will sit him down.
Mr DONNELLAN — This shiny new toy is very much the fish that John West rejects. It is the one nobody wants. It is the fish with abhorrent growths all over it.
A fisherman or fishmonger could work out that this is not the fish you want. This is the one you would reject.
This is the one you would throw away. This is a group of people who have a joke of a transport plan whereby we build a station at a casino before we build one at a university. What a vision this group of second-raters have got. Why do we not sell this vision worldwide, whereby we build a train station at a casino but not at a university. What an absolute joke! For three and a half years we have stood still; we have told mummy we have spent less money than we have been given, but we have not told mummy what we have spent the money on. We have spent the money on a dud tunnel that we will not put to the public. We will not put it to the public even though we think it is such a happy, shiny new toy. If you have a shiny new toy when you are a young kid, you want to show it to everyone. For some reason you guys are putting this toy in your pocket and you will not show anyone what it is made of.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! The member will address his remarks through the Chair.
Mr DONNELLAN — I would be very keen to see how the dodgy 80 000 to 100 000 figures have been worked out for cars. No one can work out how these figures were arrived at. We only have to look at the FOIs we have received. It is really interesting what the VicRoads people say of the Linking Melbourne Authority (LMA) use of the Veitch Lister Consulting traffic modelling. One gentleman we know, Douglas Harley, kindly points out to David Shelton, one of the senior managers at VicRoads, as per my email from Fotis Spiradopoulos below, that The model used by LMA does not include freight movement modelling.
QUOTE NOT SUPPLIED IN TIME FOR VERIFICATION.
This project is supposed to deal with Hastings. It is supposed to deal with freight, but it does not actually include freight. What an absolute joke! We are building this east–west link supposedly to deal with the great freight movements which are going to happen around town, but the model used does not actually include freight. What a dodgy exercise. Let us look at what Ed McGeehan says in an email to Clyde Mottram from VicRoads. The email says Clyde, thanks for sending through the email. I am sorry it has taken to so long to respond to your questions. I do not agree with what is being suggested. There is an already established parameter values of time, what is being suggested here smacks of a desire to enhance the quantum of benefit.
QUOTE NOT SUPPLIED IN TIME FOR VERIFICATION.
In other words, ‘We are dodging the business case. We have not been honest.’. They have gone around stabbing the area traffic modelling specialists of VicRoads in the back because the specialists do not believe in the dodgy model that this group of second-raters is using. These modellers have been at it for 15 to 20 years, and what we have got is high-level evidence that the government is dodging the whole exercise. Infrastructure Australia did not accept its report because it was not using the same model as everybody else. Everybody knows you cannot find 80 000 to 100 000 cars every day when there are only 28 000 cars coming off the Eastern Freeway. The big problem for travellers to the eastern suburbs is not going westward because very few of them go westward. The big problem for them is going southward. Seventy per cent of people coming off the Eastern Freeway every day head southward. Then you pack of jokers, this team — —
The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! The member for Narre Warren North will address his remarks through the Chair.
Mr DONNELLAN — This group of brain surgeons of a government has decided not to deal with the serious issue, which is Punt Road and the congestion there, but to build this joke of an east–west tunnel to nowhere. It will not deal with freight. It will not deal with anything. It is an utter cheek that they will not even put to the Victorian public the fact that we are spending $8 billion of people’s money and we cannot justify it. It will provide no relief to travellers to the eastern suburbs. They are being taken for a major ride.
God help the Liberal Party in the east when people work out that this group of brain surgeons do not know what they are doing. This is a group of people who would rather build a train station at a casino than deal with higher education at the University of Melbourne. I am sure the University of Melbourne needs to educate a few more of The Nationals and Liberal Party members into thinking a bit straighter and having a bit more logic in their approach to life, because this is an utter joke.
There are many other priorities around the state, and unfortunately the outer suburbs and areas like that will miss out because we are spending $8 billion on a dud tunnel. What is most galling for the Victorian public is that the government has the utter cheek to not put this to the Victorian public. In a month before the caretaker period, the government will sign a contract that gives the Victorian public absolutely no choice. It is the height of arrogance that this group of politicians have a shiny new toy, which they reckon is the best toy in the business, but they will not show it to the public. What do you say about a group of gutless individuals like that who will not do the right thing but who will spend our $8 billion and not tell the public why they are spending it. It is an utter disgrace and I think our matter of public importance was very appropriately placed.
SOURCE: PROOF PARLIAMENT OF VICTORIA LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY DAILY HANSARD Wednesday, 3 September 2014