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Issue #1656      September 17, 2014

Labour turnaround on East-West Link

After months of community pressure, specifically aimed at both the major parties, the Labor opposition has once again been forced to change its position in regards to the proposed East-West Link project in Melbourne.

Daniel Andrews is now saying that if Labor comes to power on November 29 the newly elected government will support, rather than defend, the Yarra and Moreland Council legal challenge. This gives the Supreme Court case against the planning process a much greater chance of success.

Yarra Councillor Stephen Jolly, one of the instigators of the case and a spokesperson of the community campaign, said “The community should be congratulated for this new development. It was the act of getting out on the streets that has taken this debate out of the academic realm and made it a central issue in Victorian politics.

“If it wasn’t for the community campaign Labor would never have come to this conclusion. Let us not forget that this project was their idea back in 2008. Under pressure they were forced to come out against it last year but they always said they would honour any contracts signed.

“Now after a number of pickets, and political pressure on Labor, they have been forced to adopt the position of the community campaign. The campaign has turned public opinion and Labor’s decision has been poll driven. They know that if they didn’t change tack they would loose a number of inner city seats.

“Regardless of this announcement the community campaign will continue. The election is still many weeks away and there is still plenty of time for Labor to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

“Even if Labor does win the election their public transport platform is inadequate. We will continue to fight for world class public transport in this state’. Stephen said.

East-West Link protest organiser Anthony Main said “This is a welcome development but even the legal action from the Councils wouldn’t have come about without pressure from the community campaign. We had to drag many of the Labor Councillors into it kicking and screaming.

“We have consistently recognised Labor as a weak link in this dispute hence our focus on targeting them in recent months. It seems now that those actions have worked.

“We will continue to keep up the pressure on the government, and on the consortium led by Lend Lease, until this project is buried once and for all.

“If there is one lesson people should take form this it’s that mass action works”. Anthony said.

The East West Link is a proposed 18 kilometre tolled freeway-standard road link, to run from the western suburbs to the Eastern Freeway. The Victorian government allocated $294 million in its 2013 Budget for the first stage of the project – a 4.4 kilometre tunnel from Hoddle Street, Clifton Hill to CityLink at Parkville – with work due to begin at the end of 2014 and be complete by 2019. The state government says it expects to start the western part of the road link, between Parkville and the Western Ring Road by the end of 2015. The cost of the project’s first stage is estimated to be between $6 billion and $8 billion, with the total cost estimated at $15 billion to $17 billion. The federal Coalition government has pledged $3 billion towards the project.

The project has attracted public criticism over its effectiveness to reduce congestion, prioritisation ahead of public transport, transparency of business case and local impact on Royal Park and Melbourne Zoo. Local councils and public transport advocates opposed the project and several community groups were formed to block its construction. By August 2014 the project was the subject of two separate Supreme Court challenges and a further case in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Next article – Corporations at the very heart of power – Phil England talks to author Owen Jones

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