The Victorian Labor Party has pledged to scrap the controversial East West link road project in Melbourne if elected in November, and will instead put money into public transport.
The project, which was recently found to cost a billion dollars a kilometre for its first stage, has been furiously opposed by local residents and is currently undergoing a legal challenge in the Supreme Court from Moreland and Yarra city councils.
“This election is a choice: Labor’s plan for better public transport and local roads or Denis Napthine’s $8 billion dud tunnel,” opposition leader Daniel Andrews said.
“If Victorian Labor is successful at the state election, our government will not amend the contract. We will not fix it. We will not proceed with Denis Napthine’s dud tunnel.
“Instead, Labor will transform Victoria’s public transport system by doubling the size of the City Loop with Melbourne Metro and removing our 50 most dangerous and congested level crossings.”
Victorian treasurer Michael O’Brien slammed the decision, saying Labor had capitulated to The Greens.
“Commuters stuck in traffic know that the East West Link project will keep Victoria moving,” Mr O’Brien said. “Victoria needs the East West Link, the Melbourne Rail Link and the Airport Rail Link. Only the Napthine Coalition Government will build them.
“This threat to rip up contracts is the most reckless and irresponsible statement any Opposition Leader has ever made.
“This is a reckless political stunt designed to protect inner city Labor MPs from the Greens at the expense of building transport infrastructure and creating jobs for our growing population.”
It has been reported that the Victorian government is expecting to sign the East West Link contract in October with preferred developer Inner Link Group consortium, comprising Capella Capital, Lend Lease, Acciona Infrastructure and the Bouygues group.
Mr O’Brien said ripping up a contract would cost the state billions in damages, compensation and refunds, and send the government into deficit.
“Daniel Andrews is from the Socialist Left faction of the Labor Party. He doesn’t care that ripping up contracts would permanently damage Victoria’s reputation with businesses, with investors, with lenders,” he said.
Mr Andrews, however, has sent a letter to the Premier and the consortium, warning of the risks of signing contracts in light of the Supreme Court challenge that isn’t expected to conclude until December.
“Labor does not believe that any contracts for the East West Link Project could be validly entered into while the matter before the Supreme Court remains unresolved, and there can be no certainty that any contracts for the East West Link Project are legally binding. As Labor has repeatedly stated, if no legally binding contracts exist, any Labor government will not proceed with the East West Link Project.
“Labor believes that your government has no authority, no mandate and no right to sign the people of Victoria up to this tunnel just weeks before an election.”
Labor currently leads the government 55-45 in the two party preferred vote in the current Newspoll.