Pressure is mounting on the both the Liberal government and the Labor Opposition in the lead up to the Victorian State Election in November. Thanks to rallies, community pickets and mass campaigning, public opinion has shifted dramatically against this costly toll road project.
The Napthine Government was unprepared for such a vigorous community campaign. It tried to disguise its pro-road transport plan by adding a few token public transport projects to its state budget. It also tried to neutralise opposition by making some minor changes to the proposed Link route through Royal Park, claiming it had listened to community concerns.
These moves were not enough to fool the community campaign. The government’s proposed public transport initiatives are as fake as its 2010 election promises and minor cosmetic changes do not lessen the overall destructive impact of the road on communities, the environment and Victorian taxpayers.
The Labor Party has felt the pressure of the community campaign just as much as the government. Labor now officially opposes both stages of the project. They have made some weak calls on the Government not to sign the contracts before the election, but in the eyes of most this is not good enough.
At the moment Labor are still saying they will honour the contracts if they are signed before the election. With this being the case their policy amounts to only fake opposition.
If they were genuinely against the project they would commit to ripping up the contracts. They claim this would be irresponsible, but with the government’s business case undoubtedly shaky, going ahead with the East-West Link would be far more financially irresponsible!
If Labor were to commit to ripping up the contracts now it would send a strong message to the bidders and could potentially put a nail in the projects coffin. The campaign is now focused on getting Labor to change its position along these lines.
In a useful auxiliary to the community campaign, two Supreme Court cases are now underway. Both have the potential to delaying the signing of the contracts. One has been underway for several months and is on behalf of a Brunswick resident.
The second court challenge was launched in July by Moreland Council and Yarra Council’s and targets the Planning Minister, Matthew Guy’s approval for the project on procedural grounds.
Matthew Guy reacted furiously to the legal challenge. Clearly the role of the Socialist Party is front and centre of his mind. He complained that “the socialists were over in the 1980s, and here’s Stephen Jolly [Socialist Party Councillor] sitting on council in 2014. They’re stuck in the 19th century.”
While the government resorts to petty name calling and childish insults Socialist Party Councillor Stephen Jolly summed things up by explaining that “the campaign’s strategy right now is to put every hurdle possible in front of the government while pressuring the Labor opposition to come out and say they will rip up the contracts if they are signed before the election.”
In the lead up to the election the Socialist Party will do all in its power to ensure that Labor does not get away with resting on their fake opposition. Key figures in the Labor Party must be pressured along with the two consortiums bidding for the contracts.
In the state seat of Richmond the Socialist Party is standing Stephen Jolly in order to ensure transport matters are put on the top of the political agenda. Not only has Stephen promised to vote against the project in the parliament but he has pledged his support for mass community pickets of the site if the project proceeds to construction.
By Chris Dite