Following the release of the Eddington report on Victoria’s transport needs, the State Government invited organisations and members of the public to submit their views about the findings. More than 2000 submissions were received over a 15 week period. The overwhelming majority were critical.
Eddington proposed the biggest capital expenditure program in Australian history at $18 billion. He said that more than half of this money should go to the building of a tunnel linking the Eastern Freeway to Melbourne’s western suburbs. The other major project is a rail tunnel from Footscray to Caulfield.
Three unions made submissions including the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and the Australian Workers Union (AWU). The RTBU and the TWU have interests as their members work in the transport industry. The AWU’s interest is that they represent workers involved in projects like the construction of tunnels.
The RTBU’s submission was not overly controversial. Their view is that the expansion of the rail system is of a higher priority than the road tunnel. The TWU stated in their submission that they ‘broadly support the Eddington Report’.
The TWU leaders hail from the right wing of the Labor Party. They have no political differences to the employers and are therefore hand in glove with the big transport companies. In their submission they put the real reasons behind the big business push for the road tunnel.
They say “Currently the Victorian road freight industry contributes 14.5 percent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. The freight task is expected to grow significantly in Victoria, particularly freight transiting through the major commercial trading ports. The Victorian Ports of Melbourne, Geelong, Hastings and Portland have an estimated economic value of $3 billion per annum. It is estimated that by 2031 the Port of Melbourne will be handling about 8 million containers a year, a fourfold increase from the 2 million containers it currently handles. To keep pace with this forecast growth, the industry must ensure that it remains innovative, particularly in terms of its productivity, efficiency and safety.”
In a nutshell, the dredging of the bay will lead to bigger ships coming into the Melbourne docks. A tunnel linking Melbourne’s west to the east would mean a quicker and therefore a much more profitable option for the trucking companies to move their stock. Big business profits is at the heart of the issue not traffic congestion or the environment.
Contrary to what the State Government has been telling people, this tunnel will not ease traffic congestion for commuters coming from Melbourne’s east. Most figures show that over 85 percent of traffic is not traveling from the east to the west of Melbourne anyway. The majority of people are actually going to the city for work. The TWU figures show it is more about serving the needs of the transport bosses rather than ordinary people.
Just for good measure the TWU also throw their support in behind the private toll operators by saying that “the TWU supports the principle that all road users should pay their way”. This is despite the fact that we already pay taxes! They do however ask that owner drivers have the capacity to recover the cost of tolls.
The Australian Workers Union is arguably Australia’s most right wing union and their Victorian State Secretary, Cesar Melham, is perhaps the crudest mouthpiece for the bosses in the union movement.
On the first page of the AWU submission Melham launches straight into it: “We call on the State Government to adopt the Eddington report, and use the Eastlink model of private public partnership to build the tunnel.”
Not only do they support building a tunnel to the detriment of local communities and the environment but they support the right of big business to be able to profit of it as well!
The Socialist Party is totally opposed to spending billions of dollars on a road tunnel. In an age of environmental crisis we think that the money would be better spent on public transport.
Public transport creates more jobs and is better for the environment. The money for the tunnel should be used to expand train and tram lines and increase the number of trains and trams on the tracks. With a fraction of the $18 billion we could revolutionise public transport therefore eliminating the need for such reliance on cars.
We support all Melbourne suburbs having access to a regular and integrated public transport system. This is the only solution to solving Melbourne’s transport problems and reducing the effects that cars have on our environment.
It is a sad state of affairs when some unions are putting the interests of the employers above the interests of the broader working class. We call on the more progressive unions in Victoria to study the effects of the east-west tunnel and oppose it along with the local communities and environment groups who have already started the fight.
Editorial comment from the August 2008 edition of ‘The Socialist’