ABC Victoria: East West Link opponents likely to appeal after losing case against project By Stephanie Ferrier Updated 10 Sep 2014
Opponents of the East West Link toll road say they are almost certain to take their legal battle to Victoria’s Court of Appeal after losing their case against the multi-billion-dollar project.
Brunswick resident Tony Murphy had argued the State Government had breached Australian consumer laws and the Fair Trading Act by giving misleading information about the project’s cost benefits and impact on traffic volumes.
But Supreme Court Justice Clyde Croft rejected his case and also refused to order an injunction stopping the State Government and the Linking Melbourne Authority from continuing the project.
After handing down his decision, he also rejected Mr Murphy’s request to compel the State Government to give seven days’ notice before signing contracts with the preferred bidder.
Justice Croft said he had received a letter from the State Government stating that no contract would be signed before September 16 and that was “a perfectly adequate safeguard” if an appeal was quickly lodged.
Outside the court, Mr Murphy said he was disappointed with the judgment.
“It’s $18 billion of wasted money and the Federal Government has put $3 million into this totally useless project and it won’t solve congestion. We need public transport extensions, not to get more billions wasted on a road project,” he said.
It’s in the public interest that we’re taking this fight and it should be seen as part of the democratic process
Brunswick resident, Tony Murphy
“We’ll almost certainly be lodging an appeal. As part of [that] process we’ll be asking for a delay or another undertaking from the Government about [not signing the contract] … otherwise the proceedings would be wasted.
“An injunction might be necessary if the Government doesn’t want to enter a voluntary agreement.”
‘In the public interest’
He said he was not worried about having legal costs awarded against him.
“It’s in the public interest that we’re taking this fight and it should be seen as part of the democratic process for a community group to take legal action against the Government,” he said.
“That’s one of the things that distinguishes between a democracy and a dictatorship: citizens have the right to challenge the Government in court if necessary.”
In his judgment, Justice Croft rejected Mr Murphy’s argument that the Government was effectively carrying on a business by designing, funding, developing and procuring the project and taxpayers were the investors and customers.
The East West Link debate
The background on the Napthine government’s planned multi-billion-dollar East West Link project.
He also ruled that injunctions preventing the State Government from signing contracts with a third party or implementing the project would be too broad and would “bear no relationship to the allegedly contravening conduct”.
“The proposed injunctions are not concerned with protecting the public … Rather, the injunctions are directed to achieving a very different outcome – the scuttling of the project altogether,” Justice Croft said.
One of Mr Murphy’s supporters, Harriet Mantell, from protest group Residents Against The Tunnel, said the fight was a “much longer journey than just one court case”.
“It’s simply wrong that the Government can hide behind secrecy and yet submit Victorian taxpayers to potentially massive debt and we’re not allowed to know the reasons for that debt,” she said.
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said the Government was determined to sign the contracts next month.
“I am absolutely confident that we will sign contracts for East West Link and the project will go ahead because the project’s in the best interests of Melburnians and Victoria,” he said.