Apologies for the late update but so much has happened since our last update! The election of the new Labor government means that our fight to obtain the documents has been made much easier.
Here is how:
On 22 October Murphy returned to the Supreme Court for a hearing that centred on the question of disclosure of documents. The State pressed its claim for non-disclosure, arguing public interest immunity.
The hearing lasted a day. At the end, the judge said he would make his decision at a later date.
In the meantime of course, there was the election, which changed everything because Premier Andrews had committed to releasing the business case documentation, which formed the bulk of what the Murphy case was attempting to obtain.
Consequently, on Friday 5 December the judge called both parties to the court to discuss the changed circumstances. Given that the new Andrews’ Ministry was only sworn in the day before, the Victorian Solicitor General sought additional time to obtain instructions. The judge gave them a week.
So back we came on Friday 12 December. At that hearing the State and the LMA, with agreement from Murphy, sought approval to withdraw their earlier summons objecting to disclosure of the documents, and the State clarified that it was no longer pressing its claim to public interest immunity. The two sides agreed that the documents sought would now be released (with exception of the contract between the Government and the East West Consortia which the Government also intends to release to the public soon) .
The judge agreed to this course of action on Monday 15 December. The same day, Premier Andrews made good his promise to release the business case documents (some 9000 pages!). These documents can be found here.
It was agreed that we would be back in court on Friday 13 February to address the rest of the case. What happens at this hearing will depend to a large extent on whether the East West Link has been finally put to rest.
The Murphy case was an integral part of the campaign to expose the East West Link project as a flawed and secretive process that denied all Victorians the information that they should have had to assess whether the project should proceed. It sought a standard of transparency that we all have a right to in a properly functioning democracy. It firmly championed the rights of the people to know what their government is doing and why.
Substantial transparency has now been achieved for the East West Link project with the release of the business case documents on Monday 15 December. Let us hope that the Murphy case has also made it clear to all governments that they cannot in future proceed to develop and implement major projects in the way the East West Link was developed and implemented.
A further update will be provided after the hearing on 13 February 2015.
Once again, our sincere and heartfelt thanks to Anthony Murphy for his willingness and commitment to bring this case to the courts, to the extraordinary, generous and dedicated legal team comprising Ron Merkel QC, Melinda Richards SC, Julian Burnside AO QC, Simona Gory Barrister, Meghan Fitzgerald, Hollie Golding and all others from Fitzroy Legal Services, Paula Shelton and others from Shine Lawyers, and the many other experts, volunteers and community members who helped behind the scenes. You gave hope and confidence to so many who felt that the might of government and business interests was against them but wanted and needed to fight for what is right. We can’t thank you enough.
And last but not least a huge thanks to all those who have been supporting this case with their donations and behind-the-scenes help!