This morning the judge handed down his decision in relation to the ‘separate questions‘ that he had previously ordered be the matters to be considered first in relation to the allegations of misleading conduct about the East West Link business case. These separate questions were:
1. Was the conduct engaged in by the State Government and Linking Melbourne Authority part of the carrying on of a business (as defined in the Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012 (VIC))?
2. Was the conduct engaged in by the State Government and Linking Melbourne Authority part of trade or commerce?
3. Should an injunction be granted?
The judge ruled against us in each question, in other words, the answer to all three questions is ‘No”.
Here is what we had to say about it:
We will need to consider the decision to understand its implications, but naturally are disappointed the opportunity to have independent scrutiny of the alleged benefits of this project has not happened yet. We’ll be leaving all decisions about an appeal to Tony Murphy and his legal team. But from the community perspective this particular decision is only one step in the longer journey, and community opposition to this project will continue.
We’re out there engaging with ordinary people through forums, door knocks and street stalls, something the government simply has not done on this project. We are also meeting with politicians and putting pressure on the bidders, to take proper account of the community’s views – the community opposition to this project is second to none.
My question to Dr Napthine and his ministers is, what are you trying to hide? Is it the creative traffic modeling? Or is it the tolls which must surely be scarily high to come close to covering the costs of the most expensive road Australia has ever planned to build?
Through this court case the government was presented with an opportunity to defend the project itself – but instead they have argued that they are not accountable in the way that any other entity would be. They are trying to avoid meeting the minimum standards of honorable behaviour. Can the government explain why it should be acceptable that a massive debt is imposed on every Victorian but scrutiny of the basis upon which that debt is to be incurred is not to be allowed?
This is simply wrong.
Quite apart from this, proper decision making processes require that the business case be revealed. The Productivity Commission says so. Infrastructure Australia says so. Tony Abbott said so. And yet the good doctor Napthine and his merry bunch of democracy vandals know better. They have fought tooth and nail to hide the business case and avoid answering questions about the project.
There is no mandate for this highly controversial project. And with an election just weeks away, they could easily put this proposal to the Victoria people without materially affecting the timelines at all. So why won’t they do that? The answer is pretty obvious – there is something very wrong with the project.
Judge people and governments by what they do not what they say. They tell us this is a great project, but they won’t allow anyone to see the evidence. Draw your own conclusions. We have, we know this is a massively expensive toll road that will do very little to alleviate congestion, and nothing to improve transport for the vast majority of Victorians.
Residents Against the Tunnel