Billions in balance as councils challenge road spend
Contracts are being signed but still no business case for an $8 billion infrastructure project in Victoria.
Two city councils are running legal challenges while drilling and other preparations for Melbourne’ contentious East West Link continue.
But Fairfax Media reports say the East West Connect consortium wants a ‘kill fee’ of $500 million if the toll road does not proceed, indicating that there is still a chance the multi-billion dollar city shortcut will not be built.
The Victorian Court of Appeal this week heard an appeal brought by Melbourne resident Anthony Murphy, who says the state has failed to prove the road's economic benefits to the public, and placed the Government in breach of consumer law.
Mr Murphy’s lawyers say they want the chance to prove in court that the project would come at a "monumental loss" in the hundreds of millions, and the government should be prevented from signing the contract until the case could be heard.
Lawyers for the state and East West Connect argued it had to sign the contract soon, or face substantial foreign investment losses as a result.
“If the contract is signed at a later point than 1 October, there are €100 million [$AU145 million] of exchanges to the state [at risk],” said Mark Moshinsky, QC, for the state.
Justice Geoffrey Nettle reviewed evidence put forward by the Linking Melbourne Authority, which was not available to the public.
He ruled that an injunction beyond Monday could have “profound consequences” including a “foreign exchange risk in relation to approximately €100 million” for the state.
Meanwhile, Melbourne’s Moreland and Yarra councils are maintaining their Supreme Court battle to see the documents.
The local governments won an early victory in court, forcing Planning Minister Matthew Guy to say specifically what he read or considered in the secret business case for the road, before giving it the green light.
On Wednesday this week, Judge Melissa Daly ordered that the Planning Minister must disclose to the councils the documents he considered before giving approval for the road expected to cost $6 billion to $8 billion.
The case will continue after a state election in November.
Greens senator Janet Rice will today bring a motion to federal Parliament calling for the Victorian government's business case and planning documents provided to Infrastructure Australia, to be tabled in the Senate by 4pm on October 2.
Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt has pressured Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss to release the business case for the project too.
But Mr Truss says Infrastructure Australia is still examining the project, and will put out a report and cost-benefit analysis in due course.
A statement from Infrastructure Australia indicated the final report has been delayed as it awaits further information from the Napthine government.