Tony Abbott’s “Open letter” is electoral blackmail based on false claims

Tony Abbott is trying to bully Victorians to vote for a dubious road project and against public transport, making claims the PTUA believes to be false. His open letter does not stand scrutiny.

  • The $3 billion Tony Abbott insists is only for the East West Link was previously allocated to the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel. Both the Eddington Report and Infrastructure Australia found the rail project to be of more benefit to the Victorian economy. It is equivalent to three alternative West Gate Bridges in passenger capacity, and would still be funded but for the Abbott Government’s petulant and ideological decision to scrap it in favour of a road with a net economic loss to Victoria.
  • The claim there will be 7,000 jobs is completely unproven, because the business case remains a secret. In any case, making the same expenditure on almost any other project would likely generate more jobs because road building is more capital-intensive and less labour-intensive than other works including public transport.
  • The claim that 100,000 cars a day will use the road is hotly disputed by traffic experts. Even if traffic numbers of this scale result, the vast majority will be newly generated traffic that will clog up Melbourne’s arterial roads. We need to invest now to ensure new travel can be accommodated on public transport instead of making traffic congestion worse.
  • The proposed tolling arrangements remain secret, like all other details of the contracts, making it impossible to independently examine the traffic figures or financial implications.
  • The Stage 1 project, the only stage for which any contract has been signed and which Labor promises to cancel, does not even service regional centres that are mentioned by Mr Abbott. There will be no time saved from Geelong, Werribee, Altona, Ballarat, Melton or Caroline Springs.
  • The East West Link Stage 1 does not even connect to the city, and neither would Stage 2. The East West Link was never intended to be a city access road. This is why no stage of the project has never been able to generate time-saving benefits to match the cost of construction, because we have known for over a decade that the volume of long-distance east-west travel is negligible by comparison with city-bound and local travel. [1]

Denis Napthine and Tony Abbott signed an agreement [2] at COAG just six weeks ago which provides that when a project is cancelled, the funds can be reallocated within the State to other projects. The next Victorian Government can ensure Victorians will not miss out by reallocating its own portion of the funds. Meanwhile it must demand the Federal Government cease its ideological opposition to public transport and return the funds originally allocated to public transport.

The real truth here is that if the Napthine Government is re-elected, Victorians can kiss goodbye to $17.8 billion worth of public transport, country roads, health and education investment in the next quarter century.

[1] A PTUA analysis of Census data shows that East-West travel is less than 6 per cent of journeys to work.

[2] COAG National Partnership Agreement on Land Transport Infrastructure Projects, 10 October 2014.