Your Referendum Is Lost. Now Please Put the $3 Billion Back Where It Came From.
An Open Letter to the Hon Tony Abbott MP, Prime Minister of Australia
1st December 2014
Dear Mr Abbott,
On 8 November when you visited Victoria, you declared our State election a referendum on the East West Link.
This was a statement of political reality. The East West Link was the most obvious point of difference between the two major parties contesting this election and, as you rightly stated, Victorians were aware they had a clear choice.
The Victorian public has now rendered its verdict. By a decisive majority they have elected the party that promised to cancel the East West Link contracts and not to proceed with any part of the East West Link project.
The result recognises that the East West Link will in time only add to traffic congestion. It recognises that by draining the State of funds for other transport improvements it will lead to time wasted rather than time saved. It recognises that other more worthwhile projects will create more jobs and prosperity for Victorians.
It is now incumbent on you, Mr Abbott, to honour the referendum result and return the $3 billion of Commonwealth Government funding to its original purpose.
In May 2013 the Commonwealth Government committed these funds for urgent rail capacity projects in Melbourne. Your government withdrew this commitment in order to reallocate the funds to the East West Link project, despite the Link having a conventional benefit-cost ratio of at most 80 cents in the dollar, and despite Infrastructure Australia stating the project required further assessment.
The $3 billion of Commonwealth Government funding must now be returned to support better public transport in Victoria, honouring Infrastructure Australia’s recommendation in 2011 when it said the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel was ‘Ready to Proceed’.
Mr Abbott, that $3 billion does not belong to you. It belongs to the people of Australia, who when asked directly at any time in the past decade, state by a clear majority that they want funding priority for public transport over new roads.
Your defunding of urban public transport, including many well-advanced projects across the country, in favour of a discredited 1960s road-building agenda is harming the health and prosperity of Australia’s cities. It is making Australia a laughing stock in the eyes of the world and damaging your government’s standing domestically.
The result of your ‘East West Link referendum’ provides you with an opportunity for honourable change.
President, Public Transport Users Association