Matters of Public Importance: East-West Link

Ms SPENCE (Yuroke) (15:22:37): Look, I don’t know. Acting Speaker, let me say that on this side of the house we have made our position on the east–west link pretty clear: the project does not stack up, Victorians know the project does not stack up, the money the federal government is offering is nowhere near enough to get it done and we are not going to delay projects that we have promised the people of Victoria that we will do to build a project that we have not promised to do. So that is pretty clear. What I want to do is have a look at these projects that we have promised, that Victorians rightly expect us to deliver and that will be the focus of this government. The North East Link, as noted by the member for Ferntree Gully in his matter of public importance, is an important addition to Victoria’s road network, and this is Infrastructure Victoria’s number one priority road project in the state. I will just reflect on the comments made by the member for Kew. In his concluding remarks he said that he had quoted numerous experts who said that one day this should be built. I would like to refer to Infrastructure Victoria’s 30-year strategy, which also says there is some likelihood that east–west link will be needed over the long term but sequenced after better-performing projects. Let us have a look at some of those better-performing projects, starting with our also number one priority of the North East Link. In Monday’s budget we announced that we have fully funded this $15.8 billion project, the missing link in Melbourne’s road network. It has been talked about for decades and we are getting on and doing it. The North East Link is Victoria’s biggest ever road project. It will complete that missing link in the road network between the Eastern Freeway and the M80 ring-road. It has a positive return on investment of 1.3, so unlike the east–west link, which would lose 55 cents in every dollar invested, the state will gain $1.30 for every dollar spent on the North East Link. The project will create 10 300 extra new Victorian jobs, 56 000 workers will have access to more job opportunities because they will be able to get where they need to go, between 110 000 and 130 000 vehicles will use the North East Link every day once it opens. It will save 30 minutes travel time from the ring road to Springvale Road, and good news for the member for Kew is that it will also save 30 minutes for residents in his area to get to the airport, which he was very concerned about. It will remove 15 000 trucks off local streets and 9000 vehicles off hotspots like Rosanna Road, Greensborough Road and Fitzsimmons Lane, slashing congestion in the north-east. As someone who grew up in Montmorency in the north-east, I understand the congestion problems along these roads. I know that local residents will benefit enormously from the travel time savings and from the increased safety that comes with removing that congestion on those roads. I have also toured the route of the North East Link a couple of times now, and I am really excited about what this project will provide for Victorians all across the northern and the eastern suburbs. When I hear those opposite talk about North East Link, they seem to be focusing on a very, very small portion of that project. I just want to touch on the remainder of that project, which is incredibly important. As well as providing Victoria’s longest road tunnels, the project will also deliver a number of key improvements to the existing network: a new traffic light-free connection for the ring road, Greensborough bypass, Greensborough Road and North East Link. If anyone has travelled in that area, they know that this banks up for kilometres. It is a mess. Having the traffic light-free connections there will be terrific. Greensborough Road will be rebuilt on both sides of North East Link for local traffic. Through traffic on North East Link and Greensborough Road will go under Grimshaw Street to keep traffic flowing and cut congestion in all directions, there will be 25 kilometres of new and improved walking and cycling paths, new links to connect the Western Ring Road Trail to the Eastern Freeway and the Yarra River trail, major upgrades to commuter bike routes along the Eastern Freeway, including new crossings under Burke Road, Belford Road and over the Yarra River. There is a major upgrade to the Eastern Freeway, with additional lanes, separated express and destination lanes and new traffic management technology to increase capacity, reduce congestion, improve safety and provide up to 40 per cent faster trips. There is also a dedicated busway on the Eastern Freeway to slash travel time from Hoddle Street to a new park-and-ride at Bulleen and then onto the Doncaster park-and-ride. So for the first time Melbourne will have a fully connected orbital freeway linking the city’s north to the east and the south-east. I look forward to construction starting next year and North East Link opening in 2027. But North East Link is not the only transport infrastructure project that this government is delivering. Our Big Build agenda has been and will continue to be our priority. In just four years the Labor government has invested $46.7 billion to overhaul the state’s transport network. This includes removing our most dangerous and congested level crossings, building the Metro Tunnel, extending the train line to Mernda and upgrading every regional rail line in the state. Victoria’s train network is undergoing its biggest overhaul in 100 years, with Labor governments delivering an unprecedented pipeline of transport projects, including the Metro Tunnel, the removal of 75 dangerous and congested level crossings and the delivery of 65 bigger and better trains from next year. The Metro Tunnel alone will allow more than half a million extra passengers to use Melbourne’s rail network during peak periods every week, saving people up to 50 minutes a day when travelling to key locations. A total of 29 level crossings have already been removed across Melbourne, creating safer journeys for passengers and motorists, with a further 75 crossings to be gone for good by 2025. The project will also construct more than 27 train stations and lay many kilometres of new track. And then we have our other massive road project, the West Gate Tunnel, which will cut travel times from the west—Ballarat and Geelong—by up to 20 minutes, with tunnels connecting the West Gate Freeway to the port, the city and CityLink. This project provides Melbourne with the long-awaited second west-to-east river crossing and an alternative route to the West Gate Bridge, which is currently relied on by over 200 000 vehicles per day. It involves building four more lanes on the West Gate Freeway, including express lanes between the M80 and the West Gate Bridge. A tunnel from West Gate Freeway to the Maribyrnong River will take cars and trucks underground and off residential streets in the inner west. And like North East Link, the West Gate Tunnel is an important part of our Big Build agenda. It will slash travel times, it will create thousands of jobs—6000 direct jobs indeed—and it will get trucks off local streets. So as I said previously, we are not going to delay projects that we have promised to build a project that we have not promised. We have got a massive Big Build agenda, and construction of the North East Link and the east–west link cannot occur at the same time—and the Victorian government will not consider delaying the North East Link. The project has massive benefits for residents across the north, across the east and across the south-east, and it remains our priority. Our Big Build agenda is what we have taken to two elections, and it has been overwhelmingly supported by Victorians. Just on that, I do want to respond to some remarks made by the member for Rowville yesterday, and I am pretty sure I heard the member for Kew repeat this as well. I will quote the member for Rowville: I would argue that the Morrison government went to the election just recently and it received a mandate to build the east–west tunnel. Well, that is just not quite right. There is a bit of a problem with that statement, and that is that the majority of Victorians did not vote for Mr Morrison, with the coalition only receiving just over 48 per cent of the two-party preferred vote. In fact more Victorians voted for Labor than the coalition, with Labor receiving almost 52 per cent of the two-party preferred vote. So there was absolutely no mandate given by the people of Victoria to build the east–west link, contrary to these spurious assertions. In fact when you look at Labor’s vote in Victoria, with the 2014 and the 2018 state elections being well and truly over and 50 per cent of the two-party preferred vote going to Labor as well as federal Labor receiving over 50 per cent of the two-party preferred vote in the federal election, it is quite clear that Labor has the mandate to continue with our Big Build agenda. We indeed have a mandate to deliver on the promises we made, not delay those projects for another that has been rejected now three times by Victorians at the ballot box. This is what we told Victorians we would do, and this is exactly what we will do.