NOTICE OF MOTION | PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS
Mr MELHEM (Western Metropolitan): I also rise to speak on this motion. I note, however, that the government will not be opposing the motion, for the simple reason that what the motion seeks are documents in relation to the contract and various documents regarding the West Gate tunnel. The fact is that all of the documents this motion seeks are already out there in the public domain.
The real purpose of this motion is not what it actually says and not what the words are trying to say. There is only one intention. This motion was put by the Liberal opposition and supported by the Greens to further frustrate the construction and delivery of the West Gate tunnel project. That is the only reason this motion has been put before this house. Remember that this motion, along with the revocation motion, was put before this house some months ago. Let us be clear about it. It is not about searching for information and it is not about searching to scrutinise a contract while singing the song, ‘We are putting the lives of Victorians at the forefront, we care about the cost, we care about this, we care about that and we are the champions of consultation’ — please, spare me that. This motion is not about that. This motion is about further trying to stop progress. It is no different from the revocation motion which was put before this house to put workers out of jobs.
Fortunately the project has gone ahead, the project is actually going full steam ahead, so it does not matter how many stunts you want to pull in this place. This project is going ahead, it is going full steam and it will be delivered to Victorians by 2022. Whether you like it or not it will be delivered, and I am proud to stand here and support this project and support the work by the Andrews Labor government and by the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Luke Donnellan, who had the vision to deliver a project that Western Metropolitan Region desperately needs. Geelong desperately needs it, Ballarat desperately needs it and even Bendigo needs it. If we look at the whole western part of Victoria, it desperately needs a second river crossing and widening of the West Gate Bridge to six lanes each way, giving us another access to the port and another access to CityLink.
Now, I know there is an argument, but I am not sure if it is an argument about which way we fund the project, because I am a bit confused. At one stage they said, ‘We don’t want the project to go ahead’, full stop. They tried to stop the environment effects statement last time, and now we are arguing about what is the best method to pay for the project. So I am a bit confused. You are either supporting the project —
Ms Truong interjected.
Mr MELHEM — At least the Greens are honest and up-front about it, basically saying they do not want it, full stop, and I respect them for that. That is fair enough; at least you are clearly saying you do not want it, full stop. But I am not sure what the other side are arguing about. One minute they want to stop the project, the next minute they are saying, ‘We’re not sure about the contract you have got with Transurban’. The contract with Transurban — you pioneered that model with the Tullamarine widening. You pioneered that. Part of that contract, the 4.5 per cent adjustment, was quoted by Mr Davis. That was your idea as part of the Tullamarine widening.
Mr Davis interjected.
Mr MELHEM — Sure, we can have a debate. You wanted to have a debate about the West Gate tunnel, and we have got the 2022 date by the way because it has to be subject to a separate piece of legislation that will have to come before the Parliament in relation to a variation to the current Melbourne CityLink Act 1995 to extend the contract by a further 10 years. That debate will be had in the next three years. We would like it dealt with today, but basically that will be dealt with and there will be a debate about whether or not the state will pay for the construction and delivery of the project in full, so there would be no tolling, or whether or not to adopt the current proposition that was put by the Andrews Labor government to extend CityLink. All this information is not secret; it is out there. It was put out to public scrutiny for a long, long time, and there will be debate about whether or not for the whole of CityLink including the West Gate tunnel there will be an extension of 10 years, taking into account the Tullamarine widening, which was commissioned under the previous government. Mind you that is the only project that was commissioned under the previous government. That would be a model where we extend the whole system by 10 years.
There is a third option, and I have not heard you arguing on that. When you are building a toll road you have got to pay for it somehow. There are two ways you can pay for infrastructure. You either pay it from the taxpayers, basically from the Department of Treasury and Finance, or you build a toll road. They normally are similar cost projects that cost about $5 billion or $6 billion, and you would be looking at a toll for somewhere between 25 and 35 years if you look at some of the similar projects like EastLink, CityLink and so forth. Yes, a proposition was put and that was another option, but the option the government is proposing, which I think is the right option, is basically combining the Tullamarine widening project and the West Gate tunnel project as one, which means extending CityLink by 10 years.
The interesting thing — talking about the opposition — is the hypocrisy from the other side in putting motion after motion about documentation. I was here for 18 months as part of the last Parliament, and I recall when the Greens party tried to put document motions to seek documentation from the other side. In the response from Mr Davis, who was then Leader of the Government in this place in the 57th Parliament, he did not agree to a single motion. He opposed every single motion.
Mr Davis — That is a lie.
Mr MELHEM — You want to talk about the
east–west link? When we sought documentation, how many pages was it? I think it was about three or four pages that were put out about the business case. With this particular project there is a 10 000-page environmental impact statement that was released in 2017, and the actual business case, the full business case, was released earlier than for any other project and was subject to a lot of public hearings.
Ms Truong — It was redacted.
Mr MELHEM — Yes, some information was taken out, and you will do that in any contract. The Greens probably do not know much about it, but there are some areas where it is commercial in confidence, where you want to protect the interests of the state and businesses. In some areas some parts will be blackened, will be taken out of the contract, for commercial-in-confidence matters. That is not uncommon. It is very common in business. When people are bidding for something, you do not want to tell all the bidders what everybody else is doing because you will not be able to get the best price, because if you have got five bidders for a product you want to get from them they will all put the same price and you do not have competitive bidding. So therefore there is certain information that, yes, will be taken out, but the important stuff is out there and most of the information you are talking about is already in the public domain. You can google it on the internet, so there is no secret.
Ms Truong interjected.
Mr MELHEM — Well, that is the question. Maybe you should actually recognise it in the motion and say, ‘It’s not enough. We want more. We’ve got 99 per cent, and we want that extra 1 per cent’. You are not supporting the project anyway, so it does not matter how much information we give you. Your position is not going to change.
The problem with this motion is that it is another tactic by the opposition to further delay the project, but the good news is that the government is determined not to delay the delivery of this project. Over 1200 people as we speak today are working on the project. There is significant progress taking place to dig the portion on Whitehall Street, awaiting the arrival of the boring machine to start digging the tunnel. Preparation to widen the West Gate Freeway is progressing really well. Fences have been put up so construction can start. That is progressing very well. We have got seven piling rigs on the site already, and more will be arriving this week.
I am not sure what else we can do, because I have not heard a single word from the opposition saying, ‘If you give us all these documents, we will actually support the project’.
Honourable members interjecting.
Mr MELHEM — No, I have already dealt with you. You might need to go to reading school. There are tens of thousands of documents already on the website, including the contract.
Mr Finn interjected.
Mr MELHEM — Mr Finn, do not talk about dodgy deals. We will talk about your dodgy deal on Good Friday. Do not lecture me about dodgy deals. We had a deal with you on Good Friday, and what did you do? On the most sacred day you broke that deal, didn’t you? You are an absolute disgrace. Do not lecture me about dodgy deals. You talk about dodgy, you are the biggest one in this house.
Let us go back to the benefits of this project. One of the big benefits of this project is getting trucks off our roads. That is one of the biggest benefits. The Greens party, including Colleen Hartland, the former member, along with many other organisations and I were advocating very strongly to ban trucks from residential streets. This project is going to do exactly that. It is going to deliver permanent bans of trucks on Somerville Road, Francis Street, Hyde Street and many streets where it is going to be a permanent ban. It is going to deliver that outcome. Mr Finn talked about Millers Road. Yes, I get it. There are about 30 or 40 houses on Millers Road that will be affected. But guess what? At least I do not play politics. I am up-front with people. Yes, there are going to be more trucks on Millers Road. We will be spending our time talking to the 30 or 40 affected residents on Millers Road to work through that issue.
Mr Finn interjected.
Mr MELHEM — Do not come back with nonsense. This state needs leadership, not politics. You are just playing politics. This project is going to improve travel times for the people in the west and Geelong.
Honourable members interjecting.
Mr MELHEM — Well, I tell you what — I keep hearing from my right here — what we will do is ban cars. It is simple. Let us ban cars. I think we should put a bill in this house that says we do not use cars or trucks on roads in Victoria. Let us ban them all. I would like to see the opposition and the Greens party put a motion for legislation to ban cars in Victoria. It is not going to happen, is it?
Ms Truong interjected.
Mr MELHEM — Well, that is what you are saying. Whether you like it or not, people still want to use cars to travel from point A to point B. Now let us go back to public transport, where there has been a massive investment. The biggest investment in public transport in the history of this state was delivered by the Andrews Labor government, and I do not hear the Greens or the opposition recognising and acknowledging that. If we were just investing in roads and ignoring public transport, I would accept the criticism, but that is not the case here. We have massive investment in public transport. Metro rail is actually happening in reality. It is real. It is not about ‘We’re going to do it’, which is what the previous government, the coalition, said. They dreamed about it and said, ‘We might do it one day’. We are actually doing it. We are putting in the money to deliver the metro rail project, railway crossings and new train stations.
We are looking at a massive investment in the Geelong fast rail and the duplication of the rail line between Deer Park and Melton. This budget is looking at phase 2 of the electrification of that line, so we are actually putting massive investment into public transport. It is not as though we are only focusing on one single project, as the previous government decided to do in the second half of their term — they sort of decided to come up with the east–west link. We are actually doing all of those. We are doing public transport investment and also roads.
I go back to the reason why this motion has been put. As I said, we are not opposing the documents motion. The document is already out there in the public domain. There are no secrets about what we are trying to do. There is no secret. We did say what the cost of the project is going to be like. Yes, it was modified when the final project was agreed to. We are actually saying how the project is going to be paid for, so that is no secret at all. Even Mr Davis talked about the escalation. For example, if the escalation was hidden you could say it was something hidden; we actually put it all out there. It is not a big secret. For example, some people may argue about the grand prix or whatever and that we do not know what the costs are going to look like or what the costs are going to be every year. It is there; it is out there. It is not like it is a big secret. I say: just go and read the documentation. Just go and take the time.
Mr Finn — Give it to us and we will.
Mr MELHEM — It is there on the website. We will download it for you. Do you want me to download it for you?
Mr Finn — We will.
Mr MELHEM — I will download it for you, and then you can go and read it. I will not read it for you. You will probably get one of your staff to read it for you if you are having difficulty reading, so they can do that for you.
The design was the subject of a fair bit of consultation about what was the best design we could come up with to deliver the best possible outcome. It features 14 kilometres of new and upgraded walking and cycling paths. That is another great benefit out of this project. We had a missing link on this site in the west. Now that is going to be completed and it is going to be delivered as part of this project.
There are other areas, like industrial and other unused land, in the inner west that will be transformed by the project, with almost 9 hectares of new green spaces and wetlands — and the Greens want to oppose that. That is another area we are looking at developing as part of this project.
I talked about getting over 9000 trucks off our local roads.
Ms Truong interjected.
Mr MELHEM — Well, yes. They have got to go somewhere. I am sorry; they have got to go somewhere. They have got to go to the warehouses in the western suburbs. Maybe the other option, which has been looked at, is we will have less trucks and we will have more rails to basically cart these containers from point A —
An honourable member interjected.
Mr MELHEM — That is another solution, but we need to look at what is the solution today as well. At the moment that is the solution, and the trucks have got to go somewhere. They cannot simply disappear. We cannot just ban them.
The other option is that if we have no trucks on roads and no cars on roads, nothing moves. You cannot go to work and you cannot deliver anything for industry if you shut everything down. I am sorry; that is not an option. Yes, it has to be a balance between rail and road, and that is the balance we are trying to strike. I think this government is working very hard to make sure we have got that balance, and I think we have got that balance. Yes, there is more to be done on roads and on rail. More work will be done on the north-east link, and that is another vital infrastructure project that needs to be done. Mr Davis probably will have his notice of motion next week about stopping this one as well.
More work needs to be done on the Melbourne Airport rail link. I will be very pleased if the preferred route will be via Sunshine. Sunshine will become a hub connecting regional rail to the airport and also our metro system. That is going to be in my electorate. I think that is another huge investment. I am hoping that the land that will be used for that particular project will be for a route via Sunshine. I think what the Liberal Party is advocating for, for whatever reason, is that it goes to Highpoint. Some investors might be pushing for that because there is a huge piece of land there and they want to get some good money for it — off the commonwealth, I think. I think Sunshine is the perfect solution for the new Melbourne Airport link. That is another great project.
I suppose there will be another motion tomorrow or next week, or the week after or in another sitting week — a revocation motion or maybe another documents motion; another stunt.
I go back to what I said earlier. If we had not put much information out there, then it would be fair enough that this motion needed to be put in place, because it would be a secret contract that no-one knows about. It is not.
Mr Finn — Dodgy as all get-out.
Mr MELHEM — Well, Mr Finn, the only dodgy thing is you, mate. I will go on to talk about the benefit of this project.
Mr Finn — That wouldn’t take long.
Mr MELHEM — It will take about another 37 minutes, Mr Finn, and on your time as well. There will be 70 kilometres of new traffic lanes over 17 kilometres, from Kororoit Creek Road to Wurundjeri Way, and 9 kilometres of new and replacement noise walls. That is another benefit. I think my constituents in the west, in the Altona area and along the corridor of the West Gate Freeway will enjoy a benefit in making sure there is a noise reduction. The latest technology is going to be used to actually reduce noise, which is noise that is currently there because of the freeway. As part of the new design and the widening of the West Gate Freeway we are going to have new noise walls which are based on the technology that was used on EastLink to reduce the noise level for my constituents in the west.
I again want to congratulate VicRoads and the minister for having the foresight to try to get these things right and to have that add-on benefit to the project. I do not hear the Greens, Mr Finn or anyone else praising that because, to be frank, I do not think they really care about the constituents in the western suburbs. They just want to play politics and score political points instead of trying to talk about what is good about this project. You cannot just say the project is no good without actually saying why it is no good. Occasionally it would be good if you said, ‘There are some good things about the project, but we can actually improve it’, and then we would have more things to look at and maybe further improve the project, but I do not hear that. We are even going to be planting 70 500 trees as part of this project, and I think that is a great thing.
More importantly for my electorate, 110 000 tonnes of steel will be used and 92 per cent of it will be produced in the local area. It is not happening in my electorate, but one of the biggest steel mills in the country in Laverton will be producing that steel. Further to that, there are a number of steel processing plants in the western suburbs where they are processing the mesh and the rods. They will be processing that steel and that steel will be used on that project. That is great news for the local economy. That is what the Andrews Labor government has put in place — in fact it has enshrined it in law now — mandating the use of local product. That is another great benefit for my constituents in the western suburbs, making sure that we are supporting local jobs. I can go on and on about the benefits of project for the next 30 minutes.
Ms Pennicuik — Really? I haven’t heard anything yet.
Mr MELHEM — Well, keep listening. There is a lot of benefit in this project. I cannot see why this project is still being opposed by the opposition and the Greens. You talked about election tactics before an election. Yes, we are going to go to an election in November, and we will be judged on our record. We will be able to tell Victorians, ‘Here is what we delivered in four years and here is what we are planning to deliver in the next four years’, and they will make a judgement — as they made their judgement in November 2014, when the previous government was judged as having done nothing. It was not believed that they would do anything should they be re-elected for a further four years. That is fact. I trust the electorate. They are intelligent. I do not treat them as dummies who do not understand — ‘I know everything; they know nothing’. I do not believe that. I do not subscribe to that. I respect that the electorate actually will judge us every four years. If we are doing a good job, we will be returned. If we are not doing a good job and they agree with the opposition, we will go and swap benches. But I will say to Mr Davis and his colleagues that with the way they are going that is probably wishful thinking.
We talked earlier about the public hearings that were conducted when the project was first announced. At the public hearing in relation to the environment effects statement 40 expert witness reports, 73 project notes and 243 tabled documents were produced and presented to the inquiry and advisory committee to aid their inquiry and assessment of the project. Five hundred and four submissions were considered. It is true to say that not everybody was happy, but the overwhelming majority of people and stakeholders who made submissions are comfortable with the project. Is it 100 per cent? No, it is not. Is it 100 per cent if everyone is happy with the project? That is correct. But all the local governments and all the major stakeholders are supporting the project.
So I do not get why we need to again and again waste time on another production of documents motion. You cannot even say specifically what you are looking for because the contract is out there. You cannot tell us specifically what you are looking for. Are you looking for the tenure of the contract? It is there. It is 10 years. Are you looking at how the charge is going to be done? Well, it is there. Are you looking at the escalation in the CPI or whatever method is used? It is there. I am at quite a loss. It is not like it is all a big secret.
As I said earlier, there will be another bill which will be put to the house as a separate one to give effect to the contract. It is not like the bill has already passed; it has not. There will be a fair bit of debate. It is highly unlikely this Parliament is going to deal with it. It is more than likely that the next Parliament will be dealing with the bill to give effect to the contract because it does require an act of Parliament to basically extend the lease or the contract with CityLink for a further 10 years. The next Parliament will be dealing with that.
Let me conclude by reminding the house about what the Leader of the Opposition said recently in relation to major infrastructure projects. He said, and I quote:
What Melbourne needs to do is take the politics out of our infrastructure delivery. I mean, there’s no more arguing. We need to start getting on with some of these plans to free up traffic congestion.
That was Matthew Guy on Channel 9 News on 20 November 2017. That is what the leader said, but obviously the leader is getting ignored again.
As I said, the government will not be opposing the motion. We believe the motion is pretty much useless because all the documentation you are looking for is already out there in the public domain. You can pull stunt after stunt after stunt, and that is further proof of how irrelevant the Liberal Party has become in recent times.
Basically the Liberal Party in the state of Victoria has become in the last 10 years a do-nothing party — a party that stands for nothing and a party that stands for no investment in infrastructure projects in this state. Basically it is a party that does not believe that we should invest in our infrastructure — in roads, in public transport, in education and in health. Basically they do not believe in anything, to be frank, unlike the Andrews Labor government. We believe in this state. We believe in investing in infrastructure projects. We believe in this project. We believe in the north-east link project. We believe in the metro rail project. We believe in delivering the 50 level crossings project, as we promised and said we would. We believe in delivering in education and health, and we are getting on with it, unlike you. Basically you want to stymie everything. With those comments, I hope that the opposition will come to its senses and stop the wild-goose chase in trying to stop the project going ahead in Victoria.
9 May 2018