SPEAKING ON A BILL | EASTERN FREEWAY

Mr Melhem: I also rise to speak on this motion moved by Mr Davis. I will not be supporting the motion. If you look at the motion itself, it is: That this house notes, but does not support, the government’s proposal to heritage list the Eastern Freeway. Now I will make a few points about why the government is looking at putting in an application in relation to putting the Eastern Freeway on the heritage list. We have been up-front about it. It is because the other side in recent times have always tried to stop things happening in this state, and every time there is a project they do not like they go and try to have it heritage-listed. There was some reference earlier about the metro rail. Mr Davis in his contribution talked about St Kilda Road and the trees and various other things. We all remember that the federal environment minister at the time, Mr Frydenberg, basically because he did not like the design of the metro rail. He did not like that the government did not go along with the preferred model Mr Davis envisaged in the last while about how the metro rail should be built, with the South Yarra station. We did not pick his preferred model. Mind you, when they were in government for four years they did nothing. They did not commission or finish; you have got to commission before you finish. They did not do any major projects during those four years, and suddenly they just basically want to stop everything.

That is a classic example of where the opposition are not afraid of asking their colleagues in Canberra, or trying to do it themselves, to basically list a project on the heritage list for a simple reason. It is not about protecting the trees, not about protecting infrastructure and not about protecting the values of whatever the thing is they are trying to pretend they are protecting; it is simply to delay, to frustrate and to stop projects going ahead. We give no apology for taking preventative action and applying to heritage list the Eastern Freeway to make sure that the Liberals cannot again try to use heritage laws to stop us delivering the major projects that Victoria voted for. It is not just the heritage; we all know about the West Gate Tunnel Project and how many revocation motions the opposition put before this house to try to stop that project. They have got a track record of trying to use whatever ways and whatever means to stop this government delivering on its election commitment to actually deliver this major project for Victoria.

We are not trying to come up with some sort of novel idea. We are actually up-front. We are just saying what we are doing. We are actually putting in an application to put it on the heritage list so we can design the North East Link, taking into account what we need to do to make sure the design fits in with a heritage-listed environment. We designed that up-front so that you cannot go and pull another trick with a last-minute application as people or an organisation who want nothing more than to disrupt the north-east project. Let me tell you—

Mr Ondarchie: What are you talking about?

Mr Melhem: Well, if you do not like what I am talking about, Mr Ondarchie, you can actually put some earplugs in. I can pass on some earplugs to you, or you can leave the chamber. The application will provide certainty for the North East Link Project so we can get on with it and build this vital project and, as I said, protect the heritage values that need to be respected through the design process. That lot on the other side are now saying, ‘Oh, well, if that’s the case then what are we going to do? We’re going to go and stop the project’. They are still hell-bent on actually wanting to stop the project.

Mr Ondarchie interjected.

Mr Melhem: I am coming to it, Mr Ondarchie. I am pre-empting what you are about to say. We are going to come back to the east–west link.

Mr Ondarchie: You supported the east–west link.

Mr Melhem: I did? I did when I was at the union, and I can tell you why I did—because I wanted you to do something. You were sitting there; you were doing nothing. I did, because I wanted to do something. You were sitting there and you were doing nothing. Then someone came up with something and said, ‘We’ll do this’. I said, ‘Yes, please do it. Please!’.

Members interjecting.

The Acting President: Order! Mr Davis, could you interject from your place, please.

Mr Davis: You wrote the submission in 2009.

Mr Melhem: I did. I wrote a good submission to Sir Rod Eddington, and one of the projects was the east–west link. And guess what: we are doing the western section. It is happening in my electorate.

Mr Finn interjected.

Mr Melhem: Mr Finn, you have got to agree with me. The West Gate Tunnel Project is the western section of the so-called east–west link, which the other side wanted to do, but I could not actually find where the western section of the proposed east–west link was. To 2030 or 2035 it was not even there. So the western section of your east–west link is actually happening, and it is going to be completed in 2022. If we look at your model versus the model that we are proposing for the North East Link, we are finally going to complete the ring-road. We are going to link the western section and the West Gate Freeway to the M80 going around the northern suburbs and then to the Eastern Freeway, EastLink and the south-eastern suburbs all the way to the peninsula.

Mr Finn: On a point of order, Acting President, I have for the last 6 minutes or so been endeavouring to find out exactly what Mr Melhem has been talking about. Having ascertained that, it appears that he is way off the subject of the motion before the house. It has taken me a while to work it out, I have to say, but I ask you to bring him back to the motion that is actually before the house and the matter for discussion.

Mr Gepp: Further to the point of order, Acting President, Mr Melhem is clearly responding to interjections that everybody in this house can hear. They have been provoking him. Mr Davis, not in his place, on two occasions provoked him, defying your ruling, moving somewhere else and still interjecting. So Mr Melhem is being relevant to the motion and is responding to the catcalls from those opposite.

The Acting President: Mr Melhem, if you could at least get remotely back on the point, that would be good.

Mr Melhem: Thank you, Acting President. I thought I was on the point because I was talking about why we are putting the Eastern Freeway on the heritage list. I actually talked a fair bit about that. Then I talked about the reason why we are doing it—because we are building a project called the North East Link. The two are related. The Department of Transport, as part of the application that we are putting through that you are trying to stop again, has nominated an approximately 8-kilometre section of the Eastern Freeway to be listed on the Victorian Heritage Register as a place of significance in the history and development of Victoria. It is 8 kilometres. We know what the application will talk about. The heritage nomination is supported by heritage consultant Lovell Chen’s independent assessment of our project’s entire corridor, as part of the North East Link environment effects statement. Again I go back to the point I made earlier in the 5 minutes I have left. The reason that application has been put through is plainly this: to stop Mr Davis and his co-conspirators trying to use heritage listing applications to stop a very important project.

Mr Hayes interjected.

Mr Melhem: No, it is not a misuse, Mr Hayes. These areas as part of the Eastern Freeway need to be put on the list anyhow. That is the ‘how’. We do it up-front, not later on. When we are designing the project we take all these things into account. When we do the environment effects statement we take all these things into consideration. We do the job once, we do it up-front, and then the project can go ahead instead of waiting for Mr Davis to pull another stunt like he did with the West Gate Tunnel a number of times and the federal government tried to do with the metro rail because they did not like the design. They wanted a station at South Yarra. They said, ‘Okay, we’re going to basically heritage list the whole project’. So you have got form. We are actually responding to actions you have taken in the past. We are not making these things up. We are not actually—

Mr Finn: I think you are.

Mr Melhem: Well, you have got form. You can actually stand here. You had two members from your side contributing to debate. I have not heard any of your members saying, ‘We will not support an application for the place to be heritage-listed or anyone to use that to prevent the project going ahead or slow down the project’. I have not heard you saying that. But you would not, because you are hell-bent, ‘We want the east–west link again’, even though Victorians rejected it three times.

Mr Davis interjected.

Mr Melhem: Do you reckon? Get over it. Victorians have rejected your idea three times. Just get with the program. They voted for the North East Link, so just get on with the program.

Mr Finn interjected.

Mr Melhem: Well, that is what you would like to do, Mr Finn.

Mr Finn interjected.

Mr Melhem: That is the reason. Thank you, Mr Finn. That is a good point you make. You just basically showed everyone what it is all about for you people. You are the do-nothing party. ‘I will take everything to an election then another election and then another election’ and then do nothing. That is exactly what you did when you were in power for four years. You have done nothing. Again, you say, ‘Oh, don’t do it. Don’t do it. Just put it on hold. Don’t do anything’. Well, we have taken it to the election. Victorians have voted for that projected to go ahead. They have voted for the metro rail project to go ahead, the level crossing removals project to go ahead, the sky rail project to go ahead—all of these projects have now been implemented. You have tried many times to stop and frustrate these projects. Guess what? You can just keep trying. You were rejected by Victorians in November last year. You will be rejected again if you keep that up. This government is about getting things done. We are getting ahead of you in relation to this. That is why we are putting this application in—because we want this project built. We give no apology about it. We will get it built because that is what we do—we get things done.