SPEAKING ON A BILL | PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS
Mr Melhem (Western Metropolitan): I rise to speak on the motion moved by Mr Davis. It takes me back to a similar motion Mr Davis moved in the last Parliament. It is more or less the same motion which then moved on to become the revocation motion, which was an attempt at least to put a halt to the whole project and to stop everything. Thankfully we were able to get around the act of, in my view, sabotage that Mr Davis and his colleagues in the last Parliament tried to commit to stop progress and to stop investment in infrastructure projects. Sadly when they were in government last time, which is now over four and a half years ago, they basically made more or less zero investment in new projects in the state of Victoria. They just sat on their backs and did nothing.
Mr Davis: On a point of order, Deputy President, in this debate, which is a very narrow debate about a set of documents for a project, it is important to stick to the pertinent points rather than a broad spray on infrastructure around the state. This is about one project and about the documents related to that project.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Mr Melhem, you have only just started, but I would encourage you to stick to the motion.
Mr Melhem: On the point of order, Deputy President, I thought I was talking about the project, and I was talking about the same motion Mr Davis moved, as a matter of fact, on the West Gate Tunnel project. Mr Davis did actually stray in his contribution this morning; he did not just confine himself to the documents. But nonetheless the motion proposed by Mr Davis is basically saying, ‘Let’s go for another fishing exercise to try and look at how we can frustrate the government’s program and how we can revive what we tried to do last time’. This is basically trying to put a halt to progress in this state, particularly on the West Gate Tunnel project. Mr Davis’s point (2) of the motion asks that this house: notes that, pursuant to section 15(3) of the Melbourne City Link Act 1995, either house of Parliament may revoke a variation of the agreement. There we go: Mr Davis has disappeared; he has just left the room again. I can foresee Mr Davis’s next move: ‘How can we put up another revocation motion to basically change the agreement, cancel the agreement, and perhaps cancel the project?’. Nothing would surprise me, because that is the entree if you look at point (2) of Mr Davis’s motion. I just want to say that the West Gate Tunnel project was a project put forward by Transurban and was assessed as a market-led proposal, and it went through various guidelines as required by the market-led proposal guidelines. In fact—
Mr Finn: You were on the committee. You heard it.
Mr Melhem: Mr Finn, you should be ashamed of yourself. You should be supporting the project. You should be advocating for the project. You should talk to your colleague Mr Davis about it.
Mr Finn interjected. Mr Melhem: Stop being destructive. Stop trying to stop things.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Through the Chair. Mr Melhem , I draw your attention to the fact that this is about documents, not about the project itself, so if you could please return to the motion.
Mr Melhem: Well, it is about the project, Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: It is about requesting documents about the project, not the merits of the project.
Mr Melhem: Well, I am sorry, but—
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: It is a very narrow motion, and I ask you to stick to the motion.
Mr Melhem: I must be on a different planet. In the last Parliament on every documents motion we were allowed to speak on the actual project. You might say it is narrow but it is not. In fact I will just point out to you what I have just said on point (2), it goes well beyond the documents and talks about the whole project itself and the agreement. It talks about if the house might decide to revoke an agreement or amend an agreement. Therefore we need to talk about the merit of the project. We need to talk about what this motion is really about. It is about why he would ask for documents, not just to look at them but to talk about whether or not this project stacks up or not. That is the only reason you would ask for documents, so therefore that is why I am talking about it. When this project was put together, a market-led proposal was subjected to the various guidelines which are set out—the most transparent in Australia. All the supporting information was put together and submitted by Transurban in March 2015. The business case for the project is right out there, and I think most of the documentation that this motion is even looking at is part of the business case anyhow. So to me it is nothing but another fishing exercise by Mr Davis and the coalition to look at how they can frustrate the project. It does concern me a great deal when I read point (2) of that motion and basically see that the intention behind it is again to basically frustrate progress. There are hundreds and hundreds of people employed on this project as we speak, and that number is going to grow to over 6000 people directly and indirectly. This project has been ticked off by every single commentator about why we need a project like this and why we need to get trucks off our residential streets in Yarraville, Williamstown and Footscray, including Somerville Road and Hyde Street. The benefits are getting trucks off the West Gate Bridge and an estimated 28 000 cars no longer being required to use the West Gate Bridge; they will be able to use the alternative, which is the tunnel. All the city councils affected by the project in the western suburbs, like Maribyrnong council, Hobsons Bay council and Brimbank council, are all supportive of the project. I think from memory, Mr Davis, when similar motions were put to the house in the previous Parliament the argument was about what funding model should be used. I point to one of the motions that related to what sort of tolling is attached to the agreement. We went through that a great deal last time in relation to that point. These sorts of projects have got to be paid for somehow. Either they are fully funded by taxpayers up-front or we put some sort of tolling system in place to fund it. There was an argument from last term, I think, about whether only the users pay the toll specifically on that project or we extend the current CityLink contract by a further 10 years to pay for the construction of the West Gate Tunnel. Now, the government is not going to be apologetic about it. We decided to go with the second option of extending the current contract with CityLink for a further 10 years to fund the project. Mind you, there was a similar proposal put by a former Liberal government to fund the widening of the Tullamarine Freeway. They actually suggested extending—Mr Davis is back in the room; welcome back, Mr Davis—the tolling, from memory, by one or two years to fund that project. So basically it is not unusual to do that, but because this is not Mr Davis’s idea everything else is a bad idea, and so it is a bad idea. For the life of me I cannot understand Mr Davis revisiting the same issue again and again. We spent days debating the same issue back in the previous Parliament and he was about to have another go. Last time, with the support of the Greens, the motion got up and, as I said earlier, that nearly brought the project to a complete standstill. He tried to have another go, but I think the numbers changed a bit and he did not proceed with the second motion. Now we are revisiting the same issue again for the third time. He is seeking the same documentation which we dealt with in the previous Parliament. If we want to talk about the relevance of this motion, we can talk about why we are coming back and revisiting the same issue again and again when it was dealt with in the previous Parliament. I suppose Mr Davis loves to move motion after motion seeking documents from all over the place. Maybe he has got some devious plan to do what he did in the last Parliament so that, if the Leader of the Government does not comply to Mr Davis’s satisfaction, he will try to have him stood down for six months, as he did to the Leader of the Government in the previous Parliament. Mr Jennings was stood down—basically kicked out of the house—for six months because the coalition did not receive the answers they wanted. Maybe this is a cunning plan by Mr Davis to do the same thing, but good luck getting the numbers on this one. The reason I am speaking on and opposing the motion is I do not see the advantage in going through the same thing again and again and again. Those opposite are saying, ‘We don’t care about commercial-in-confidence for some of the documentation’ because the motion talks specifically about needing to have all the documents that relate to the project tabled, with nothing taken out and nothing blacked out even if some of it might be cabinet-in-confidence or commercial-in-confidence. Let us say the motion is passed and let us say that the Leader of the Government has furnished all the documents but in order to comply with our obligations under commercial-in confidence or cabinet-in-confidence we are technically in breach of the resolution. The motion itself, the way it is written, I think there is going to be some difficulty in complying with it. Clause (1)(a) refers to ‘the West Gate Tunnel project agreement, without redactions’. So basically, if we have to take something out under legal obligation, we will be in breach. I think Mr Davis is asking Mr Jennings, the Leader of the Government, to comply. The way he is going, maybe it will be grounds for Mr Jennings to be kicked out of the house for another six months, in this Parliament. I think Mr Davis knows that even if the house agrees with his motion, the government will not be able to comply with it as it is. But I do not think that is of concern to Mr Davis. He is basically on another fishing exercise. I say get on with it. Let the project go ahead. Let us build the project. Let us get it finished as planned in 2022. It has seen significant progress already. We have got the first boring machine being assembled as we speak. I am pleased that the Premier and Minister Allan were there yesterday to witness the assembly of the boring machine. The second boring machine will be coming shortly to start digging on the other end so both ends will be done and project will be progressing on time. I am looking forward to the project being delivered on time and on budget so we can improve travel times for my constituents in the west of Melbourne, for the people of Geelong, for the people of Ballarat, for the whole economy really. There will be better access to the airport. I think it is a great project, and I think the coalition should stop using documents motions to try to frustrate major infrastructure in Victoria. I think it sends the wrong signals to investors and to everyone, because the main reason for motions like this is just to frustrate the process. As I said, members need to refer to what happened in the previous Parliament. That is exactly the intention of these motions, and therefore this motion should be opposed.