25 March 2015

Just Build It

In a speech in Federal Parliament last night, I called on Federal Labor MPs to reverse their opposition to the East West Link and the 6,700 jobs it will deliver.

In contrast to former Prime Minister Julia Gillard who strongly supported an east west crossing, Ms Gillard’s successor, Member for Lalor Joanne Ryan, last night labelled the western section of East West Link a “dead horse.”

As I said in the Grievance Debate last night, Ms Ryan has demonstrated she is not listening to her community.

Like the people of Geelong, the people of western Melbourne desperately need an alternate route to the West Gate Bridge.

That’s why I am campaigning so hard for the Andrews Government to build Stage 2 of East West Link, along with Stage 1, to which our government has committed $3 billion.

Ms Ryan’s comments put her firmly at odds with Julia Gillard.

Ms Gillard’s strong support for an east west link also sits in stark contrast to Corio MP Richard Marles, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and other western Melbourne MPs who are opposed to the East West Link.

Yet, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said on 15 July 2008 in a joint submission to the East West Link Needs Assessment Study, along with Ms Gillard, that [we]:

“support a cross city road link from the western suburbs to the Eastern Freeway… the consequences of ‘doing nothing’ are negative and far-reaching. They will threaten Melbourne’s future economic success and liveability. Substantial new investment is needed in the transport network to avoid these consequences, and to support the changes taking place across Melbourne including opening up new jobs and business opportunities across the city. ‘Doing nothing’ therefore, is not an option.”

Please find a transcript of my speech and a link to the video below.

Speech in Parliament: Just Build It

Ms Henderson:

I rise in this evening’s grievance debate to again call on state Labor and federal Labor to reverse their opposition to the East West Link and just build it, just build it.

Member for Lalor, Joanne Ryan:

Dead horse!

Ms Henderson:

The Member for Lalor has just said it is a dead horse, and that is an unbelievable statement from a member from the western suburbs of Melbourne.

Stage 2 of the East West Link is a 12-kilometre section of road to which we have contributed $1.5 billion.

And it is astonishing that the Member for Lalor is continuing to interject on this project, which is so important for the people of Geelong, the people of western Melbourne and even as far as the people of Ballarat.

Because anyone who travels up the Princes Highway for work, for business to see their family knows that the West Gate Bridge has reached choking point, and if the Member for Lalor does not understand it she is simply not listening to her community.

We now see the Member for Lalor standing in stark contrast to the Leader of the Opposition and the former Member for Lalor, the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who both were committed to an East West Link crossing.

The Daniel Andrews pathetic, frankly pathetic, option of a West Gate Distributor which only deals with some 5,000 trucks a day is really a joke.

So it was with great pride that I joined Andrew Katos, the Member for South Barwon, and also representatives from Wettenhalls Trucking Group and Riordan Grains, to call on the people of Geelong and the people of Corangamite to get behind our campaign to ‘Just Build It!’

I am asking the people of Corangamite and the people of Geelong to go to the website buildthelink.com and sign our petition.

Because, as I have been doing for many months, campaigning for stage 2 of the western section; I have been campaigning to fast-track this section.

It is so important for jobs for our local economy and for our future.

And, combined with the $1.5 billion that has been committed to stage 1 and $1.5 billion to stage 2 of East West Link, this project will deliver almost 7,000 jobs.

This project will deliver the jobs that we desperately need in our great city.

It is astonishing that members opposite, including the Member for Lalor and I know how many people will be disappointed to hear of the Member for Lalor’s inflammatory claims, and also her very stark opposition to this project, because the people of western Melbourne, the people of Geelong and the people even of cities like Ballarat know how important it is to unclog Melbourne, because what the western section will do is deliver a second alternative to the West Gate Bridge.

As I mentioned, federal Labor members of parliament, including Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, including the Member for Corio, must reverse their position and back this project.

The Andrews Government’s threats to tear up the contract or pay around $1 billion compensation are economically reckless and will cause Victoria significant economic damage.

-Ms Ryan interjecting-

If the state government…and I do ask if the Member for Lalor, who is continually interjecting, perhaps she could, as I did, show me the courtesy to speak in this grievance debate, because this is a grievance of monumental seriousness.

The fact that federal Labor and state Labor are standing in the way of one of the biggest infrastructure projects for our state is an absolute disgrace.

Almost 7,000 jobs for the people of Geelong, for western Melbourne for Ballarat, to drive new investment into our region, to unclog the roadways for freight movers, for trucking companies, for new businesses.

Congestion is continuing to build and, frankly, the Andrews Government has no solution whatsoever.

So I say to state and federal Labor: look what you have said before; just build it.

The western section of East West Link will save peak-hour commuters an estimated three hours a week in travel time.

Some 14,000 people from Geelong travel to Melbourne each day to work and, as anyone who knows travelling along the Princess Highway, it is nothing short of a car park once you get to within about 10 or 15 kilometres of West Gate Bridge.

The West Gate Bridge is heavily congested, it is carrying 200,000 vehicles a day, and the western section will provide capacity for around 100,000 vehicles a day.

The western section alone will create around 3,000 jobs during construction, jobs that are so important for our region.

Shane Blakeborough of Journey Management, a wonderful transport training and logistics company based in my electorate, estimates that it will cost $1 million more a year for his company alone not to build East West Link.

It is cheaper for him to run trucks between Geelong and Albury than between Geelong and Dandenong because of the stop-start, the fact that he can get two trips to Dandenong a day if the East West Link is built.

And what is so astonishing about this situation is that just six years ago, as I alluded to, the Leader of the Opposition threw his support behind an East West Link for Melbourne, along with the former Member for Lalor, the former Prime Minister Gillard. They said that “doing nothing is not an option”.

We are seeing already the consequences of Daniel Andrews’ reckless conduct.

I want to refer to an article Infrastructure Investor and this is an article published on 6 March 2015: “With the Victorian government threatening to consider legislation to avoid paying the private consortium compensation if a project is shelved,” they are now asking “can Australia be taken at its word?”

This is going to do enormous damage. Daniel Andrews must reverse his position.

When I announced our local campaign on Sunday, Whettenhalls director Peter Mills said that the chaos on the West Gate Bridge for his company, he has estimated, it is costing some $3 million a year in additional costs.

We must address the big questions. We must address the big infrastructure challenges, and this is why East West Link is so important.

I do note that, on 11 March, the Prime Minister wrote to Daniel Andrews and he spoke about the risks to the state if this project is aborted, if the contracts are ripped up and if this retrospective legislation is passed.

And I do want to put this on the record, Daniel Andrews, in 2013, has said: “Sovereign risk is sovereign risk. A contract is a contract.”

Well, Daniel Andrews went to the election saying “this is not worth the paper it’s written on.”

He was wrong. He was absolutely wrong. This is a binding contract.

He has previously acknowledged the importance of not breaking a binding contract.

The shadow Treasurer at the time, back in 2013, said, and this is Chris Bowen at the time: “Bill Shorten and I are of one mind, Labor honours contracts, Labor in government honours contracts entered into by previous governments. Even if we don’t like them, for issues of sovereign risk, Labor honours contracts in office signed by previous governments.”

So why don’t the Leader of the Opposition and other members opposite have the courage of their convictions, have the courage to stand up and honour this contract, have the courage to say to Daniel Andrews, “Your reckless conduct is causing our state enormous damage?”

The western section of East West Link to which we have committed a massive $1.5 billion is so important.

Each and every day, I am fighting for jobs for Corangamite and for our great region, and I will continue to fight for this.

So I say: build the link. Build the link, so incredibly important for our region, for our future, for families, for new business investment.

And I say to the Leader of the Opposition: go back and look at what you said six years ago.

Go back and look at the damage that Daniel Andrews is doing to our state.

Reverse your position and build the link. Thank you very much.

25 March 2015