PARLIAMENT HOUSE, Canberra: The East West Link is a vital piece of infrastructure that is desperately needed for Melbourne, particularly for residents in eastern Melbourne, including in my electorate of Aston, who face daily traffic congestion. I rise today to express my disappointment and frustration that the federal government ignored this important piece of infrastructure in the budget last night.
The East West Link would be an 18-kilometre stretch of road that would link the Eastern Freeway across to the west. The proposal is to tunnel from the end of the Eastern Freeway across to the other side of the city and then link up with the Tullamarine Freeway and the Western Ring Road. It is the Victorian government’s top priority as an infrastructure project, and it is also the RACV’s top priority as an infrastructure project.
Why is this so critical? It is because the Eastern Freeway, as you would know, Madam Speaker, because many of your residents would take it to go into work each morning just as residents of Aston do, is one of the busiest freeways in Melbourne but comes to a full stop at the end of it at Hoddle Street, which means that you get enormous backlogs of traffic coming to a standstill, particularly in peak hour traffic in the morning. There are no linkages across to the west from there.
Families in my electorate and in other electorates in eastern Melbourne such as Deakin, Chisholm, Bruce and Kooyong have to suffer further traffic congestion, and that means there is time away from home and stuck in traffic instead. For businesses this congestion comes at a huge economic cost. Instead of taking a very short amount of time to get from one side of the city to the other, they are stuck in traffic, often for hours, to get across to the other side of town.
The additional benefit of the East West Link is to take pressure off the M1 and off the West Gate Freeway, because that also is coming to a standstill at peak hour. Having a further link across to the west would take pressure off that very busy arterial.
On 7 May this year we received some very good news: the Napthine government committed for stage 1 to be built starting next year and to be completed within five years. Stage 1 would connect the Eastern Freeway across to the Tullamarine Freeway, which is probably the most important part as far as residents in my electorate are concerned. This section would cost between $6 billion and $8 billion, and the state government made an initial contribution of $294 million. As I said before, they have listed this as their No. 1 roads priority for the state, and they have requested $1.5 billion from the federal government to help make it happen. They would make up the rest through private contributions.
I am pleased that the coalition has committed this $1.5 billion, so that money will go towards that project to help get it done if there is a change of government. Last night, though, despite the government going on a spending spree and despite having budget deficits as far as the eye could see, they did not put aside any money for this vital piece of economic infrastructure.
I am disappointed in that regard because this was the state’s top priority, it was the RACV’s top priority project and it is desperately needed by residents in my electorate and across eastern Melbourne. It did not get funding last night and indeed was not even listed on the government’s 10-year horizon. That is how the government thinks about this important piece of infrastructure.
This means that in the upcoming election residents in Aston, Deakin, Chisholm, Bruce and Kooyong will have a very clear choice. If they choose the coalition, they know that this project will go ahead, that it will start next year, that it will be completed within five years and that that will ease congestion on the Eastern Freeway and make it easier to get across to the other side of town. However, if the government is re-elected, we know that it will not even be on their priority list for the next decade.
That is the clear choice. Let’s get it done. Let’s put the $1.5 billion on the table so that we can reduce congestion in Melbourne.