On Thursday 11th Sept, for the first time in a long time, the ALP moved in the right direction on the East West toll road.
The community doesn’t want the road, there’s no business case, and the huge cost would cripple Melbourne’s ability to live up to its potential as a city with world class public transport.
Thursday’s decision was an enormous win for people power. There are hundreds of community groups and Greens supporters who have worked tirelessly for years to make sure this $18 billion sink hole doesn’t get built. In whatever form it has taken - the WestLink under Labor Premier John Brumby or its modern iteration East West Link - these activists have stood strong. Whether it’s protesting at Labor’s offices, calling talk back radio, picketing drill sites, or hosting community meetings, thousands of Melburnians have committed hundreds of hours to ensuring this road doesn’t tear up our city.
These community members have fought hard in the face of a Government who is determined to build the road at all costs. Today you can’t walk past a bus stop, get on a tram or see a taxi that isn’t emblazoned with Government-funded, pro-East West propaganda. We’re up against a Government who wants to ram this road through our city with no consultation or business case, and is able to spend millions of taxpayer dollars ‘selling’ it to voters.
But we have something they don’t have: grit, passion and people-power. And we’re on the right side of history. World-class cities in other countries are dismantling freeways and instead building public transport. That’s what Melbourne should be doing.
But let’s be honest: Labor hasn’t changed it’s position simply because they’ve suddenly seen the light. They’ve known the facts about the toll road for a long time - the huge cost, the missing business case, the projections that show it won’t help congestion and will be in gridlock within 15 years. Instead, they’ve changed their position because they’re scared of community backlash, and scared of losing seats to the Greens in the inner city this November.
This just goes to show what can happen when people vote Green.
When Melbourne voted for Adam Bandt in 2010, he was able to negotiate with Labor to get a price on carbon, $13 billion investment in renewable energy, and free dental care for kids through Medicare. Now that Melbourne is looking like it may go Green at the state election, Labor are promising more money for schools, and now they’re backflipping on the East West toll road.
It’s great news for the community, but it doesn’t mean we should take the pressure off.
Let’s not forget that Labor was the first political party to dream up the East West toll road idea. Labor have changed their stance before, and they could change it again. There will be people in the party deeply unhappy with this decision, Labor people who are tied to big business and want to find any loophole they can get this toll road built. There will be people who are desperately hoping that Moreland and Yarra councils lose their court case in December and give Labor an excuse and a scapegoat so they can build the road. Even if Labor doesn't defend the case, there will be other who can (and will) step in and defend it, as legal advice provided to Crikey has outlined.
That’s why it’s so important to vote Green this election. This change has come about as a result the pressure the community and the Greens have been putting on Labor. The Greens make Labor better. We force them to come good on their promises. We need to make sure that after November 29th, there are Greens in Parliament who can remind Labor of the promise they made to Melburnians on the 11th of September. Greens MPs who can bring the grit, passion and long term vision shown by supporters and community campaigners who’ve fought tooth and nail against this road.
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