Anti-freeway activists on trial


MELBOURNE — Fourteen people arrested in the campaign to halt the Eastern Freeway extension were sent to trial last week. The Coalition Against Freeway Extensions (CAFE) is organising a rally outside the magistrates' court on October 10 in support of the 14 and to protest against the extension. Fifty people have so far been arrested in direct actions to halt the bulldozing of Alexandra Parade. Of these, 11 had their charges dismissed in March, when the court found the state government had acted unlawfully by not carrying out an environmental effects statement (EES). The government then changed the law to remove the right of community consultation through an EES. Following the destruction of most of the natural and building heritage along Alexandra Parade, the likelihood of further extensions through Doncaster and Ringwood, providing a freeway link to Tullamarine airport, has spurred continued community opposition. CAFE wants the government to build a rail link to the eastern suburbs instead, as was recommended in a 1988 report commissioned by the state government. CAFE has pointed out that building roads, rather than less polluting public transport alternatives, only increases the volume of traffic and congestion. VicRoads, says CAFE, "sees congestion as an excuse to build more roads". It contrasts this response with community interest in better public transport to solve the congestion problem. CAFE also points out the health problems caused by the pollution from motor vehicles and the massive public spending. The Alexandra Parade works cost $12 million; $6 billion is earmarked for freeways in Melbourne in the coming years.
[For details on CAFE meetings and actions, see Meetings ... Parties ... Anything ... pp. 22-23.]