Melbourne: Community rallies against East-West tollway

Issue 

There was standing room only at the Collingwood Health Centre as about 200 people met on July 20 to oppose the East-West tunnel and tollway. The road plan threatens to demolish homes, spew fumes onto a primary school and childcare centre, and destroy wetlands and parks in Melbourne’s west.

Yarra councillor and Socialist Party member Stephen Jolly said the campaign was not a lost cause, but a long-term fight. He urged people to look at the legal and political options, as well as mass actions and pickets if work went ahead on the project.

The project is dependent on the Coalition winning the federal election and community action will compel major investors to back away from the project, he said.

Greens MP Adam Bandt said the state government has spent nearly $300 million on a public relations campaign to give the impression that opposing the project was a lost cause. No money has been budgeted for the project, but it will be a big burden on all Victorians, who will be saddled with debt and the enormous subsidies the government proposes to pay the builders.

Incidentally, the state government has cut TAFE funds by $300 million, the amount spent on the publicity campaign for the tunnel-toll road.

The East-West link is a hoax. The builders will seek entry and exit ramps into the streets of Collingwood and Fitzroy. Only 20% of the cars on the freeway drive into the western suburbs and Footscray. Most turn south into the city.

A member of the audience said the state government had not even prepared a business case for the Doncaster city railway, which has been on the cards for 40 years, but had submitted a business case for the toll-tunnel.

Labor MP Richard Wynne said he was opposed to the tollway, which he described as a hoax on people and those using the Eastern Freeway.

Many of those at the meeting signed pledges to oppose the project and take part in campaigns and even pickets if necessary.

The next day, on July 21, about 400 people rallied in Royal Park against the proposed toll road.

The proposed development threatens parkland in inner Melbourne.

Bandt said the money would be better spent on improving public transport, especially to fund a rail line to Doncaster.

Resident Keith Fitzgerald said: "This is not the first time I've had to fight this. In the 1970s they pulled down 90 homes. I don't care how much money they offer me, I'm going to stand with you people all the way."

[There will be another rally against the tollway on August 20. For more information, visit ycat.org.au.]

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