People power can stop the East West Link

This statement was released on November 6 by Sean Broklehurst, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Pascoe Vale in the November 29 Victorian elections, and Sarah Hathway, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Geelong.

It refers to the project, set to cost at least $15 billion, to link Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway and City Link, with the major part of the project being a 4.4 kilometre tunnel.

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The East West Link is an environmentally, socially and economically disastrous non-solution to the problem of congestion on the Eastern freeway, benefiting only corporate freight and road building interests.

A campaign of rallies and pickets has helped turn the tide of public opinion against the project. The campaign has encouraged Moreland, Yarra and Moonee Ponds councils to support a court case seeking to invalidate any contracts for the tunnel. In a positive move, Labor has said that if elected on November 29 it will not oppose this court case but it has stopped short of committing to unconditionally ripping up any contracts.

A mass campaign can win

We can’t rely on the uncertainties of the court case and of Labor’s position to stop the tunnel. We need to keep campaigning and exert maximum pressure on the government, and Labor and the Greens, to reject the tunnel and make real investments to renew and extend public transport.

Public opposition to the tunnel has been encouraged by pickets of worksites, rallies, community stalls, petitioning and letterboxing.

Big campaigns in the past that have won progressive change — campaigns to end the Vietnam war, to isolate the apartheid regime in South Africa, to save the Franklin River, to save the Upfield train line, the Greens Bans that saved heritage areas and public spaces in Melbourne and Sydney — have been organised in democratic coalitions and have often combined mass rallies and forms of civil disobedience such as community pickets.

Both local groups and a citywide campaign have been important to mobilise opposition to the tunnel.

Labor must agree to stop the project and rip up any contracts

The Victorian government is on the nose. Not just because of its support for the tunnel but also because of its near destruction of the TAFE sector and its attacks on education and health workers. The Socialist Alliance supports the election of a Labor government in the state election in November, and a number one vote for the Greens as a generally more progressive force than Labor.

Labor says it opposes the tunnel and promises better public transport. But, once in office, Labor has often dumped its better promises and more closely followed the same corporate interests as the Coalition. Labor must commit to repudiating any contracts.

Recently the federal ALP voted with the Coalition, the Palmer United Party and crossbench Senators against a motion by Greens Senator Janet Rice to redirect the $3 billion Commonwealth contribution for East West Link to public transport.

The Greens have a good transport policy and in some statements indicate they would vote to stop the tunnel. But Greens have sometimes backtracked on progressive positions, for example supporting some neoliberal policies as part of the former Tasmanian government. They too need to make a clear stand to stop the tunnel.

A political alternative is needed

Defeating the tunnel and winning better public transport would be a big step forward for ordinary people and the environment in Melbourne. But we need a political alternative that can truly represent our interests against the destructive greed of big businesses and the politicians who serve them.

The Socialist Alliance is standing in the state election as a step towards such an alternative, and calls for the left to come together around a platform that puts people and the planet before profit. We also campaign year-round for refugee rights, for the rights of Aboriginal people, for action on climate change, for democratic and militant unions and around all issues that a radical political alternative needs to stand for.

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