Whether the East West Link in Melbourne is a good idea or not is not the issue. It is the way governments do business, especially in public-private partnerships, that should be under scrutiny.
With the Victorian election (the state of Victoria, Australia) on Saturday, the Napthine Government has been boasting about their new project – a giant road works that was rushed through the contracting process. But why have government sources revealed some of the details of the top-secret compensation clauses in the confidential East West contract a few days before the election? To ‘blackmail’ the Victorian voters not to vote Labor because “its too late to cancel”?
Well, Victorians now allegedly face a $1.1 billion compensation payout to the consortium building East West Link if Labor abandons the project – even though the project is only in its initial phase (Lend Lease has reportedly spent $60 million and will surely bill the government – and may even profit from work done). But reported in the Herald Sun, the cancellation formula also includes lost profits and returns that would have been earned during the 25-year contract to construct and operate the road link. What!!!
There are legal arguments about the validity of the contracts, but that too, is not the point. Why are not more people asking why such a deal was signed in the first place to favour the ‘private sector’ with such a generous cancellation clause (and so close to an election).
The smacks of gross negligence. How can a government sign such a bad deal that favours the private sector with BILLIONS of dollars of lost profit for quarter of a century – and all this before a the bulldozers arrive? And it is reported in The Age that Planning Minister Matthew Guy did not consider the business case for the $6.8 billion East West Link when he approved the road in the first place, instead relying largely upon Plan Melbourne – a strategy he himself signed off – to give the project the nod.
What are these politicians doing?
Regardless of the election outcome, there should be an inquiry into the Napthine government’s modus operandi. This may inform us:
1. Whether there was there gross contractual negligence by the government and by Napthine and Guy?
2. Did the Napthine government release fraudulent information about the contracts to sway the voters to keep them in office? Is this an offence?
3. Has the Napthine government favoured the private sector over the people of Victoria, thus were derelict in their elected positions?
4. Have they withheld information from the public (including future financial burdens from the tax payer)? What was the reason for this, and is this an offence?
And don’t get too excited Labor voters. An inquiry should be held into the mandatory roll-out of smart meters. We need to throw the book at some of our elected officials to keep them honest.