Victoria’s new Labor government has been told to break an election promise on day one and build the East West Link road tunnel.
The push has come from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who says he’s committed to the $6.8 billion East West Link stage one, for which the federal government has provided $1.5 billion.
“I am determined to do what I can to ensure this vital national infrastructure project proceeds to completion,” Mr Abbott said on Sunday.
Incoming premier Daniel Andrews said he would take advice from departmental officials about releasing the East West Link contracts, signed a week before the state election was called.
“It is my view, very clearly, that a Labor government has a mandate to release all documentation in relation to the East West Link, a secretive, rushed and botched project,” Mr Andrews told reporters.
He said the road was not going to be built and repeated his regular line that the contract was not worth the paper it was written on.
A spokesman for East West Connect, an international consortium headed by building giant Lend Lease, said talks would soon begin with the new government about the project’s future.
The Andrews government might have to pay up to $1.1 billion in compensation to the consortium if the contracts are ripped up.
Outgoing attorney-general Robert Clark said Labor needed to explain how it would replace the almost 7000 jobs the project would have created.
“I think most of the survey results indicated there was very strong community support for East West Link and probably Daniel Andrews won despite his East West Link promise rather than because of his East West Link promise,” he said.
Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Luke Hilakari – a former adviser to Mr Andrews – said unions wanted projects ready to go.
“We’re looking forward to all types of different construction jobs – be that on road or rail,” Mr Hilakari told reporters.
“We need shovel-ready jobs right now. We need infrastructure jobs to start right now.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten warned Mr Abbott against making good on his threat to withdraw the federal money earmarked for the East West Link.
“He should also make sure that Victorians get their fair share of infrastructure spending rather than punishing Victorians because they wouldn’t vote for Tony Abbott’s preferred candidate,” Mr Shorten said.