October 1, 2014 – 1:00PM
Words by Keryn Reynolds
Buninyong Liberal candidate Mr Ben Taylor yesterday accused Labor’s Mr Geoff Howard of not fighting for the local community when it comes to the East West Link.
Meanwhile Mr Howard said Mr Taylor had ‘lost the plot’ and was not listening to local residents.
Mr Taylor said research by the government had shown the East West Link would save drivers travelling from Ballarat and Melton up to 30 minutes on a round trip to the Melbourne CBD, and that Mr Howard should therefore support it in the interests of the community.
Mr Taylor said local businesses would benefit from the time saving through a boost to productivity and more job opportunities.
‘As a local member of parliament, Geoff Howard has fallen asleep at the wheel,’ Mr Taylor said.
But Mr Howard returned fire, saying ‘Ben has lost the plot. He is not listening to the residents of the Buninyong electorate who tell me they are concerned about our local and regional roads and are unlikely to make much use of a toll-way in Melbourne’s North East.’
Earlier this week the Coalition signed a $5.3 billion contract to build the first stage of the East West Link.
Victorian Treasurer Mr Michael O’Brien said the total project would cost $6.8 billion to deliver, with the State Government contributing $2 billion.
‘The construction phase of this project will see the creation of around 3,000 jobs and I would expect that local people will also gain direct and indirect employment as a result of the project,’ Mr Taylor said.
Yesterday Premier Denis Napthine said the toll way would decongest Melbourne, boost public transport efficiency and create 3700 jobs.
Labor said it would not honour the contract if elected in November.
But Mr Howard said the preservation of the Canadian Forest, TAFE and school funding were the important issues to local residents.
‘No one has told me that it is a good idea for the Napthine government to sign off on their $8 billion tunnel project in Melbourne’s north east only two months ahead of the State election,’ Mr Howard said.
Greens Tony Goodfellow said, ‘We are opposed to the East West Link. The money should be spent on more sustainable ways to move people. We don’t want Melbourne turning into Los Angeles and the tollway doesn’t really help rural areas.’
Nationals Sonia Smith has not yet responded to UniPollWatch questions about her position on the East West Link.
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