Michael Sukkar MP

Federal Member for Deakin
Assistant Treasurer
Minister for Housing
Minister for Homelessness, Social and Community Housing
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Importance of the East West Link

We have just heard the member for Grayndler speak for 10 minutes on this motion, and he is so embarrassed by his party’s position that he barely mentioned the East West Link in those 10 minutes. I can understand why he is embarrassed by Labor’s position. For more than two years, I have spoken endlessly about the importance of building the East West Link, both to my electorate of Deakin and Victorians more broadly. As I rise to speak here today, on the eve of the state election in Victoria, I do so with an even greater sense of urgency and awareness of how this piece of nation-building infrastructure will lift up our state and what Labor’s recklessness is putting at risk.

I congratulate my friend the member for Corangamite for putting forward this motion today as a timely reminder of the benefits of building the East West Link and the federal government’s very significant contribution to this project. I know that people in her electorate are calling for the East West Link, just as people in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, including in my electorate of Deakin and in the member for Chisholm’s electorate, are eager for construction to commence on this major road project so that traffic can be reduced on the Eastern Freeway and the Monash Freeway.

Deakin families are fed up with wasting their precious time being stuck in traffic on the Eastern Freeway or the Monash Freeway—time that they could be spending with their loved ones at home or being productive at work. I know just how fed up the people in Deakin are with traffic congestion, because they literally tell me every day. That is why my commitment to the Deakin electorate at the last election was to deliver federal funding for the East West Link, to secure jobs, to reduce congestion and to boost productivity. I am therefore very proud of our $3 billion contribution to this project. This includes $1.5 billion for stage 1, the eastern section, which is a six-kilometre link from the Eastern Freeway through to City Link at Parkville; and another $1.5 billion for stage 2, which the member for Corangamite has spoken about.

Anyone who has made the daily commute, east to west, across the city—as many of my constituents do—understands the incredible pressure placed on the existing infrastructure. By 2031, there will be an additional 400,000 vehicles doing that commute. Quite simply, it is unsustainable. But I have good news for members opposite—there is a solution, and the solution will be the construction of stage 1 of the East West Link, which will cater for an additional 120,000 vehicles by 2031. It will drastically cut travel times between the Eastern Freeway and City Link, and significantly reduce congestion at the end of the Eastern Freeway. Construction of the eastern section will create 3,700 jobs and provide a much needed boost to our economy, with 90 per cent of construction funds to be spent on local services. My colleague the member for Corangamite has spoken about the similar benefits for the western section, which of itself will create 3,000 jobs. This funding will enable 6,700 jobs.

Whatever way you look at it, this is a vital project for Victoria—a fact which, until not long ago, had bipartisan support. Those opposite agreed to it. In July 2008, none other than the Leader of the Opposition put his name on a submission to the Department of Transport, supporting the East West Link. I suppose we all know that the opposition leader is prone to changing his mind from time to time—just ask Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. So, federal Labor has now done an almighty backflip to oppose the East West Link project—all for the sake of supporting the Victorian Labor Party, as it desperately tries to protect a handful of inner-city votes from the Greens. In doing so, the Labor Party has abandoned Melbourne’s east.

I look forward to the member for Chisholm rising to support this motion. I suggest to the Victorian Labor members that they leave their inner city suburbs of East Melbourne or Fitzroy and actually spend some time in our suburbs to understand how draining a commute on the Eastern Freeway in peak hour can be. Those opposite have stood by as their Victorian counterpart led by Daniel Andrews—or Dan Andrews—has vowed to tear up the contracts for the East west Link. It is absolutely clear that only coalition governments in Spring Street and in Canberra will deliver the East west Link. As part of the coalition, I will continue to fight for the delivery of this project for the people of Deakin and all residents of the eastern suburbs, including those in the electorate for Chisolm.