The attacks on the East West tunnel picket

I’d like to respond to some of the accusations levelled at the community picket to stop the East West tunnel by the Napthine government, the Linking Melbourne Authority, the police commissioner and the News Corp and Fairfax papers. Below are a few claims that continue to be repeated without basis.

‘You have the right to protest, but not to disrupt anything’

This is the same as saying ‘You can protest, but only if it’s ineffectual and the government can easily ignore you’. The point of a ‘picket’ is to stop work from happening. We are attempting to stop test drilling for the East West tunnel. We are doing this because the government lied about its intentions to build the tunnel. Napthine does not, in fact, have a mandate to spend unlimited finds on this project. We are calling on the government to let the people of Victoria decide how billions of dollars of taxpayer money is spent (the vast majority want investment in public transport before toll roads).


‘Protesters are selfishly disrupting people on their way to work’

If this is referring to the people who live in the area or those travelling along Alexandra Parade, then it is not the picketers causing disruption. It is the Linking Melbourne Authority who are blocking off roads to set up drill rigs in the middle of the street and fencing in residents’ cars without warning. The community picket targets drilling sites – that is, sites on roads and parks that have been blocked off by the government.

But if this is referring to the 2–4 people who operate the drilling machining, then yes, our goal is to disrupt their work. They are contracted by the government to do work on a project the majority of Victorians do not support – a project the government lied about. Mind you, they still get paid even when we stop them from drilling. If any of the non-union workers are not getting paid (a story that seems to have been fabricated by 3AW presenters), they should join their union because they are being unfairly taken advantage of by their employer.

At the end of the day, all successful campaigns will cause some disruption. After all, the point is to change what is happening and take some control back into the hands of the community. The question is, what is more annoying: small disruptions now or five years of digging a giant hole that will destroy historic parts of inner-north Melbourne, cost taxpayers billions of dollars and take available funds away from public transport, all for a privately operated toll road that few people will use and drivers will be charged for again if they do use?


‘Protesters should be locked up for criminal behaviour’

So far, not a single person involved with the campaign against the East West tunnel has been charged with or convicted of any offence. This is because most of the community pickets have happened on public land with the support of locals.

In fact, the Napthine government has decided to rewrite the law in order to criminalise peaceful community protest and pickets. This represents a huge attack on civil liberties and should be opposed by everyone who values democratic rights.


‘Money is being wasted on a huge police presence every day’

We could not agree more. Most rank-and-file police seem to agree with us, too. The amount of police resources being used against the community picket is insane and outrageous. But it is the Napthine government who is to blame for this cost. The Napthine government ordered the police operation, and ordered the drilling to commence despite having no mandate to do so. We would much rather Napthine call the whole thing off, but he refuses.

The Police Association, on the other hand, seem to have different intentions. They seem to be trying to leverage the use of police against the community picket as a bargaining chip with the government. One executive member of the Police Association said he expects police will be awarded higher wages in their EBA negotiations if ‘Operation Burrow’ (the operation against the community picket) continues.


‘The pickets are not having an effect’

The Linking Melbourne Authority initially said they had finished test drilling in November last year. They then revised the date to 24 January. Next they said early February. Now they are refusing to say when they’ll be finished.

And that is because our community picket has dramatically disrupted the drilling schedule, to the extent that on some days no drilling happens at all! Considering that the Napthine government is in a race against time to sign the contracts for the East West Link only weeks before the November election, this matters. It matters a great deal.

Check out No East West Tunnel – Take the Pledge for details on how to become involved.


Mel Gregson

Mel Gregson is one of the founders of ‘No East West Tunnel – Take the Pledge’, an initiative that has called on opponents of the East West Link to participate in direct community action to stop the project. Contact her via the campaign’s Facebook page.

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  1. You protestors do not speak for all the residents in the area. I have been a home owner and resident in Clifton Hill for 50 years. The East West Tunnel project is a fantastic initiative and I look forward to it’s completion. I remember well the protest in the early 70’s when the Eastern Freeway was going to be built and every unemployed hobo in town came to protest, the project went ahead and the area has never suffered because of it. I suggest all you anarchists of the Socialist Party get out of my suburb and let the true local residents get on with life. All (that is 100%) of my fellow local residents that I know fully support this project.

    1. Hi John, you’ll be surprised to know that members of the Socialist Party live in the City of Yarra, so following the logic from your argument it is THEIR suburb too.

      That’s a fine statement, Mel doesn’t speak for all residents and she never claims to, unlike yourself who makes that very claim in your last sentence!

      And if you don’t know the difference between an Anarchist and a Socialist then I doubt you have little to contribute to a discussion.

  2. Hi john Philips
    I also live in this area and I wonder why you support it. It’s no good to us at all. Do you realise that you can’t even use it? We won’t be able to enter from Fitzroy/collingwood and all that traffic coming from the eastern suburbs will still be bottling up around hoddle st. The tunnell is purely for eastern suburbs people to get to the tulla and western suburbs. So you and me can’t get anywhere any faster AND the rush hour traffic will be just the same.
    Not a good use of money – especially when we will be paying for it for decades.

  3. In response to John Philips:
    I’m a local resident and don’t support the tunnel. For two reasons:
    a) The money could be better spent elsewhere (public transport, level crossings, education, health)
    b) I don’t want a tollway in that location due to the loss of parklands, houses, sporting fields, etc.
    I haven’t been to the tunnel pickets for personal reasons. I am grateful to the people who have volunteered their time and energy to attend the picket. I recognise that the protestors don’t represent us all but I want them to represent me and my friends and family that live locally.
    Finally, I disagree that the area hasn’t suffered due to the Eastern freeway. I live in the area in part because of Yarra Bend Park. The freeway detracts hugely from this. My children cross the freeway twice a day to attend school. It is a minor inconvenience but every day we look at the cars banked up to get onto Hoddle Street and we wonder what is the tunnel going to do to help this?

  4. One issue that has yet to gain currency is the adverse effect that this project will have on the Melbourne Zoo. Quite simply, it will close and the animals will have to be moved. Here’s why:

    When it was pointed out to the Linking Melbourne Authority that those who will make money off this toll road needed an exit to the City, they created an widened exit ramp onto Elliott Avenue to dump commuter traffic onto Flemington Road.

    This afterthought decision was made without any acoustical assessment on what effect a ramp for commuter traffic in Royal Park will have a mere 40 metres from the southeast wall of the zoo.

    This is the area where endangered noise and vibration sensitive animals such as elephants, gorillas and monkeys are kept. And where the Zoo whose mantra is saving species from extinction is attempting to mate Pygmy Hippos.

    There is simply no way that animals enduring 24 hour 7 day a week stress traffic so close to their habitats can possibly get the sleep necessary to survive.

    Combined with City Link to the west, the Tunnel 150 metres to the south and the exit ramp 40 metres west there will be a wall of sound that is beyond bearable for such creatures.

    You no doubt have read that Councils are lobbying the State Government to erect sound walls for residents who cannot sleep 500 metres! and further from toll roads and freeways.

    Linking Melbourne Authority in its spruiking document a.k.a Comprehensive Impact Statement points to the Oregon Zoo as an example of a tunnel project having no effect on the zoo. What they fail to add is that it was not a road project but a train subway passing 79 metres underground with passengers taking a lift up to zoo.

    There was, however, a road project in Oregon that goes unreported in the CIS. The road authority there suspended work on US Highway 26 outside Oregon Zoo for four months because of threat of miscarriage to one of its elephants!

    Incredibly, the Melbourne Zoo management has been convinced by the Linking Melbourne Authority to wait until after a contract to build has been awarded to do what should be done well in advance: undertake an acoustical assessment on noise, vibration and lighting effects on zoo animals before committing to the project.

    If an assessment finds that works are too close for comfort and can’t be solved by sound attenuation measures, what then?

    Take that into account if you support a toll road ripping through the heart of Royal Park by the Zoo to create another bottleneck at Flemington Road.

    Put those $8 Billion where they will do some good: public transport.

  5. So you claim a right to stop work happening, admit to actually stopping work from happening, and yet distance yourself from any responsibility for the money being spent on the police presence – the police presence that is *necessary* because of your obstructive actions?

    Pretty poor.

  6. Put those $8 Billion where they will do some good: public transport.

    Whether or not the road will have an effect on Melbourne zoo remains to be seen – but you raise an interesting point here.

    The consistent rhetoric from the activists here has been ‘trains, not toll roads’.

    So long as this remains their argument they will get no sympathy from the broad community and will have nil effect on policy: because any workable policy simply has to include both public transport (‘trains’) and private transport (‘roads’).

    Every day there are tens of thousands of people using public transport; every day, even more people use cars. You could no more make one group switch over completely to the other means of transport than you could make a cow jump over the moon. It can’t be done. And if you did try to effect it through some clumsy policy – taxing drivers, say – then that would make life harder for train and tram and bus users, too (because of the huge influx of people who had previously been drivers onto the public transport system).

    We’re talking about a huge, complex, and diverse transport system that has to move a huge, complex, and diverse body of people across a huge, complex and diverse city. Simplistic, idealistic policies just won’t work here. Pragmatic politics will.

  7. Dear TimT, what the Naphtine government does is gift economy, with other people’s many. They donate a massively useless piece of infrastructure to a privately corporation, and feed their mates in the construction, and consulting business in the mean time.

    Not only was the government not mandated, it openly lied about this project. Even if Naphtine coughs up 8 billion out his own pockets, instead of stealing it in psychopathic manner out of everyone’s pockets, it’s still useless and potentially dangerous.

    Many drilling sites have contaminated soils, which most likely will lead to a further explosion of costs. But if you’re fine the a premier acting like a feudalistic land lord, lying and stealing from its people, sending violent goons to enforce his megalomaniac fest of cronyism, then continue blaming those people who have an interest in their community and their homes.

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