Unions back east-west link project

Major building unions have offered support for the Coalition’s plans to build the east-west link, despite Labor’s opposition to Victoria’s largest project.

The support for the road tunnel under North Carlton, linking the Eastern Freeway in Clifton Hill to CityLink in Flemington, comes despite the animosity between the Napthine government and building unions.

The state government has tried to crack down on building unions amid claims they are driving up the costs of major projects.

Unions allege that the east-west link will be used as a ”political football” to attack them by state and federal governments.

The Coalition has promised $1.5 billion for the $6 billion-$8 billion project.

Electrical Trades Union state secretary Troy Gray said his members needed the work. Unemployment for the union was the ”highest for us in 25 years”, with some out of work for 12 months.

”With unemployment at record levels, we’re not in a position to be critical of a major project that will provide hundreds of jobs for our members,” he said.

Mr Gray said building unions were yet to have a final debate on the merits of the project but it would be hard for them to oppose it. ”Our position is we need to see credible alternatives before we are critical of this project.”

He expected at least 500 electricians to be employed on the east-west link and another 200 or so indirect jobs.

In late July, Labor announced it would oppose construction of the freeway and attacked the Coalition for not releasing the business case for it.

The project has won strong support from business and transport groups, including the RACV. It is estimated it will create 3200 jobs over the four to five years it will take to build.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union state secretary John Setka has also recently offered his union’s strong backing for the project, saying the work was needed.

Australian Workers Union state secretary Ben Davis said if contracts for the project were signed before the state election ”then, of course, we would support it”.

”I’m reserving judgment about this project until I see what the Labor Party’s [transport policy] is,” he said. ”We just want to see infrastructure projects that create jobs in the hard-hit construction industry.”

Mr Davis said construction in Victoria was struggling.

”I’ve never seen it as quiet as this. There have always been one or two big iconic public projects on the go, and lots of lots of smaller ones,” he said. ”That is just not happening now.”

State Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews on Monday described Premier Denis Napthine’s claim that the federal election result was a vindication of the east-west link as ridiculous and desperate.

Dr Napthine highlighted a series of large swings against Labor in seats to the east of the city, directly linking a deterioration of Labor’s vote to the project.

But Mr Andrews said the suggestion that key seats had fallen over the project was arrogant and wrong.

With Josh Gordon

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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