Commentary

How many ripped-up contracts will it take?

6 Mar 2017
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Forget what you’ve heard about infrastructure – it might be time to put the politics back in

ELECTION day for Western Australia is just under a week away, and already tens of thousands have turned out for early voting. If the polls are anything to go on, Labor is looking a solid chance to take government. Locals like to make a point of the west’s being different from the eastern states – “Perth is closer to Jakarta than Canberra, you know?” – and there is plenty going on in the state election to support this, whether it’s the strange Liberal–National–One Nation preference tango or simply the fact that the contest features three long-serving party leaders – Liberal premier Colin Barnett, Labor leader Mark McGowan and, albeit with a brief interregnum, Nationals leader Brendon Grylls – a rare sight in Australia these days.

But some things are eerily familiar to the east-coast-dweller’s eye, and none more so than the politics of the Roe 8 freight link. The parallels between that imbroglio and Victoria’s infamous East West Link saga, for instance, are too many to count. An enormously controversial inner-city toll road provoking rolling protests, “direct action” and court challenges; contracts signed with an election only months away, despite declarations by the opposition that they won’t go ahead with the project; sweaty state Labor leaders telling the press pack they will rip up said contracts if they win office (which, when they made those pledges, looked entirely likely); tussles with the feds over redirecting Commonwealth dollars promised to the projects… the more one looks, the uncannier things get. Sydney’s WestConnex is not far below on the déjà vu spectrum, but Roe 8 and East West are so incredibly alike it’s worth asking what exactly is going on here…

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2017
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