CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES RUNNING VICTORIA — INTO THE GROUND

“Reports that the John Holland Construction Company is pushing for taxpayers to be liable for cost blowouts which occur building the North East Link are very disturbing. It has been reported that the company is demanding that Victorian taxpayers be liable for any problems relating to the project’s delivery time and budget, and any problems arising from the project’s design. John Holland is also reportedly expecting taxpayers to bear risks associated with industrial issues, legal changes, and the protection and relocation of water and power supplies. If this is correct, taxpayers are entitled to ask what is the point of contracting out the project to the private sector at all? The government needs to stand firm against construction companies using standover tactics. Already we have seen them halt works on the Metro Tunnel and the West Gate Tunnel, in conduct which looks little different from construction workers walking off the job in the middle of a concrete pour. Unfortunately the Government has shown little appetite for standing up to construction companies, and has created an environment where they are in the box seat. Melbourne’s relentless population growth – we now have more people than the entire State of Queensland, and we are on our way to overtaking Sydney as the most obese city in Australia – has created a climate in which the State Government needs construction companies desperately in order to stop Melbournians from drowning in congestion. Also unfortunate is the degree of secrecy surrounding infrastructure contracts. Despite Victorian taxpayers having a massive financial stake in the North East Link, at an estimated $16 billion, requests for information about the contract are inevitably shrugged off with “Commercial in Confidence”. The Government needs to protect Victorian taxpayers from further massive potential liabilities, and it needs to be transparent about the details of its North East Link contracts so we can be sure that the public interest is not being taken for a ride.”