MPs butt heads on project

By Benalla Ensign

Benalla’s state representatives are once again at odds over the West Gate Tunnel Project and the pre-cast concrete factory being constructed to supply it.

Following the Greens’ recent attempt to revoke planning permission for the tunnel the Victorian Labor government has said State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan is facing a test of her leadership.

Although Ms Ryan rejects that rhetoric.

State Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes said Ms Ryan ‘‘owes’’ Benalla a ‘‘guarantee’’ that the Nationals will not do anything that might jeopardise the project.

However Ms Ryan has stated that is not necessary, as construction of the concrete facility was not reliant on the West Gate Tunnel project going ahead.

Construction on the tunnel and factory in Benalla has continued despite a successful attempt by the Coalition and Greens to revoke planning permission on the tunnel in March.

Premier Daniel Andrews side-stepped that decision at the time, with the Planning Minister able to reinstate planning approval, and construction continued.

Ms Ryan points to that fact and also said that Mr Andrews has himself stated that revoking planning permission will not stop the project.

‘‘Unlike Daniel Andrews and Labor, The Nationals do not cancel infrastructure projects by tearing up legally binding contracts,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘I have never voted against this project despite the mistruths of the Labor spin and lie machine.’’

However, the state government maintains the West Gate Tunnel Project is not set in stone and have said if the Coalition and Greens successfully stop it the concrete facility in Benalla will not be built.

They point to the fact that following the vote in March work on the project immediately came to a halt and point out that the move was slammed by industry, transport and community groups.

Ms Symes used Parliament earlier this month to call on the Liberals and Nationals to rule out further political tactics that impact on the project. However, they refused to rule that out.

‘‘Benalla locals are dumbfounded and angry that their local National Member was part of a plan that risked much needed employment opportunities, she owes them a guarantee that the National Party will rule out future political stunts that may affect the West Gate Tunnel project,” Ms Symes said.

‘‘I will always support jobs for my home town of Benalla, it is disappointing that the National Party are more interested in Melbourne politics than real outcomes for country people.’’

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Victorian Transport Association, the Urban Development Institute, and G21 Geelong have all called on the Liberals, Nationals and Greens to cease and resist further action that might jeopardise the West Gate Tunnel project.

With all of three parties still pushing to halt work on the tunnel it seems there might still be more of this story to come.

However, whether stopping that project will jeopardise the pre-cast concrete plant being built in Benalla depends on which side of politics you ask.