Federal infrastructure minister Warren Truss says the Daniel Andrews-led Labor Government in Victoria has no choice but to give back the $1.5 billion it was given to build the now-cancelled East West Link.
Truss spoke on Radio National on Thursday, and was asked by host Fran Kelly what he would do if Andrews does not give back the funding the Commonwealth gave the last Victorian Government to build the tollroad, which Andrews has since cancelled for an alternate rail project, Melbourne Metro.
“Well, does this Premier have no honour at all?” Truss responded.
“He’s already broken the contract with the major construction companies in Australia to put to an end the biggest construction project that Melbourne’s really ever seen … he’s broken that commitment.
“Now he’s breaking a commitment that the Victorian Government made to the Australian Government.”
Truss says Andrews must return the money, as the Memorandum of Understanding which was signed when it was transferred dictates it shall be returned if East West is not built.
“Does that have any legal weight or any moral weight?” Kelly asked.
“Well,” Truss replied, “Premier Andrews can’t keep walking away from the commitments of the Victorian Government.
“Who will ever trust Victoria again if the Premier’s not likely to honour these sorts of commitments?
“And let me say, I don’t think his position is very strong. When it really comes to the bottom line, we pay the Victorian Government in a year a lot more money than they pay us and I don’t think he should get into a silly argument like this.
“He’s got a clear obligation to return the money.”
Truss said he would talk to Victoria to see what construction projects could be brought online as soon as possible, but said the East West money had to be returned.
“They can’t keep that money,” Truss reiterated. “They’ve got to return it. That’s a clear understanding in the Memorandum of Understanding.”
The Abbott Government’s Budget for 2015/16, which was handed down on Tuesday, May 12, factored the return of the $1.5 billion fund into its figures.