Tunnel protesters could face police
Police may be used to intervene in further protests which prevent drilling work on the east-west link from going ahead according to Transport Minister Terry Mulder.PT1M1S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2ubjr 620 349 September 24, 2013
Transport Minister Terry Mulder has vowed to use police and the courts if necessary to stop protesters disrupting progress on the east-west link, as a small group of protesters stopped drilling on day one of the controversial tunnel project.
Workers were scheduled to begin drilling in sections along the project's route to determine the rock profile of the proposed tunnel.
In response on Tuesday morning, a group of around 40 local residents picketed the corner of Alexandra Parade and Rutland Street in Clifton Hill before 7am in a successful effort to stop the machines that were to begin drilling.
The east-west link is expected to cost up to $8 billion. Photo: Angela Wylie
Workers from Strata Drilling arrived at the site but told protesters that they would not start drilling.
The band of activists may have been small but carried a large (and potentially troubling) message to the Napthine government - that they are not prepared to let the project proceed and are ready to use any means to disrupt progress, including "physical" measures.
Earlier on Tuesday morning, City of Yarra Socialist Party councillor Stephen Jolly called on people who live in the path of the proposed tollway who stand to lose their homes and others opposed to the project to use "guerilla tactics" to disrupt construction.
Protesters gather in Carlton to protest against plans for the east-west link. Photo: Angela Wylie
Cr Jolly said he was proud of the protesters' efforts and promised they would defy any security staff employed to stop them.
"We will remain peaceful and will win through force of numbers," he said.
"What can 10 security guards do when 100 residents surround a truck?
Mr Mulder immediately returned fire, saying it was "irresponsible" and "very concerning that a council would be urging people to take action".
"Overall, the benefit [of the east-west link] to the community is far greater," Mr Mulder said. "These people understand that, they should understand that and [protests] should not be happening."
In an interview on radio station 3AW, Mr Mulder said he would talk to Police and Emergency Services Minister Kim Wells to determine what action to take against the protesters.
"If we have to provide protection to the workers so they can undertake their work in a safe way, then we will undertake those measures," he said. "Indeed, if their actions are unlawful, then we will look at all the options open to us."
Mr Mulder said he would also consult Attorney-General Robert Clark on whether the government would apply for an injunction order against the protesters.
He defended the government's public consultation over the east-west link, saying the matter had been "handled as sensitively as possible" despite refusing to release the full business case to the public.
Local resident and protest organiser, Anthony Main, said similar numbers of protesters plan on picketing all of the eight sites earmarked for test drilling over the next few weeks.
“We have called on Napthine to pull back from this disastrous project but he has failed to listen," he said.
"We are now taking this campaign to a new level. From here on we plan on physically stopping any works from going ahead.
"This government, which clings to power only via the vote of Geoff Shaw, will now have to endure a campaign of flying pickets in the streets of Carlton, Fitzroy and Collingwood.
"The aim of this action is to halt the drilling procedure, sending a clear message to the government that residents are not prepared to let this project go ahead."
Protesters appealed to the workers at the site to stop work on health and safety grounds.
A VicRoads spokesman on site said he had been instructed to halt drilling today due to safety concerns.
He said they would plan to have security at the site in coming days.
The east-west link, connecting the Eastern Freeway to the Tullamarine Freeway, is expected to cost $6 billion to $8 billion
The newly elected Coalition government has pledged $1.5 billion for the construction.
An earlier version of this story suggested the protest took place in Carlton North. This is incorrect and the text has been changed.