Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Opposition Leader Matthew Guy have gone head-to-head for the first time in the election campaign and an old debate soon simmered to the surface.
Discussions quickly turned to the long-running issue of the defunct East West Link toll road, which cost the state more than $1 billion when Labor came to power in 2014 and cancelled contracts for the road.
Pushing ahead with the plans would have cost close to $20 billion, Mr Andrews told a Sky News audience of undecided voters on Wednesday at Frankston, a marginal seat in Melbourne’s outer suburbs.
The premier said pulling out had allowed him to deliver on commitments including removing railway level crossings and improving public transport.
“I was pretty angry myself the morning after the election to be told that the contract had essentially been rigged, the money had been paid out and there was no way that we could recoup that,” Mr Andrews said.
Mr Guy called the decision a “criminal waste of money”, saying that Mr Andrews had promised cancelling the contract would not cost voters money.
“Think of all the hospitals, schools, teachers everything that could have been paid for with that amount of money,” he said.
“When a politician uses words like rigged and contracts, it is a way of explaining away something that you don’t want to admit.”
The pair faced audience questions on a range of topics including hospital services, policing resources, bail laws, mental health and religious freedoms in schools.