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Victoria Short Changed on Infrastructure

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The Hon Michael Danby MP

Federal Member for Melbourne Ports


11 MAY 2018

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (12:36):  The expenditure on transport infrastructure in this budget grossly disadvantages Victoria. The ethos underlying Federation was that all states be treated equally. The transport infrastructure expenditure in New South Wales in particular, compared to that in Victoria, is, frankly, scandalous. The Financial Review today, in a graph, replicates the claims of the government that $10 billion has been spent on transport infrastructure in Victoria. That is not correct. The graphic includes the East West Link, which has not been taken up by the Victorian government, democratically elected on a program of not proceeding with that road. The graphic includes the $3 billion for the East West Link suggesting it is available to Victoria. The amount of money in this Federal budget actually being spent in Victoria is $1 billion, which goes mainly towards regional rail, to help commuters from the great cities of Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat have a smoother way into Melbourne.

James Campbell, political editor with the Herald Sun, today wrote:

A FLICK through the Commonwealth budget papers is enough to make a Victorian taxpayer's blood boil. This year Victoria will get $12m from the Bridges Renewal Program—NSW gets $34m, Queensland $26m. There's $55m over the next three years improving cattle supply chains in northern Queensland and almost $400m on improving WA and Queensland roads.

Those funds are being disgorged as part of Developing Northern Australia, a strategy from the federal government to take money from the parts of Australia where people want to live (Victoria) and ship it off to the unproductive parts of Australia where self-evidently people don't want to live …

Then there is a thing called the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan which the budget papers say is getting $1.8 billion over the next four years—and $2.9 billion over 10 years—"to enhance capacity and improve transport infrastructure in Sydney’s western suburbs".

Think about that the next time you are stuck in traffic between the ring road and the Westgate Bridge.

And don't even start me—

Mr Campbell says—

on the $5 billion we are spending building Western Sydney an airport to go with its improved—Commonwealth funded—infrastructure.

He further states:

My personal favourite is a table on Page 53 of Budget Paper 2, entitled National Partnership on Wi-Fi and Mobile Coverage on Trains which reveals that over the next three years the federal government will spend $12m establishing “mobile and internet connectivity along the train route between Hornsby and Wyong”. And what will the rest of Australia get from this exciting initiative? Absolutely nothing.

Part of the imbalance between what Victoria is getting is our own fault. There’s still $1.5 billion … for the bit of East West Link — between the Ring Road and City Link —

that the state government is willing to go ahead with. The article continues:

Some of it is historical: Sydney is going through a massive infrastructure boom which bizarrely could end up costing its state government power because voters in the regions feel they aren’t getting their fair share.

It’s hard not to imagine, however, that some of the neglect of Victoria comes from the fact that at any given election there are only ever three seats up for grabs here, whereas there are dozens of seats in play in NSW and Queensland. It’s a problem without a solution in sight.

It is a problem without a solution in sight if one only considers politics. But, of course, politics is not the basis on which the underlying financial agreements of Federation should be based. They should be based on equitable expenditure of taxpayers' money that should come back to the states in the forms of education, transport, infrastructure and hospitals.

Let me restate basically what three members from Victoria—me, the member for Gellibrand and Senator Kitching—have put in the Financial Review over the last three weeks. Victoria has 25 per cent of the population and gets $1 billion for transport infrastructure in this budget, while New South Wales gets $20 billion. Even according to the Financial Review, which is reproducing government graphs, that is unfair. Victoria has 25 per cent of the population and gets a tenth of public transport infrastructure. Similarly, we are getting 37 per cent of the immigration to Australia. The trains and the trams in Melbourne are bursting. The Turnbull government will pay the political price for this if they continue to ignore the ethic underlying Federation.

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