Is the Federal Government blinkered when it comes to Victoria?
That was the first question that came to Urban Melbourne's mind upon seeing the breakdown of allocation of infrastructure spending in Tuesday night's Federal Government budget.
Among the list of projects the Federal Government will spend money on in the coming financial year, the Victorian section had a caveat: "the Australian Government remains committed to the East West Link and our offer of $3 billion still stands. We are ready to deliver the project should any Victorian Government decide to proceed."
In other words, Turnbull and Morrison are happy to apply layer upon layer of lipstick on the pig that is the East West Link and dangle it at Victoria from Capital Hill.
The petty federal-state freeway politicking exhibits a lack of leadership, makes a mockery of all the pro-urban rhetoric which was aired in the lead-up to the budget and it unfortunately adds weight to the argument that even more Cities policy overlap between the Federal and State level will result in unwarranted delays in investment all the while our cities keep on growing.
It's galling that $3 billion remains as an "offer" should any Victorian Government decide to proceed with the dud East West Link project when this money could have accelerated the Victorian Government's level crossing removal programme - perhaps even extended it beyond the initial list of 50; been allocated to Melbourne Metro without strings attached - such as what's happening on phase two of Sydney's metro project; or fully funded and accelerated rural and regional road projects.
Inside Story contributor and former Age economics editor Tim Colebatch has labeled it discrimination:
And then there is the government’s discrimination against Victoria.
At a time when Melbourne is bursting at the seams with its population growing at twice the pace in the rest of the country, the Coalition has allocated it, at best, just $4 billion for new infrastructure projects over the six years to 2019–20, compared with $25 billion to be shared between Queensland and New South Wales.
For the year ahead, it promises to spend just $328 million in Victoria, but $2.7 billion in New South Wales, $1.6 billion in Queensland, more than $1 billion in Western Australia, and $383 million in South Australia.
Over the six years, compared with equal per capita funding, Victoria will be short-changed by more than $6 billion. Presumably the Turnbull government believes this is not the kind of issue that decides people’s votes. Time will tell.Tim Colebatch, "The budget’s two big ideas", Inside Story
Political journalists and commentators elsewhere appear to be broadly positive about the general thrust of the budget, however we suspect this has more to do with said journalist and commentator's surprise that the budget was not more profligate given it has been delivered so close to an election.
When viewed in the context of state-by-state infrastructure money spending, there's most certainly profligacy in marginal seat New South Wales and Queensland.
Victoria is at last seeing true 'balance' in terms of new transport investment - hard rail infrastructure is being augmented or about to be built as new, and there's plenty more needed - much of it contained within PTV's network development plans. Existing suburban nodes which are serviced by high-quality rail services, like Box Hill, are becoming transit-orientated development hotspots.
We need more Box Hills, not less. And a sure fire way to create less of them is for the Federal Government to sit in its back offices in Canberra playing marginal seat freeway politics with this state.
In the context of our national-leading population growth, it is Urban Melbourne's view that this budget is not in Victoria's interests.