Federal Budget 2013: the urban versus suburban battlelines are drawn

It's abundantly clear now, the urban versus suburban transport infrastructure battlelines have been drawn and an enormous wedge has been squarely placed between Alexandra Parade and Grattan Street in the inner North.

Last night's federal government budget saw the Treasurer commit the federal government to $3 billion in funding destined for later this decade and early next decade for the construction of the Melbourne Metro project and no reference to the East-West Tunnel favoured by Spring Street.  The Leader of the Oppostion, Tony Abbott, has been quoted as saying a potential coalition government post September would not be funding urban public transport projects and would instead stick to funding road projects.

No matter what your political beliefs - I have mine, and you have yours - this transcends traditional Left versus Right, it's now a question of a more sustainable urban future versus entrenched auto-centric suburban growth.  The upcoming Federal election, in Victoria at least, will no doubt be fought around these two big ticket projects given the NDIS has bi-partisan support and Gonski Education reforms are not likely to stir up any political biff.

With respect to Spring Street, they have publicly stated it wants both projects to go ahead and they remain committed to both. However with the opposing nature of both last week's Victorian government budget release and the federal government's budget release, it looks like the Victorian component of the federal election campaign will be loosely fought on the same themes the Baillieu/Napthine government campaigned on in 2010.

On one hand there is scant evidence the East-West tunnel will do what the state government and the associated road lobby groups say it will do, and on the other hand there's a Melbourne Metro business case submission to Infrastructure Australia, which one would assume (and putting the politics aside for a moment) was the basis for the federal government announcing its intention to help fund the Metro Tunnel.

The Age is going hard on the state government with regards to its justification for prioritising the East-West tunnel ahead of Melbourne Metro - and I applaud it, this is absolutely the right thing to do. The Melbourne Metro project, although still requiring more planning work, has been far more transparent than the East-West link. You need only look at how the Melbourne Metro tunnel project has already begun its working life through the Federal bureacratic hoops and the Infrastructure Australia status of ready to proceed and the East-West tunnel's status at the lower level of real potential.

Most will see this as Labor versus Liberal choice, I actually see it as a question of holding onto the past and pursuing a same-same auto-centric "balance" versus looking toward to a future of actually seeing a more timely implementation of the PTV Heavy Rail plan - the plan which will bring the urban core of Melbourne closer to everyone in the metropolitan area.

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