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Comment: Greg Hunt's "fix list" - nothing to see here

The Federal Environment Minister - who also happens to be a Victorian Member of Parliament - released a wish-list of projects to "fix" Melbourne's congestion which unsurprisingly read like a road-lobbyists cheat sheet, complete with a mention of Melbourne Metro for balance.

Greg Hunt is the member for Flinders which covers the entire Mornington Peninsula, surrounds the shoreline of Western Port and covers both Phillip and French Islands; and it was no surprise the Monash Freeway featured prominently in the ridiculed shopping list of road projects.

In his Herald Sun column Jeff Kennett rightly called out the Federal Minister's plan, labelling it political fantasy owing to the lack funding commitments. The Age's state political editor Josh Gordon likewise opined on Greg Hunt's plan and the Spooner cartoon which accompanied the editorial has a nice play on the backstory.

It is unfortunate there are politicians out there who are still flying the flag for the East West Link, when its credibility has been utterly destroyed with the release of its business case after the Andrews Government came to power.

And while I agree with Jeff Kennett that the "plans" are rubbish without any funding commitments, no-one seems to have made mention of Infrastructure Victoria in all of this.

The Victorian Government established this agency in an attempt to remove the politics of transport infrastructure planning and spending, and the "missing link" project from the Eastern Freeway to the Metropolitan Ring Road (from Greg Hunt's list) is exactly the kind of concept which needs to be studied by Infrastructure Victoria.

If we recall some of the rhetoric that was lavishly reported in the mainstream media on the East West Link, namely that it would act as a high-capacity limited-access road alternative to the Monash/West Gate Freeways, then this should be studied by Infrastructure Victoria along with its costs, benefits, environmental impacts. Just like any other transport project, regardless of mode, going forward.

There is a federal election coming and with the recent Liberal party leadership turmoil, it would be tempting to dismiss these plans as just a Federal MP trying to shore up votes before the election. But then, Greg Hunt's seat is what you would call an ultra-safe Liberal seat, where the two-party preferred result at the last election was 62/38.

It is just rubbish and childish politics, thankfully this is being called out. Josh Gordon sums it well in his article:

My guess is both Turnbull and Andrews have worked out just how thoroughly sick people are of hollow rhetoric and political brinkmanship when it comes to infrastructure funding. Indeed, according to Coalition sources, focus group research bears this out.

Josh Gordon: "Greg Hunt’s Melbourne 2200: on a road to nowhere"

I wrote the following when the legislation to set up Infrastructure Victoria was passed through Parliament in September:

Infrastructure Victoria will be required to create a 30-year infrastructure strategy which assesses the current state of infrastructure in the state and identifies Victoria's infrastructure needs and priorities over the 30 year period. Furthermore the legislation requires the Government to provide a formal response to the 30-year strategy by creating and then publishing a five-year infrastructure plan within 12 months of Infrastructure Victoria releasing its 30-year strategy.

The Government's response and five-year plan must also identify the priority projects "including an explanation of how the priority projects will achieve the social, economic and environmental objectives stated in the 30-year infrastructure strategy".

Alastair Taylor: "And on the third day... Infrastructure Victoria was born"

The election of the Andrews Government is evidence on how populist infrastructure policies can help you get into power, but when the same group of people establish an agency able to call out future populist infrastructure policies, then it is time to change tactics.

The game has changed and the sooner political strategists realise this, the less foolish the politicians they advise will look.

Lead image credit: Wikipedia.

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4 comments

Nicholas Harrison's picture

It was interesting to hear Greg Hunt say on the radio that he had prepared his "plan" with the state opposition leader Matthew Guy but had not spoken to the premier or the relevant state ministers.

So much for co-operative federalism.

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Aussie Steve's picture

I am astounded by his comments that he wants to widen the Monash Freeway and build more and more roads and only advocates for 1 public transport project. Is he serious? We only just widened the Monash Freeway a few years ago and it hasn't helped that much to ease congestion, so what will another lane of traffic do? Nothing much again! When will these politicians get it into their thick brains that more money needs to be spent on public transport not freeways and roads?

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Alastair Taylor's picture

That was my first reaction too Aussie Steve: we recently expanded the whole Monash Freeway.

In fact the first comment I heard was about that and thought it was a new state project. Only did I realise it was a federal thing 30 seconds later.

When will these politicians get it into their thick brains that more money needs to be spent on public transport not freeways and roads?

Infrastructure Victoria will help with that.

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Adam Ford's picture

Good article.
But there's lots more about Hunt's plan that deserves discussion.

First the plan to underground the railways is absolutely nuts. Way to spend several hundred billion dollars and deliver LITERALLY no benefit to anyone.

But its ambition IS a game-changer. If we're open to the idea of suburban railway EXTENSIONS via tunnel, and we're willing to spend the big bucks getting this right once and for all, then the possibilities for network development along the lines of a proper metro system IS signifciantly better enabled.

Relocating the Port ENTIRELY to Hastings and Gellong or Bay West is also a RADICAL and LAUDABLE game-changing initiative. It would allow for some of Melbourne's great failings to be addressed - there is ZERO logic to locating the port centrally when all your heavy industry is in the outer suburbs, and we've failed dismally getting freight on to rail at the current location.

The model should be bulk rail movements from ports to multimodal distribution centres, with trucks servicing just the "final yards home".

And just think of what you could do with the entire Port land AND railway sidings for urban renewal.

I'll not often lob praise at conservatives, but Hunt deserves a degree of praise for floating these sort of game-changing initiatives.

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