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Port of Melbourne lease windfall diverted from regional transport

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Rural and Regional Transport, Simon Ramsay, has told parliament that up to $900 million which should have appeared in the State Budget papers for spending on regional transport projects will instead likely be spent on other things.

Mr Ramsay said that money represented 10 per cent of the proceeds of the $9 billion “sale” of the Port of Melbourne, which the Andrews Government had promised for a regional transport infrastructure fund.

“I have not seen (anything) in the budget in relation to that fund. I suspect that fund no doubt has been gobbled up by a whole range of different departmental funding projects,” Mr Ramsay told the Legislative Council on Tuesday.

He also told parliament that up $1 billion promised for regional railway projects (in Victoria’s north-east, Gippsland and the south-west) had not been allocated either.

“In answer to a constituency question that I raised with him on 11 May, Mr Pallas (the State Treasurer) indicates that in fact there will be no funding for these projects until such time as the federal government provides its $1.46 billion,” Mr Ramsay said.

This, Mr Ramsay said, was despite a Federal offer to match the State Government’s promise of $1 billion with a $1 billion – from the Turnbull Government’s assets recycling program – which Mr Pallas appears to have rejected.

“So by that commentary from the Treasurer I foresee a stalling of all the projects and that regional rail, which was announced with great fanfare by the Andrews Government, will actually not eventuate until such time as there can be agreement between the State and Federal governments,” Mr Ramsay said.

“They are actually not even detailed in the budget. There is no detail on the matching funding in relation to the $100 million for the duplication of the South Geelong and Waurn Ponds rail duplication. There was a lot of fanfare about that but no detail.”

Mr Ramsay said the State Budget also failed to detail spending on the Surf Coast rail project.

“Again there is no detail about whether that means a direct rail link between Torquay and Geelong — we are unclear about that — or whether it means an upgrade of the Warrnambool line or whether it means more rolling stock.

“Again, there is no real detail in the budget, just a sort of generalisation of projects.

“But as Mr Pallas has indicated, there will be no money coming forward to commit to those projects until such time as there has been …an agreed position with the federal government.”

Mr Ramsay also criticised the budget for lacking any provision to develop an inter-city fast train service between Melbourne and Geelong in light of secret Andrews Government plans to build additional suburban railway stations along the Regional Rail Link.

“So instead of a 59-minute trip it could well turn out to be a one and a half hour trip by the time anyone gets to Southern Cross,” Mr Ramsay said.

“A fast rail service, even using the old Altona North line, …could …provide a …35-minute, rail service from Geelong to Melbourne, but sadly nothing is done, said or seen in the budget.