THE Mallee’s federal MP has attacked the Victorian Government over the Murray Basin Rail Project, and says it’s now up to the new Federal Government to make sure it’s completed.
Anne Webster, now on the Coalition front bench as an assistant to Opposition regional development spokesperson Bridget McKenzie, stood with the senator at a media conference at the Port of Melbourne to demand that the State Government complete the project in line with the original business case adopted in 2015.
The Victorian Government says the business case was rescoped in 2020 and that the rail project is ongoing and ahead of schedule, but Dr Webster says she has seen no evidence of this.
“The Murray Basin Rail Project will reduce the number of trucks on country and urban roads, reduce emissions, remove inefficiencies and boost economic growth for primary producers,” she said.
“It just makes sense to get the job done.
“The Andrews’ government says it has engaged with stakeholders but won’t say with whom. The stakeholder meetings I have held over the past three years have shown the majority are unhappy with the lack of progress and transparency.”
“With a new federal Labor government, I am seriously concerned about the future of this project.”
Dr Webster said the previous Coalition government had offered $5 million to be used in a reassessment of the project and had unsuccessfully asked the Victorian Government to match that figure.
It had also contributed a further $195.2 million at the request of the Victorian Government in 2020 after the state revised its business case and found it needed another $244 million to complete the project.
“It (the project) has had a rough start and there’s been some catch-up, patch-up … it has been given a short shrift in terms of the focus of the Andrews Government,” Dr Webster said.
“There needs to be a long, hard look at all of the issues …. so that we end up with an excellent freight system for Mallee.”
Dr Webster and Senator McKenzie said they would make formal approaches to both the federal and state governments in a bid to get the project back on track.
Senator McKenzie said she wanted assurances that the commitment to the project made by the Coalition in the last federal budget would be honoured.
“The (former) federal government has made significant investments in this project,” she said.
“We would like that to be committed to by the incoming Labor government.”