Over the past 18 months I’ve been working closely with industry stakeholders, farmers, and community members who have an interest in the future of rail freight transport in Victoria. I’ve repeatedly fought on their behalf, taking their views to the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, who is well aware of the importance of this project.
Their views have informed my position that the Murray Basin Rail Network needs to be fully standardised, as originally promised by the Andrews Labor Government. In 2016 and 2017 the Commonwealth Government committed $240 million dollars to the State’s full standardisation plan.
The failure of the Andrew’s Government to improve this state-owned asset and deliver their original plan has been well documented. They wasted taxpayer dollars and now we are left with a dilapidated system which is worse than ever before.
The Victorian Government is responsible for the works so far, and the completion of future works. Through their revised business case, they have reneged on the full standardisation. It’s clear they have not listened to industry and affected stakeholders, who see full standardisation as an absolute necessity. To add salt to the wound, Victoria has only offered $48.8 million to complete their project, and are putting their hand out for another $195 million from the Commonwealth Government out of desperation.
Compare this amount to the $11 billion committed to the Metro Tunnel, and the $2.2 billion for early works on Stage One of the Suburban Rail Loop, to connect Cheltenham with Box Hill, which doesn’t even have a detailed business case.
That’s $48.8 million for a major freight rail network that is in desperate need of repair because of the work Victoria has done, in the largest food producing region in the State, and $2.2 billion for a new rail connection between two Melbourne suburbs that are 20 kilometres apart. Just let that sink in for moment, and ask yourself what are the priorities of this State Government?
It is clear they don’t care about supporting regional industries and creating jobs in the bush, they don’t care that there will more trucks on our roads, and they don’t care about positive outcomes for regional communities. There is always plenty of additional money for city projects while only a pittance for projects in the country.
The Andrews Government owes it to Victorians to outline a plan for full standardisation of the Murray Basin Rail Network. It’s what industry needs, it’s what stakeholders want, and it’s what regional Victorian’s deserve.