Op-Ed – Murray Basin Rail Project
Wednesday 13 June 2018
By Peter Walsh, Leader of The Nationals – Victoria
A couple of weeks back, Daniel Andrews quietly dumped his ‘Getting Things Done’ slogan from Labor’s government press releases.
Around the same time, sheepish department officers were being dispatched to tell our freight industry and communities in North West Victoria that the Murray Basin Rail project has been put on hold - indefinitely.
Despite being handed a ready-made, once-in-a-generation, transformational rail project, Daniel Andrews has decided he doesn’t want to get it done for us after all.
This project was all lined up. The previous Liberal Nationals State Government had allocated $220 million in 2014-15’s Budget, drawn up the plans and started preliminary works. The Federal Liberal Nationals Government then chipped in the additional $220 million needed to fully fund it.
All Daniel Andrews had to do was deliver – but he’s botched it.
Rumours have abounded for months. Issues with contractors. Delays. Reports the whole project is already $100 million or more over budget. But the Andrews Government kept saying everything was fine.
Two weeks ago we learned it’s not fine. The project that is supposed to standardise the rail lines that run from Victoria’s North West to the ports, improving freight efficiency and getting trucks off the road, is on hold. Indefinitely.
The end date of the project is now unknown and businesses that made multi-million dollar investments based on Labor’s original project timelines left high and dry.
What a terrible signal Labor has sent to business confidence and investment in Victoria. Again.
Last week in State Parliament Minister Jacinta Allan wouldn’t answer basic questions about the project, including when Stage 3 would start. The Minister also failed to give a plausible answer on why the project stalled in the first place and she ignored questions about the rumoured contractor and commissioning problems related to the first two stages of the project.
It’s clear the Labor Government has known of a range of issues for months but isn’t being upfront with industry or the communities.
Labor’s ineptitude is putting this once-in-a-generation opportunity under serious threat.
And the Premier for Melbourne has shown - again - that Regional Victoria can’t trust his city-centric Labor Government to deliver the major projects and investments we need to decentralise and deliver for our communities.