Rail upgrade needs leadership to fix the problem
Posted June 09, 2017
Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (14:28): My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. On May 10, the Prime Minister assured the House that the government commitment of $100 million would fix the problem for the North East train line. Senate estimates has revealed that the Commonwealth is seeking a co-contribution from the Victorian government. It is a matter yet to be resolved and has made an already complex problem even more so. Clearly, the Victorian government is part of the solution but the answer is not only funding; it needs leadership and collaboration. Minister, a deeply personal request: will you please take a leadership role and bring together the ARTC, relevant departments, V/Line, PTV and New South Wales Trains to develop a plan that will fix this problem?
Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (14:29): I thank the member for Indi for her question and her interest in the infrastructure portfolio. It is an opportunity for me to outline how the Turnbull-Joyce government is approaching the job of getting on with delivering the infrastructure that Victorians need and in fact the people of Indi want. The budget did feature $75 billion over 10 years for building the projects that our kids and our grandkids will certainly thank us for in the future. The member for Indi referred to rail funding. It was a good budget for rail, with the $8.4 billion equity investment, the ARTC, the Inland Rail project and the $10 billion for the National Rail Program.
I can confirm, in answer to the member for Indi's question, that there is a $100 million commitment to the North East line as part of the $1 billion in new investments for Victoria which were announced in the budget. I can also confirm that I will be working with her and with her community in how we deliver that $100 million for improvements to the North East line. The Prime Minister himself previously indicated that that will allow for improvements to ride quality. It will also seek to improve the passenger rail service, and we will consult with the community and ARTC to prioritise that investment in the weeks and months ahead. The member is aware that the consultation has already started. I recently met with representatives of the Border Rail Action Group in her electorate, and they are certainly excited about the funding allocation and keen to see further commitments from the Victorian government in relation to the rolling stock issue.
The Turnbull-Joyce government is investing in the future of regional Victoria. We allocated $30 million for the development of a business case for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link. Remember: Labor has been in power for 14 of the past 18 years in Victoria and has not done anything to secure a rail link to the Tullamarine airport. Thanks to the federal government, there is plenty of work underway in regional Victoria that is creating jobs and improving connectivity throughout our regional areas.
The member for Corangamite is certainly excited about the $100 million for her rail link on top of the funding allocated to the Great Ocean Road. The member for McMillan is excited about the $195 million for rail improvements along the Gippsland line. The member for Murray is excited about the $10 million for the Shep line, which will involve more planning there but which also comes on top of the Echuca-Moama bridge funding.
I raise these projects because the member for Indi asked me about co-contribution. It is perfectly normal for the federal government to expect a state government to make a contribution to a major transport project of this scale. I have said on many occasions—and I actually said it in the seat of Indi when I was visiting there recently—that the Premier cannot expect a free ride on this. With the $1.5 billion allocated for projects utilising money previously allocated for the East West Link, we sought and we secured last year a matching contribution from the state government. So the Andrews government will have to come to the party.
In summary, and to set the record straight for the member for Indi, I have been involved in positive and constructive conversations with the Minister for Public Transport. I expect those negotiations to continue. We have met privately, and our offices have also been holding some discussions. I will take the opportunity to keep the member informed as we progress. (Time expired)
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