An $11 billion rail tunnel running through South Melbourne was the centrepiece of the Napthine government’s budget this week, with a promise from Treasurer Michael O’Brien that it and other transport infrastructure projects would create 12,000 jobs.
“Denis Napthine’s pre-election budget does nothing to address the problems in vital services that the community relies on.” Jenny Mikakos MP
The Metro Rail Capacity Project, formerly called the Melbourne Metro, will cost between $8.5 and $11 billion and connect Southern Cross Station to South Yarra via Fishermans Bend. Two new underground stations are planned for Domain and Montague with construction to begin in 2016.
The government says the project will ensure an extra 35,000 commuters will be able travel at peak times and network capacity increased by 30 per cent.
In his response to the budget, Leader of the Opposition Daniel Andrews described the Coalition government as “desperate” and “panicked”, and that the infrastructure projects were ill-conceived.
“Denis Napthine’s heart is not in public transport and neither’s his head,” said Mr Andrews.
Labor have vowed – if elected – to scrap the government’s rail project, and focus on its own version which involves a doubling of the city loop.
The government’s budget includes $3.2 billion for the second stage of the East West Link, which will join the eastern section to the Western Ring Road and create an alternative river crossing to the West Gate Bridge.
Previously announced projects include improvements to the Cranbourne Pakenham rail corridor at a cost of $2.5 billion.
The Government forecast a $1.3 billion surplus for 2014-15, $416 million above what was expected, with $1.2 billion earmarked for regional projects.
With cuts to payroll tax, stamp duty on life insurance abolished, and first-home buyers set to receive a stamp duty concession of 50 per cent, rising from 40 per cent, the Coalition is banking on a feel good factor influencing electors when they make their mark in November.
The Government says it will put $1.4 billion towards health over four years and $2.8 billion towards schools. 12 new schools are to be built and $73 million has been earmarked for Latrobe Regional Hospital.
State Shadow Minister Jenny Mikakos told Neos Kosmos that the pre-election budget “does nothing to address the problems in vital services that the community relies on”.
“Our hospitals are in crisis, our ambulances are taking too long, our schools are falling apart and thousands more Victorians are unemployed,” she said.
Ms Mikakos added that the Coalition government had abandoned the previous Metro Rail project “which would have doubled the size of the city loop and provided more rail capacity in favour of a new rail line that has scrapped four new train stations – including at the Royal Children’s Hospital and Melbourne University – in favour of a station to the casino”.
The Shadow Minister for Seniors and Ageing said she was concerned that the government was proceeding to privatise public aged care facilities, and that federal and state government cuts will result in kindergartens reducing their hours from 15 to 10 hours per week next year.