17 March 2016

Fighting for better passenger rail

I rise to express my profound concern over the appalling lack of infrastructure development we are seeing in regional Victoria. In 18 months the Andrews Labor government has not put forward for funding consideration by the Commonwealth a single infrastructure project in regional Victoria. This did not happen under Premier Bracks or Premier Brumby. The only regional project currently before Infrastructure Australia, the Murray Basin Rail Project, is a project developed and championed by the former Liberal state government.

The situation is so bad that we have an infrastructure crisis in Victoria, particularly in regional Victoria. Last week I wrote to Premier Andrews urging his government to make a submission to Infrastructure Australia for the duplication of the rail track between South Geelong and Waurn Ponds rail stations. This is a project supported by the Committee for Geelong, G21, the City of Greater Geelong and the Public Transport Users Association. The current single track between South Geelong and Waurn Ponds is constraining the number of train services that are able to operate south of the Geelong station—and that is impacting not just Geelong but also south-west Victoria, including Colac. Services are also compromised because there is only platform at South Geelong, Marshall and Waurn Ponds. The impact is that there are far fewer train services able to run south of the Geelong station. Given our massive explosion in population and the forecast of population growth, particularly in Armstrong Creek, the current chaos that we are experiencing with the V/Line services and the increasing problems with the regional rail link—whereby the needs of Geelong, Werribee and Corangamite commuters have been severely compromised—further investment in rail infrastructure in our region is absolutely vital.

Any infrastructure project valued at more than $100 million requires Infrastructure Australia assessment in order to attract Commonwealth funding. Under Prime Minister Turnbull we recognise the importance of investing in passenger rail. And yet the incompetent government in Victoria has turned its back on regional communities by not asking the Commonwealth to help fund one infrastructure project of its own making—not the Great Ocean Road, not the duplication of the Midland Highway, not the extension of the Geelong Ring Road to the Bellarine and not the duplication of the rail line through southern Geelong. Instead we have a government which paid $1.1 billion to cancel the East West Link, which would have delivered a second arterial road for the people of Geelong and Corangamite, boosting productivity and ending so much chaos for those commuting to and from Melbourne. It is absolutely clear that Daniel Andrews is holding back projects to be funded until after the federal election as part of a grubby game. He is stonewalling. The Western Distributor project that is under consideration is a very poor cousin to the East West Link. It is a short-term fix and it will cost Victorians an estimated $30 billion to $40 billion in tolls imposed, with very little gain.

The state transport minister, Jacinta Allan, has confirmed that she will not be making an application to Infrastructure Australia for the rail duplication project. This is an absolute disgrace. This shows that the Andrews government is not interested in obtaining Commonwealth funding for any project bar the Murry Basin Rail Project in regional Victoria. And what have we heard from the members for Corio, Bendigo and Ballarat? Absolutely nothing. They have shown no courage. They have shown no determination to stand up to this government which is denying Victorians this incredibly vital infrastructure investment.

What we need is a proponent to progress a full feasibility study or business case for this vital rail project.

I am not going to give up. Just because the state Labor government refuses to do nothing. We need this. On behalf of the people of Corangamite, I will keep on fighting.

I am pleased to announce that I have had discussions with the City of Greater Geelong and I will be fighting for some funding to support them, if they want to take up this project and do this feasibility work or, for that matter, any other proponent that wants to take this project on. I will not stand by and watch the Labor Party pour all of its infrastructure funding into metropolitan Melbourne and deny the people of my electorate – the wonderful people of Corangamite—this vital infrastructure funding.

In the meantime, we have members of parliament, like the member for Corio, who do not have the guts or courage to stand up to Labor and say, ‘This is not good enough.’

17 March 2016