Oct 12, 2015

Coalition cuts freeway funding then reannounces it and pretends it is new

The Turnbull Government is pretending it is developing a new congestion-busting road project in Melbourne when it is in fact simply restoring its own 2014 Budget cut.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt today “announced’’ a plan to upgrade Melbourne’s Monash Freeway to address traffic congestion as part of a package of six major projects also including the Melbourne Metro.

In fact, the former Labor Government undertook the planning for the Monash Freeway upgrade and funded it in 2013 as part of its Managed Motorways program.

But Mr Hunt and his colleagues cut the funding in the 2014 Budget.

Approved by Infrastructure Australia in 2012; funded by the Labor Government Budget in 2013; cut by the Coalition in 2014.

Today on ABC radio in Melbourne, Mr Hunt he wanted to “look at’’ delivering major projects like the Melbourne Metro but that, “in the meantime’’ the government would proceed with a Monash Freeway upgrade.

In other words, Mr Hunt does not intend to deliver any of these major projects but will reinstate the earlier cut from the Monash project to make it appear he is actually lifting investment.

Labor welcomes the Coalition’s newfound interest in infrastructure, particularly since the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the Government has slashed infrastructure investment by 20.1 per cent since taking office.

But re-announcing old infrastructure projects is not new investment.

And cutting funding to a project one year, only to reinstate it two years later while claiming it is a new project is simply dishonest.

Mr Hunt’s intervention also raises the question of exactly who is responsible for infrastructure under the Turnbull Government.

With at least three Liberal ministers – Greg Hunt, Jamie Briggs and Paul Fletcher – presenting themselves in the media as being in charge of infrastructure, no-one knows exactly who is running this portfolio.

The only thing we do know is that Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss has been sidelined and is now sniping at his Liberal colleagues by attacking the very infrastructure projects which they are advocating.