May 23, 2017

New Coalition rail fund a con

The Turnbull Government’s new $10 billion National Rail Program has emerged as just another Coalition con, with senior bureaucrats appearing before a Senate Estimates committee unable to explain even basic details about how it will operate.

In his May 9 Budget speech, Treasurer Scott Morrison offered the new fund as a possible funding source for public transport projects.

But at a Senate Budget Estimates Committee late on Monday, officials confirmed no money would be released from the fund over the next two years.

The bureaucrats were also unable to explain how projects would qualify for funding, who would conduct eligibility assessments or whether the money would be disbursed via direct grants to the states or concessional loans.

In government, Labor delivered increased investment in public transport. But when the Coalition came to office it cut funding for all public transport projects that were not under construction, including the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail and Perth public transport.

After four wasted years, the Government has now been forced to embrace Labor’s policy in rhetorical terms.

But Budget 2017 did not include any new funding for public transport projects over the next two years.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull likes taking selfies on trains, trams and buses.

But despite the spin, he still refuses to actually make new investments in trains, trams and buses.

In the same way, Mr Turnbull has sought to embrace Labor policies to improve the productivity, sustainability and liveability of Australian cities – policies I outlined at the National Press Club in September, 2014.

But again, Budget 2017 did not include a single dollar of extra investment for cities.