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Bill Shorten has promised to redirect federal funds quarantined for Melbourne’s defunct East West Link road project and contribute $2 billion to the city’s metro rail.
Work is underway on two giant tunnels beneath Victoria’s capital for the rail project, which has been fully funded by the state Labor government.
“This is a project that has been rated by Infrastructure Australia as the number one project and yet we have no support from the current federal government,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters at a press conference with Opposition Leader Mr Shorten on Friday.
When Mr Andrews came to power in 2014, his government ripped up contracts signed by the Liberal-Nationals for the East West Link, costing taxpayers more than $1 billion. The federal coalition has since kept some $3 billion on ice for when the link goes ahead.
Mr Shorten said Labor’s opposition to the road project had twice been endorsed by voters in Victoria and it was time for Commonwealth money to flow.
“We are going to put forward $2 billion in our first budget to assist the execution of this remarkable project,” he said.
“Melbourne has been cheated and Victoria has been cheated of a fair share of national infrastructure.”
Mr Andrews welcomed the commitment and said it showed what a “real partnership” would look like between Labor state and federal governments.
“What this will mean is that, instead of having to build these massive infrastructure projects on our own, we’ll have a proper partner,” he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was quick to criticise Labor’s pledge.
“You don’t come and fund projects that are already funded. You come and commit to projects that actually expand what is being done in Victoria,” he said.
The coalition has committed billions of dollars to Melbourne’s airport rail link and a proposed Geelong to Melbourne fast train.
This article first appeared on vision.org.au
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