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Premier Daniel Andrews has warmly endorsed the federal government’s election promise of $2 billion for fast rail to Geelong after a meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday, but cautioned that the project cannot be built for many years.
Mr Andrews’ comments mark a significant about-face for the Premier and signify a new spirit of detente with the Prime Minister following the Coalition’s election win on May 18.
The Morrison government has committed $2 billion towards fast rail between Melbourne and Geelong. CREDIT:LUIS ENRIQUE ASCUI
Labor dismissed the $2 billion offer as grossly inadequate when it was made in April, just days before Mr Morrison called an election he was widely expected to lose, arguing the full project would cost between $10 billion and $15 billion.
The premier also dismissed the Geelong fast rail pledge as into the “never-never” and “not relevant”, noting April’s federal budget included just $50 million for planning for Geelong fast rail in the next four years, with the other $1.95 billion committed beyond the forward estimates and at least one more federal election cycle away.
Federal Labor was targeting the Geelong-based seat of Corangamite at the time, while the Coalition was desperately defending it. Labor ultimately won in Corangamite but it was one of only two Victorian seats it took off the Liberals, having hoped to win at least four.
However, Mr Andrews said at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee’s hearing on Friday: “With the Commonwealth government, we’re very pleased to see that there’s a commitment to Geelong fast rail.”
Mr Andrews and Mr Morrison met on Thursday with their respective treasurers Tim Pallas and Josh Frydenberg to discuss how they could work together on infrastructure projects for Victoria, in their first meeting since the election.
The Geelong rail link is not the only big project under discussion. The Commonwealth and Victoria have each committed $5 billion towards the Melbourne airport rail link and Mr Andrews told the committee that project would have to be built before Geelong fast rail could go ahead.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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