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Daniel Andrews has ruled out ever building the East West Link, despite federal Labor pledging to work with an elected Matthew Guy government on its key projects.
“There’s a locked box, a dog box, whatever it is. I don’t know if there’s any money in there. I really don’t,” Andrews said.
Federal Labor has made a $4bn infrastructure power play on the eve of the election, saying it could commit the cash to a range of projects — even including the East West Link.
It comes after the Herald Sun revealed that an elected Anthony Albanese government would work alongside Matthew Guy, to deliver his key infrastructure agenda, if he is successful in November.
The Premier on Tuesday said comments made by the federal Labor infrastructure spokeswoman, Catherine King, weren’t a clear indication they’d support the East Week Link.
“I’m not a spokesperson for them,” he said.
“You can play word games all you want but let’s be very clear about this.
“My priorities couldn’t be clearer and the priorities of the alternative PM are pretty clear too.
“I stood right beside him, where he announced the biggest infrastructure commitment they’ve made across the country — $2.2bn, and it could be more, to the Suburban Rail Loop, a project that stacks up.”
Mr Andrews said his government would never consider building the 18 kilometre East West Link connection road.
“Let’s be abundantly clear about this. This project has been to two state elections and I’m very pleased to say it was defeated and our government and its priorities were endorsed,” he said.
“I’m not about building the things Victorians didn’t vote for.”
Mr Andrews also cast doubt over whether the Commonwealth actually had $4bn sitting aside for the project, which the state Liberals have committee to building.
“Well is there $4 bn? That’s the other issues,” he said.
Earlier, it was reported the money has been tied up in the budget for years for the controversial road because Daniel Andrews has refused to accept Scott Morrison’s offer to pay for the project.
East West Link’s dead endIf Labor wins Saturday’s election, an Albanese government is preparing to unlock the cash in partnership with the Andrews government, which wants it to be spent on the Suburban Rail Loop and the North East Link.
But if the Coalition wins November’s state election, federal Labor would also be willing to partner on their priorities including the long-awaited cross-city connection.
In an interview with the Herald Sun, federal opposition infrastructure spokeswoman Catherine King said she would work with the state Labor government to open the $4bn locked box.
“I know the Victorians will make a case about what they think should happen with that money, and we’ll consider that case,” she said.
Infrastructure spokeswoman Catherine King said federal Labor would “work with whoever is in power to actually deliver projects”.
How the East West Link could look. Picture: Supplied
Asked if an Albanese government would work with a future state Coalition government on East West, Ms King said: “The approach we will take really strongly — and I think it’s something I learnt from Anthony (Albanese) when I was his parliamentary secretary — is that we want to work collaboratively.”
“Obviously if we’re successful on May 21, we’ll work with the Victorian state government. Obviously, our preference is that it stays the way that it is, but if that does change then we’ll work with the incoming government, but at this stage it’s a bit hypothetical,” she said.
The Premier’s decision to rip up contracts for East West after the 2014 state election cost taxpayers $1.2bn, and while the Prime Minister has since offered $4bn to build it in partnership with the private sector, Mr Andrews has maintained the project is dead.
Asked about her plans for the $4bn, Ms King said federal Labor would “work with whoever is in power to actually deliver projects”.
“I’m not interested in having fights with the government about what they want to do. The reality is that state governments deliver these things,” she said.
“If they’re not going to build them, then having that money just sitting there — not actually being productively used in the economy to employ and to build things — I think is pretty shortsighted,” she said.
“It’s in contingency and it’s not counted in the budget, so that would be a discussion to have post-election.”
Anthony Albanese and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Where the East West Link may be built.
Ms King flagged an Albanese government would make further investments in the Suburban Rail Loop after Labor last week committed $2.2bn for the $34.5bn first stage between Cheltenham and Box Hill.
She said Labor was promising less than its $10bn pledge from the 2019 election because it was focused on “what stacks up we think in the immediate short-term”.
“What we’ll be doing over the longer term is working with the Victorians to make sure that the project does stack up in all of its phases,” Ms King said.
“Each stage will be negotiated as we go forward. But really, I see it very much as a partnership.”
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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