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A mammoth spending program will be outlined in tomorrow’s federal budget to promise voters better road and rail transport, escalating a fight with Labor over the projects ahead of a July 2 federal election.
Scott Morrison is vowing to bring a “sharper economic focus” to the infrastructure program by helping states build the Melbourne Metro, the Sydney Metro, a rail link to the Perth airport and a light-rail network in western Sydney.
However, the money comes with strings attached because it uses an Asset Recycling Fund set up by Joe Hockey in 2014 to give federal money to states that sold public assets such as electricity networks or ports and used the proceeds for new public works.
The fund, which includes the $5.6 billion proceeds from the sale of Medibank, provides a way for the federal government to help finance state projects without relying on debt.
Mr Morrison told The Australian that one of the advantages of the approach was that it could influence state policy.
“What I think the asset recycling initiative has demonstrated is we cannot only focus the state spend but we can also leverage the way that they manage their own assets to achieve that, not just to invest in the projects they invest in,” he said yesterday.
“So you’re getting a multiple dividend there from fiscal and financial policy at a state level as well as the economic outcomes on the infrastructure.”
The federal funding for NSW will total $2.19bn, including $1.7bn for the Sydney Metro project, a rail line from Chatswood to Rouse Hill that eventually may be extended to Bankstown and a new crossing beneath Sydney Harbour.
There is also $167.3 million for the Regional Road Freight Corridor, $98.4m for a long-term plan to increase the capacity of Sydney’s rail network, $78.3m for the Parramatta Light Rail, $60m for a “smart motorways” plan and $52.2m to clear road pinch points.
The Victorian funding includes the offer of $877.5m for the Melbourne Metro Tunnel and Murray Basin Rail projects.
With existing commitments from Canberra — including funding for the Monash Freeway, the Western Ring Road, Murray Basin freight rail project and regional roads — federal spending on Victorian transport will reach $2.4bn.
The commitments to Western Australia are worth $750.8m and include funding for the Forrestfield-Airport Link to connect Perth’s eastern districts to the city and the airport. Funding also includes $260.8m for the second stage of the Perth Freight Link.
The Australian was told the federal government would support the Ipswich Motorway in Queensland, but was not told the amount of funding, nor of any funding commitments to South Australia.
Tony Abbott went to the 2013 election offering $11.5bn in funding on state road projects, but he covered some of the cost by cancelling funding for the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, the Perth urban rail service and the Tonsley Park rail service in Adelaide.
Labor infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese has blasted the Coalition for abandoning public transport.
“We have had three wasted years. Three years of cuts to public transport. Three years of support only for toll roads,” he said on Saturday.
Labor continues to attack the government for putting aside $3bn for the East-West Link in Melbourne, warning that the project would produce only 45c of benefit for each dollar invested.
Mr Albanese used his appearance in Sydney on Saturday to attack the government for not putting “a dollar” towards the Melbourne Metro project, the Brisbane Cross River Rail line, or the Adelaide light rail, the western Sydney rail network or public transport projects in Perth.
The government plans revealed in The Australian today show the Coalition will use the budget to counter years of those attacks.
This article first appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au
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