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The Turnbull government was planning to drip-feed announcements from a $7.6bn roads and rail package in the run-up to the election, with major projects planned for key marginal seats.
The leaked list of projects, reported by the Herald Sun, shows roughly $1.6bn was planned for Queensland electorates – held by Coalition MPs who voted against Turnbull in last month’s leadership spill, including Peter Dutton, George Christensen and Michelle Landry – in a bid to save their seats.
The leaking of the list will deny the Morrison government of some scheduled good news stories in the run-up to the election.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has neither denied nor confirmed the story.
When asked about the list on Melbourne’s 3AW radio, Morrison said: “[If] they think they’ve got a story, they can stack it up.”
The leaked list shows most of the infrastructure projects will occur in Queensland, where the Coalition is struggling to fend off One Nation. However, New South Wales will receive the lion’s share of planned infrastructure spending, given the value of the $3.5bn Western Sydney Rail project, which stretches across seven Labor-held seats. The list of projects includes:
New South Wales:
Victoria, Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales:
Morrison would not deny the story on Monday, telling 3AW’s Neil Mitchell that Victoria would receive billions of dollars in infrastructure funding over the next 10 years. Mitchell asked Morrison if the story was wrong at least, and Morrison avoided the question.
“What I will say is infrastructure commitments by my government will be made by me and they will be a reality when I announce them,” he said.
Mitchell said he’d take that as a yes, but Morrison said Mitchell couldn’t do that.
“No, I don’t think you can,” he said. “What I’m saying is the infrastructure commitments my government makes are decisions that I will take – and I’ve been in the job, as you say, for 11 days.”
Anthony Albanese, the shadow minister for infrastructure, said the story exposes deep divisions within the Morrison-Turnbull-Abbott government.
“[They] are now derailing its attempts to play catch-up on rail and road investment following years of cuts and neglect,” he said.
“The leak to the Herald Sun of a list of the government’s infrastructure project budget decisions, taken but not announced, is a major embarrassment for prime minister Scott Morrison and his rabble of a government, which has an abysmal record when it comes to nation building.
“Federal infrastructure grants to the states will fall off a cliff over the next four years, from $8bn in 20217-18 to $4.5bn in 2021-22.
“In this year’s budget, the government tried to hide its cuts behind promises of new projects in major cities. But none of the money was new and 85% of it won’t be spent for at least four years.”
This article first appeared on www.theguardian.com
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