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WHAT did Victorians do wrong to be saddled with a government as hopelessly inept as the one led by Premier Dan Andrews? If the people always get the government they deserve then Victorians must truly be a wicked lot of miscreants.
We’ve watched Andrews and his ministers grandstand about federal issues such as asylum-seeker policy, claim all criticism of the deeply flawed Safe Schools program is motivated by bigotry, and rail against bullying while strongarming 60,000 CFA volunteers. And then there’s the not so insignificant matter of squandering more than a billion dollars not to build a desperately needed road while breaking an election promise not to spend a cent on East West Link compensation.
Andrews’s blind adherence to hard-Left ideology has also meant Victorians are denied a world-class private ward in the new Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre — a decision that resulted in Peter Mac losing $20 million in pledges.
State Labor’s latest stroke of genius is to flood the media with a series of self-congratulatory advertisements trumpeting Melbourne’s superiority.
The “State of Momentum” ads are supposed to attract businesses to Victoria by spruiking Melbourne as being the place where “the best lattes meet the best leasing terms”.
The ads appear unlikely to deliver any discernible benefit to Victorians. Their only purpose seems to be to massage the fragile ego of the state Labor Party.
However, the folly that might cause Labor more damage than all of the above is the Sky Rail project.
The policy was announced with little consultation — even the government’s own Infrastructure Victoria body was not consulted — but will have a significant impact on the amenity of neighbourhoods in its path. In the lead-up to the 2014 state poll, Labor promised to scrap dozens of traffic-clogging level-crossings, which would be rebuilt underground.
However, it has since decided that it’s preferable, not to mention cheaper, to instead elevate a section of the rail line in Melbourne’s south east. The result is an ugly concrete Sky Rail between Caulfield and Dandenong on the Cranbourne Pakenham line.
The three-storey-high structure will dominate the landscape and will undoubtedly affect property prices, particularly in the areas where the rail line will be elevated.
Locals have also expressed concerns about crime, noise and privacy issues as well as the character of their neighbourhoods changing for the worse.
But no one within the Andrews government seems to be heeding those concerns as work on the $1.6 billion project proceeds, despite a chorus of objections from residents and local traders.
Environmental concerns have also been disregarded as scores of historic red gums are cut down as part of the project.
In Noble Park, local Gaye Guest is distressed about the felling of about 100 trees, including roughly 65 river red gums.
“This is a travesty,” she said.
“You can’t replace 200-year-old trees. These gum trees are really significant, and we’ll never get them back again.”
Premier Daniel Andrews. Picture: Eugene HylandIn Carnegie, the Level Crossing Removal Authority has been accused of cutting down historic trees under the cover of darkness.
Residents report that LXRA workers attempted to cut down a 100-year-old gum tree near midnight, before driving off when confronted by locals.
Amos Hunt’s Carnegie property backs on to the rail tracks, but he has not been consulted or offered temporary accommodation despite “sustained loud noise” from works taking place 24 hours a day.
“No one knows anything that’s going on,” Mr Hunt said.
“I’m very frustrated, pretty upset and very uncertain about not having any idea about what’s happening and when.”
Other property owners are distraught about their properties being overshadowed by the nine-metre eyesore and believe the government should compensate them for any fall in property values.
The fear is that the proudly pig-headed Andrews government will extend the Sky Rail strategy to other lines. People living in Melbourne’s sandbelt are particularly concerned about the Frankston line being next.
It is that fear that could cost Labor dearly at the 2018 state election.
Along with the protracted CFA dispute, the Sky Rail furore was an important issue in certain seats in the recent federal poll. It could be argued that those two state issues conspired to keep Bill Shorten from the Lodge.
Victoria is the only state where Labor failed to pick up a seat — indeed, they lost one to the Coalition,
The Liberal party recognised the strength of feeling against high-rise rail and campaigned heavily on the issue in key seats, including those along the Frankston train line.
An analysis of the booths in the areas most affected by Sky Rail shows the issue was damaging for the Labor Party: Hughesdale, Murrumbeena and Carnegie booths were among those to record strong swings against Labor.
The shadow minister for planning, David Davis, has called on the Andrews government to “take a little longer and spend a little more” to put rail crossings underground.
“In a travesty of process and breaching all longstanding protocol, Daniel Andrews has proceeded with his Sky Rail without a business case, without an Environmental Effects Statement, and without independent noise studies,” Davis said.
The Andrews government should admit it has blundered and start listening to the community. Victorians were promised a rail-under-road solution and that is what Labor should deliver.
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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