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The federal election is over. It’s now time for Victoria to negotiate with the Commonwealth government over some key infrastructure projects made possible by recent campaign commitments.
Bella, one of the 4000-tonne boring machines that will create the West Gate Tunnel in Melbourne, is dissembled at a factory in China so it could be shipped to Australia.CREDIT:WEST GATE TUNNEL PROJECT
Despite competing state and federal mandates over aspects of these projects, there is a way to achieve genuine progress that the public will welcome as vital infrastructure and not punish as broken commitments.
Big ideas require mature thinking. That is, thinking that surpasses all the pride, pettiness and brinkmanship that can so often hamper effective government.
Right now, the Victorian government has a couple of problems that other governments would fall over themselves trying to court. The federal government has offered $4 billion for the East West Link, made shortly before last week’s election, and committed $260 million for the removal of the Glenferrie Road Kooyong level crossing with business cases for nearby level crossings on Tooronga Road, Hawthorn and Madden Grove, Burnley. They’re all golden opportunities to address congestion and, if pursued wisely, secure added public transport capacity across our transport system.
The state government’s position on the East West Link is well known. It’s completely opposed to the project, a policy it has taken to two elections. Whatever one might say about the government’s actions in 2015 when it cancelled the project, its policy does need to be recognised.
Like so many others, however, I cannot forgive the egregious act of tearing up a contract with the $1.3 billion in compensation that the project’s cancellation entailed.
As for the business case, it always irked me that a more favourable methodology was adopted to highlight the benefits of the West Gate Tunnel in contrast to that used for the East West Link. Further, putting the issue of the 2014 business case to one side, the North East Link will only intensify the need for the East West Link, with so many thousands of vehicles that will pour onto the eastern freeway every day.
But, acknowledging reality, I can also understand that by the 2018 election the state government’s position was clear, and arguably constitutes as much of a mandate as that of the federal government’s mandate to fund the road’s construction. As much as I wish the state government would simply build the road, it’s clear both levels of government will have to come to the party.
While it’s the classic irresistible force meeting the immovable object, the question is what ought to happen now.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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