The Age: Can Victoria build all of its infrastructure projects at once? May 4, 2014 Richard Willingham, State Political Correspondent
Victoria can and will build its big infrastructure projects simultaneously, Premier Denis Napthine says, dismissing claims that the state does not have the manpower or money to build a multibillion dollar pipeline of projects.
Concerns have been raised that Dr Napthine’s plan to build both stages of the East West Link at the same time – he has also said a Coalition government will build an airport rail link and Melbourne Metro rail – could be affected by a skills shortage and price.
“We do have the wherewithal, we do have the manpower, the expertise to build all these infrastructure programs at the same time,” Dr Napthine said on Sunday.
He has been asked several times and is confident the state can manage to build all the projects, saying last week that he had no doubts that the building and construction industry would respond to the challenge.
He said it was fantastic to “have a very crowded and aggressive infrastructure agenda”.
Dr Napthine also said there was a high level of infrastructure investment from overseas and interstate.
In March, Treasurer Michael O’Brien said Victoria could not handle building multiple large infrastructure projects at the same time, claiming too much “overlap” could force up costs by creating labour shortages.
Chris Walton, chief executive of Professionals Australia, the group that represents engineers, said multiple inquiries had shown that the state was not “an informed purchaser”, as it did not have the internal capacity to scope projects properly.
Mr Walton cited federal and Victorian inquiries that found that government infrastructure projects blow out, with 26 per cent of $1 billion-plus projects more than $200 million over budget.
“The problem Victoria had with the school halls program looks like a walk in the park compared to what they are about to encounter,” Mr Walton said.
He said there was not enough capacity in the sector to deliver all the projects at once and without competition prices would go up.
“Our [Victoria’s] current capacity is such that it’s the equivalent of renovating your house and giving the builder a blank cheque. If you try and do multiple renovations and there aren’t enough builders it will drive the price up.”
He said without enough engineers the government was effectively throwing money into an empty room.
Shadow Treasurer Tim Pallas said it was clear that the government was making politically motivated infrastructure announcements rather than projects that were good for the community.
“You have to have a clear plan that you meticulously implement step by step; what we have here is a shambolic process where infrastructure is more about headlines than deadlines,” Mr Pallas said.
On Sunday Dr Napthine confirmed that there would be a surplus in Tuesday’s budget but would not say how much.
And with the federal government warning Australians to tighten their belts to brace for a tough budget, Dr Napthine said the Victorian budget was shaping up better.
“People have no reason to fear when they have got a Coalition government,” Dr Napthine said.