The Age: Vics step up Canberra lobbying for budget cash. April 15, 2014. James Massola, Richard Willingham
Victorian Treasurer Michael O’Brien. Photo: Jason South
The Napthine government has stepped up its lobbying of the Abbott government for a significant infrastructure spend in the federal budget, with funding for the second part of the East West Link high on its wish list.
Victorian Treasurer Michael O’Brien flew to Canberra on Tuesday for a range of meetings with federal counterparts, including assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs.
Victoria is making a concerted push for the federal government to bring forward spending for the second stage of the East West Link between Parkville and the Western Ring Road.
The Abbott government has already committed $1.5 billion to the first section of the tunnel between Clifton Hill and Parkville, with construction set to start later this year. The first section of the project is expected to cost between $6 billion and $8 billion and part two is expected to cost more.
Premier Denis Napthine has frequently said his government wants to build a suite of infrastructure projects, including East West Link and the Melbourne Metro rail project.
On Sunday Dr Napthine also said his government would be build a rail link to Melbourne airport, with estimates it could cost up to $3 billion.
Dr Napthine’s government has been focusing its efforts on the road project as Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his government are reluctant to provide funding for urban rail projects.
Mr Abbott has promised to be an “infrastructure prime minister”, but relations between Canberra and the state government have been strained in recent months following the decision of Holden and Toyota to pull out of Australia, and over the future of fruit processor SPC.
Last week Fairfax Media revealed Victoria’s frustrations because the federal government had not finalised funding for key infrastructure projects ahead of the Victorian budget on May 6.
Mr O’Brien’s visit to the capital came as Canberra announced the federal government would spend tens of millions of dollars on infrastructure for a second Sydney airport, and as the first meeting of a new cabinet infrastructure sub-committee comprising Mr Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Mr Briggs was held.
With the federal budget now just weeks away, the sub-committee is finalising the infrastructure money it will allocate in the first budget of the Abbott government.
Last month, Mr Abbott said that by providing money for road projects, the federal government would help the state government by freeing up funding for the planned metropolitan rail project.
He also held out the prospect of the second stage of the East West Link being brought forward.
“The first stage of East West Link will create nearly 3500 construction jobs. I’m talking to Premier Denis Napthine about the second stage of East West Link, because if we can do the two concurrently, obviously that’s another 3000 or more jobs.”
The Victorian Treasurer’s spokeswoman confirmed Mr O’Brien went to Canberra to continue discussions with the federal government over the state’s budget priorities.
“The Commonwealth and Victoria are progressing infrastructure initiatives to grow Victoria’s economy, boost productivity and create more jobs,’’ she said.