The Age: Victoria’s new marginal seats seek election promises on transport. March 17, 2014. Aisha Dow
Councils in Melbourne’s outer fringe are determined to use their new-found status as marginal electorates to push for critical transport projects.
Commentators say two seats in growth areas in the north and south-east could decide which major party will win government in Victoria’s November election.
At the northern fringes of the city, a huge boundary change to the seat of Yan Yean has put the traditional ALP stronghold on a knife edge. Labor has held the seat since its creation in 1992, but the redistribution means the Liberal Party is now predicted to hold a tiny advantage in an area that takes in Wallan, Whittlesea, Mernda and Doreen.
The reform makes Yan Yean, held by Labor MP Danielle Green, the most marginal seat in Victoria.
On Monday Whittlesea Council will launch an RACV-endorsed campaign for a new $115 million Hume Freeway interchange at Epping and a $650 million extension of the train line from South Morang to Mernda. A council website urges residents to send a reply-paid postcard to Victorian MPs seeking basic transport services.
South Morang and Mernda Rail Alliance spokesman Darren Peters said for the first time local residents were in a powerful bargaining position. ”The parties know that if they don’t make that promise [to extend the rail line] they won’t win the seat and they won’t win government in Victoria because the margin is so slim,” he said.
”Local residents are so fed up with having to drive 45 minutes to get through the suburb. If the rail line is promised they are going to vote for that party.”
Mr Peters said the alliance had recently met Labor leader Daniel Andrews who was ”very receptive to the idea”.
He said they were also seeking further discussions with the Napthine government.
A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Terry Mulder would not commit to a starting date for the Mernda line, but said extra train trips were being progressively introduced. ”PTV’s rail plan will allow us to keep up with growing demand on the South Morang line making an extension to Mernda possible,” she said.
Opposition transport spokeswoman Jill Hennessy said, if elected, Labor would review PTV’s priority list ”with a view to bringing forward Mernda rail”.
Another tight election race is set for Melbourne’s south-east where the small lead of Labor MP Jude Perera in the seat of Cranbourne has been further whittled by a redistribution.
Earlier this month, Premier Denis Napthine announced a $2.5 billion upgrade to the Cranbourne and Pakenham rail lines. Casey Council will use the campaign to push for a 20-minute bus service to the city and up to $375 million of road duplications and upgrades.
Casey’s mayor Geoff Ablett, who will again contest the seat for the Liberals, said his top transport priority was the $25 million to $40 million Hallam Road duplication and upgrade to the South Gippsland Highway intersection.
Monash University state political expert Nick Economou said whoever won Cranbourne and Yan Yean would win the election. However, he does not expect marginal seats to get special treatment. ”A lot of the road funding decisions are driven by a sense of terrible traffic problems rather than pork barrelling.”