The Age: Doubts on Abbott’s tunnel promise. Richard Willingham State Political Correspondent for The Age (October 17, 2012)
Opposite Leader Tony Abbott never spoke to the co-ordinator at Infrastructure Australia – or his office – about the controversial East-West tunnel in Melbourne, which a Coalition government has promised to fund to the tune of $1.5 billion, despite claims that he had spoken to the authority about the plan.
On June 30, Mr Abbott announced a future Coalition government would contribute $4 billion towards major road projects in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, saying he had discussions with state governments and Infrastructure Australia.
In Melbourne, the Coalition promised $1.5 billion for the East-West link with Mr Abbott saying: “Infrastructure Australia have given me a categoric [sic] assurance that this project stacks up.”
And, “I explicitly discussed this specific project with Infrastructure Australia before making the announcement”.
But during a Senate budget hearing in Canberra today, the co-ordinator of Infrastructure Australia, Michael Deegan, said he or his office had never spoken to Mr Abbott or his office about the project.
In the most recent submission the Baillieu government asked for $30 million for the project for further development, while Infrastructure Australia’s priority project list states the project has “real potential” and should be given money for development.
However it is not a high priority, especially compared to the Melbourne Metro Rail project which is listed as “ready to proceed”.
On September 4, Mr Abbott said: “We spoke to Infrastructure Australia. We’ve spoken to the Victorian government. This is the number one major project that Victoria needs right now.”
Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese today said Mr Abbott had to come clean about assurances from Infrastructure Australia.
“It appears the ‘discussions’ Mr Abbott refers to never happened and the ‘categorical assurance’ he claims to have received was never given,” Mr Albanese said.