House debates

Tuesday, 14 November 2023

Constituency Statements

Nicholls Electorate: Infrastructure

4:06 pm

Photo of Sam BirrellSam Birrell (Nicholls, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

One of the really good things about the previous coalition government was that it funded and built infrastructure. In my electorate, this included stage 3 of the Shepparton rail line upgrade, which is under construction at the moment; the Shepparton Art Museum, which is a great piece of cultural infrastructure; and the Echuca-Moama bridge. I was very pleased to walk across the Echuca-Moama bridge with the person who was then the infrastructure minister, the member for Gippsland. We were reflecting on governments that actually built things and have a legacy of things that actually improve productivity.

I'm very worried that we're not going to see anything get built in regional Victoria again. I'll give you an example. I fear the 90-day infrastructure review—now closing in on 200 days—has in its sights the Shepparton bypass project, a critical road project in one of the most important centres in the food bowl of Australia. It would take trucks out of the main CBD and, with a second bridge crossing, make it much easier for us to cross over the Goulburn River, which is a divide in our area. The coalition government committed 80 per cent of what was then the best guess at what the cost would be. The reason the coalition federal government did that was to try and drag a recalcitrant Victorian government to the table on that project. Now it's subject to the 90-day—or 200-day—review and I'm worried that it's going to get cut altogether. Of course, we know it needs more money, but this was an attempt by the previous coalition government to put some money on the table—and get the Victorian government to the table—to build some infrastructure.

I read this morning in the Herald Sun that we're moving away from 80-20 funding arrangements for infrastructure projects, whereby the federal government—which has more money, particularly compared to Victoria, which doesn't have much at all because of the management of the Andrews-Allan government—funds 80 per cent and the states fund 20 per cent, and instead moving to a fifty-fifty situation. That's why I say I fear that nothing will ever get built in Victoria again. Not only has the Victorian government blown the budget, but all of the money and focus seems to be on a crazy project called the Suburban Rail Loop, and Premier Allan is asking for more money for that pie-in-the-sky project. This is at the expense of critical infrastructure that supports where the money is made in regional Victoria: the Goulburn Valley. Road and rail projects are what we need to focus on, and the federal government needs to get to the table and start building things, as the previous coalition government did.