Government planning moving from considered analysis to panic in face of industry lobby:
North East Link moving up the list again?
The Age reported on 27 June (Josh Gordon, “Wells plans to fix projects dilemma”) that the Baillieu government is to reconsider a range of transport projects that were on the agenda of the Brumby government, including the purported “missing link” between the Metropolitan Ring Road and the Eastern Freeway.
This project suddenly appeared without any community debate or analysis in the Brumby government’s 2008 Victorian Transport Plan. Expectations about the project proceeding have been dampened by Baillieu government spokespersons since they won the 2010 state election. The government said that it would take a considered view of what needs to be done in urban planning and transport. The government declared it was not going to repeat the mistakes of the Brumby government.
However, according to The Age the Victorian government has now commenced the development of an “infrastructure pipeline” of short, medium and long-term infrastructure projects following complaints from construction industry business figures that their work is drying up.
This announcement appears to fly in the face of an earlier government declaration that the government would be guided by its review of the metropolitan planning strategy in deciding priorities for urban infrastructure, including major rail and roads projects. Planning expert David Vorchheimer has recently been appointed to conduct the review which is expected to be completed in early 2013.
Whilst Victorian Treasurer, Kim Wells, said he was determined to make rigorous decisions on infrastructure projects to avoid mistakes of the previous government, the Baillieu government is starting to look panicked. It is giving all the appearances that they are responding to industry pressure groups rather than in the long-term interests of the state and its residents.
There were indeed cases of really bad decision-making on transport infrastructure projects under the previous government. Weeks after election the Baillieu government discovered a $700 million blowout in required funding for the Regional Rail Link project. The Victorian Auditor-General recently reported to the Parliament that the $760 million Peninsula Link freeway project in Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula had not been justified by the sponsoring authority , the Linking Melbourne Authority.
The suspicion remains that Peninsula Link was more than anything the result of real estate industry lobbying. The Baillieu government’s recent decision to review Melbourne’s green wedges gives further credence to that view.
That the Baillieu government should look to panicky so early in its term is especially worrisome. What has happened over the last 30 years is that incoming governments have managed to survive two years or so of their first term before they succumb to the blandishments and threats of entrenched interests in the road transport industry, and a new program of freeway developments are rolled out to keep them at bay. This time they seem to have a foot on the new government’s throat well inside 12 months of their election.
- Vic consulted over project deferrals: PM (news.theage.com.au)
- Andrews attacks Vic govt inaction (news.theage.com.au)