Transport Infrastructure Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Jacinta Allan and Shadow Transport Infrastructure Minister Matthew Bach have clashed to break the various commitments already made.
The debate started with a question asking how much the SRL will cost, if the Andrews government is re-elected. The SRL is expected to be the costliest project in state history with construction work just three months after what will last decades.
“We estimate that the first stage of SRL will cost between $30 billion and $35 billion,” Allan said.
“That’s exactly the part of the project where we’re seeing early work going on right now.”
An independent analysis by Victoria’s Parliamentary Budget Office published in August estimated that the project would cost more than $200 billion by the estimated completion date of 2084-85.
Allan criticized the independent analysis saying it was “deliberately misleading in its framing”.
However, if the Coalition is elected in two weeks, all work will stop to ensure that every penny is spent on solving the health crisis.
“All the experts agree that SRL will cost $200 billion to build,” Bach said.
“Victoria already had more debt than NSW, Queensland and Tasmania combined. It just means even higher taxes for Victorians who suffered 43 tax increases under Andrews’ Labor government.”
Bach said it was time to focus on “solving the health crisis”.
“It’s the responsible thing to do, the prudent thing to do,” he added.
The Andrews government says it can do both, however – build the SRL and invest in public health.
“Well, not only can you do both, but I think Victorians would expect their government to do both,” Allan said.
“There are 8,000 jobs at risk. That’s 8,000 wages at risk from the SRL cut.”
Allan said the SRL will come with state, federal and non-governmental funding.
The next question is based on how the Andrews government would bring government debt back into surplus by 2026.
“The State of Victoria is on track to move towards an operating surplus in 2026,” Allan said.
“It comes from making a series of decisions on how to manage state finances prudently, but also how to invest in productive infrastructure.”
The shadow minister said if elected he would also return the state to surplus by encroaching on debt ceilings.
“We think it’s important,” Bach said.
“We have also taken a whole series of responsible and prudent decisions. For example, to ensure that our important cost-of-living measures, the reduction of stamp duties, are limited in time there.”
If elected, a coalition government will cap public transport fares at $2 a day and $1 for concession cardholders to ease cost-of-living pressures.
“Victorians are experiencing a cost of living crisis,” Bach said.
“Many Victorians are struggling. A key measure of the cost of living that we offer at election time is a flat rate of $2 all day, every day.”
Government Andrews said the cost of traveling on the regional rail network would be cheaper if re-elected and would be capped at $9.20 a day.
“Only an Andrews Labor government will bring fairness to regional public transport fares,” Allan said.
The transport minister said only an Andrews government “could be trusted”.
“We’ve seen it in the past and heard it again with the deception of the Liberal Party, they just can’t be trusted,” Allan said.
“They want to cut SRL, they want to audit all of our projects. That means fewer jobs and that means cuts to projects.”
The Shadow Transport Minister said the Coalition had a ‘responsible plan to deliver public transport’ and ‘get the roads all Victorians deserve to get home safer and sooner’.
All Victorians now pay higher taxes. The priority (of the Andrews government) is a $200 billion rail tunnel that just doesn’t add up,” Bach said.
“The Liberals’ policy is very different. We want to solve the health crisis, provide cheaper public transport and fix our roads.”