Growers in north-west Victoria have endured another year with a crumbling, inefficient freight rail network, while the Andrews Labor Government refuses to provide $5 million to get the Murray Basin Rail Project back on track.
Today marks 12 months of the Andrews Government refusing to co-contribute $5 million for planning, following a $200.2 million fund injection from the Commonwealth Government on December 16 last year.
Exactly 12 months later, the project remains stalled with Labor’s Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan refusing to provide the funds.
Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh said a commitment to restarting the Project was the early Christmas present growers and transport stakeholders deserved.
“The benefits to productivity and profitability that standardisation of north-west Victoria’s freight rail network will deliver are once-in-a-generation,” Mr Walsh said.
“All that’s needed is a $5 million co-contribution from Victoria for planning for the business case to get the Basin Rail back on track.
“This freight line is a crucial link that gets locally produced fruit and vegetables, wine, grain and mineral sands from the Sunraysia and Mallee regions into markets in Melbourne and across the world.
“Finishing this Project – in full – will mean more product can be transported, faster, and with improved efficiency and will also take thousands of truck movements off crumbling country roads.”
To date, the Commonwealth has contributed $440.4 million for the project.
The original scope included work on the Sea Lake and Manangatang lines but in February this year Ms Allan back-flipped, claiming in a radio interview the two lines won’t be standardised “in the life of this [Labor] government”.
“The Federal Liberals and Nationals understand the benefits the Basin Rail will deliver, putting in more than their fair share to make sure it’s finished in full, to the original scope,” Mr Walsh said.
“Given the absolute mess that Minister for Excuses Jacinta Allan has made of the Basin Rail upgrade, she should be more than willing to stump up to fix it and finish it.
“The Minister’s botched it so badly that producers and transporters say the network is slower than before work started.
“The Andrews Labor Government always seems to be able to find billions of dollars to cover its cost overruns in Melbourne, surely it can find $5 million to restart a project that will transform the future for our rural communities.”