The first Albanese budget is one of concern for Mornington Peninsula residents. There was no clarity on the future of our road and rail projects. Instead of considering our need for more specialist training on the peninsula, the federal government took away what was to be our only higher education institute, one dedicated to the study of environmental and climate science no less.
Over several years, the former Coalition government directed a significant amount of money towards improving the peninsula’s roads where they have become patently unsafe.
Where the Mornington Peninsula Freeway meets Jetty Road, the township of Rosebud is bifurcated between homes on one side, and child care and schools on the other, creating a horrific game of freeway-frogger, as mums with prams and kids with school bags, dash across a stretch of road where drivers, often unfamiliar with the peninsula, are coming off a 100km freeway, onto an 80kph state arterial road – with oncoming traffic from four directions.
Further north, the major thoroughfare of the Nepean Highway, has a number of unsafe intersections – chief among them, Uralla Road and Forest Drive, Mount Martha which have been the site of many serious accidents. The fully funded upgrades of these roads by the Commonwealth, are yet to be delivered by the state government. Forest Drive is stuck in a timeline blowout and Uralla Road has no start or completion date.
Finally, there’s $225 million sitting waiting to support the electrification of Baxter rail, a project which seems to have had the highest credentialled political support: it was originally secured by the then MP’s for Dunkley and Flinders, Chris Crewther and Greg Hunt, and received the co-commitment from Dunkley MP Peta Murphy, together with none other than the prime minister when he was shadow infrastructure minister.
Already appropriated, these funds should be secured for the peninsula, but whether they become a reality or not depends entirely on the commitments made by state candidates and the outcome of this month’s state election.
The commitments [Liberal Nepean candidate] Sam Groth and [Liberal Hastings candidate] Briony Hutton have made to these projects are huge: a combined $175 million for Jetty Road, and $971 million for Baxter rail. I hope that the Labor candidates for Nepean and Hastings match them.
But if the party which forms government after the state election has not backed in Jetty Road and Baxter rail, the Albanese government may remove the funds for these projects, as it did this week with the National Centre for Coasts and Climate – which was due to receive its final $8 million in funding from the Commonwealth, before groundworks commenced next year.
The National Centre for Coasts and Climate was to establish a world-leading research precinct in Point Nepean National Park.
Funded in the 2019 budget, it would establish an interdisciplinary research facility on marine and coastal ecosystems, climate science and environmental management.
Bringing together two of Australia’s best universities, Melbourne and Monash, world class research would have enlivened some of the rapidly deteriorating buildings at Point Nepean. It would have established a hub for community engagement and education around all things relating to our unique waters and wildlife.
When more than $17 million has already gone into this project and years of public consultation undertaken, the move to cancel it seems senseless and at vast odds with the government’s narrative regarding the environment and climate change.
For those who were hoping for cost-of-living relief and support for local businesses, the budget fails to address the key issues of the peninsula. There is nothing to address our critical lack of workers across all industries, nor to create more child care places. During the federal election campaign, Labor repeatedly promised an increase in real wages, but its budget builds in a decrease in real wages.
Inflation is predicted to stay above seven per cent; interest rates to continue to climb, energy prices to increase by over 50 per cent, gas prices above 40 per cent, while property prices are forecast to drop up to 20 per cent; and the threat remains that Labor will abolish the tax cuts legislated by the previous government.
Overall, it is a bad budget for hard-working Flinders families and businesses.