The first Albanese budget next week will be an important one for the residents of the Mornington Peninsula.
Not because the new Government promised anything for the Peninsula last May – aside from a national program for community batteries for which only the township of Flinders was due to benefit.
In my first week in Parliament, I wrote to the Prime Minister, seeking support for local rail and road projects, and I have discussed our needs in terms of skills, training, infrastructure, and local services in aged and disability with his ministers and neighbouring MPs to ensure the pressures on the Peninsula are understood.
Importantly, there is around $350 million in historical budget allocations for the Peninsula which have not yet been spent on the projects for which they were intended.
This includes $225 million for the electrification and duplication of the Stony Point railway from Frankston to Baxter, $75 million for the Jetty Road overpass in Rosebud, and more than $20 million for improvements to two major intersections on the Nepean Highway, at Forrest Drive and Uralla Road in Mount Martha.
Without access to any major public transport, most residents of the Mornington Peninsula are reliant on private vehicles. Each weekday, more than 47,000 of us get in our car and head to work. Even more get in the car for the school drop, to visit friends and family, or head out to the local shops. 82% of the Peninsula has no access to public transport.
For our car-dependent residents, the only change so far has been a tax-increase, with a recent 22c litre increase in the excise tax at the end of September.
In terms of public transport, a single-track V/Line train line links Frankston to Crib Point, with an intermittent diesel-powered train running every couple of hours between Frankston and Stony Point on the weekend, and marginally more frequently during the week.
This is the only non-electrified line in ‘metro-Melbourne’ – unquestionable proof that at least in the minds of some in Spring Street, that the Mornington Peninsula is regional, undeserving of the metropolitan standard of public transport.
However, in what should be cause for optimism, as Shadow Infrastructure Minister in 2018 now Prime Minister Anthony Albanese committed to the full electrification and duplication of the railway between Frankston and Baxter.
In a 2018 press release which can still be found on the Prime Minister’s website, it says, “Federal Labor is an advocate of the electrification and duplication of the Stony Point Line to Baxter to improve train services for commuters across Dunkley and on the Mornington Peninsula.”
It goes on, “In 2016, Federal Labor committed funding for a business case to ensure the project could proceed as soon as possible upon the election of a Federal Labor Government.”
Well, ‘as soon as possible’ has a date, and that is Budget Night on 25 October.
Assuming the commitment remains unchanged on Budget Night, it will fall to the State Government to do its part and complete the extension, and for this, we look to State candidates for the major parties – the only candidates capable of guaranteeing financial commitments under a government led by either major party.
A week ago, Liberal Candidate Briony Hutton committed a future Victorian Coalition Government to directing $971 million to to electrify and duplicate the line to Baxter, and build Baxter a new transit interchange. Given the Prime Minister’s support for this infrastructure, I hope Hastings’ ALP Candidate, Councillor Paul Mercurio, will do the same.
The upkeep of our roads network is vital to ensure we can get around quickly and safely.
The Jetty Road overpass in Rosebud has had guaranteed federal funds since 2019, and yet works have still not begun. As with the Baxter Rail, I look to major party candidates at the forthcoming State election, Chris Brayne and Sam Groth, to ensure the overpass becomes a reality.
These commitments are relevant to jobs: to the tens of thousands of residents who use our roads each day to get to work, but also to the hundreds of tradies who will contribute to the build of this critical infrastructure in due course. Ultimately, we all benefit.
This is one area that will not be fixed without collaboration between Federal and State Governments. The Victorian Government is the only level of government which can design and build the rail network, as well as maintain and upgrade major roads. It schedules the works and it rolls the trucks. No Victorian Government attention means, quite simply, no action.
With a State Election at the end of next month, now is time for all candidates to put their commitments on the table for the improvement of our major arterials and public transport networks. It’s time to get this done.
First published in the Mornington Peninsula News, 17 October 2020: http://www.mpnews.com.au/2022/10/17/albanese-asked-to-deliver-peninsula-transport-projects/