Freight Rail, Passenger Rail

Andrews, Morrison trade barbs over infrastructure funding

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews and prime minister Scott Morrison have exchanged hostile letters over what Andrews describes as the Commonwealth’s continued “short-changing” of Victoria over infrastructure funding.

In a letter published to his Twitter feed on Sunday morning, Andrews told the PM he looked forward to discussing Commonwealth funding at Wednesday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting on population.

“The Victorian Government believes any discussion about population growth in Victoria is meaningless in the absence of a Commonwealth commitment to properly and fairly fund the infrastructure and services that we require,” the letter states.

Andrews says Victoria’s share of Commonwealth infrastructure funding has fallen to roughly 10 per cent over the last five years, despite the state housing 25 per cent of the Australian population.

He has also singled out the Commonwealth’s continued withholding of $3 billion in funding in a “locked box” for the East-West Link tollroad project, which Andrews cancelled when he was first elected in 2014.

“[The East-West Link] has now been rejected by the Victorian people at two successive elections,” Andrews wrote.

“The Commonwealth continues to withhold this funding – which would partly repair our severe funding deficit – in the full knowledge that the project will not be built.”

In a return-of-fire from Morrison published by The Australian and The AFR, the prime minister accused Andrews of using the COAG meeting as a platform to campaign for Labor ahead of the federal election early next year.

“I would politely suggest that Premier Andrews let Bill Shorten fight his own political battles,” the prime minister was quoted as saying.

“I’m very pleased to keep working with the Andrews Government on projects like our $5 billion commitment to the Tulla Rail [Melbourne Airport rail link],” Morrison added.

A spokesperson for Morrison quoted by the AFR  also addressed the East-West Link funding issue, saying the Victorian Government’s choice to not build the tollroad was “up to them”.

“We have fully committed $17 billion since 2013-14 to build and fix Victoria’s roads and railways, partnering with the Victorian Government,” the spokesperson was quoted.