Andrew Barr criticises Coalition’s “disregard” for Canberra in Budget speech

The ACT Government has criticised the federal Coalition Government’s re-election as it announced its 2019-20 Budget plans for Canberra.

The ACT’s Budget incorporates the territory’s biggest ever infrastructure program, including the development of the stage two light rail to Woden. Stage two of the rail was somewhat stymied in May by the Coalition’s election, which meant that the ACT missed out on a promised boost of $200,000 for the project.

The ACT Treasury said in a statement that it couldn’t allow for local services and infrastructure to fall behind as Canberra’s population grows by around 8,000 people a year.

“The federal Coalition Government has not invested in Canberra over the past six years,” the statement read. “The ACT has received just 0.8 per cent of national infrastructure funding during the Coalition’s last two terms, despite our strong and consistent population growth.”

ACT Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr echoed these comments in his Budget speech yesterday, criticising the Coalition Government’s approach to Canberra.

“Under the federal Coalition Government, we have had to do the heavy lifting of delivering infrastructure and services for Canberrans for the past six years,” he said.

“Despite the ACT’s steady and ongoing growth, we have received far less than our fair share of national infrastructure investment.

“Public service job cuts, decentralisation and unequal funding deals in key areas like health and education have underlined the Coalition’s disregard for Canberra.”

The ACT Government said it plans to bring the light rail to Woden as soon as possible by progressing design, planning and enabling works from the city centre to Woden.

Works will commence on a new bus interchange at Woden that will integrate with the future light rail network on Callam Street. The ACT Government also announced plans to replace the MyWay ticketing system with a new method that can be used across bus and light rail services.

In addition, a park and ride facility will be built at Gungahlin to accommodate “the record numbers of people using light rail in Canberra’s north since it launched in April”, the Government says.

Barr added that with around 270,000 people expected to be living, working and studying within 800 metres of the City to Woden corridor by 2036, it was important that the light rail investment be delivered promptly.

“With stage one of light rail to Gungahlin successfully up and running, we are turning our focus to delivering stage two to Woden,” he said.

“Canberra needs a clean, fast and accessible public transport network to help keep our city moving as we grow, and stage two will provide the southern spine for our integrated network.”