Treasurer Tim Pallas could barely contain his delight this week at the price the lease of the Port of Melbourne asset has yielded. Despite misgivings about the stake China has taken in the largest container port in the Southern Hemisphere or the peevish reneging by the Federal Government in short changing Victoria, this is some rare budget good news. However it is time to get serious about just how the long term profit can be utilised for the best long-term good.
Critically the very growth of the port has produced a key demand for expensive long term infrastructure in the west of Melbourne. The Western Duplicator is one such piece of infrastructure; to take truck pressure off the streets of Yarraville and ease the impossible burden that is placed on the West Gate Bridge. Important because this is not just about the inconvenience or annoyance of a few local residents or motorists but a key element in ensuring the potential for growth in the Victorian economy.
The money should also be returned to non-connected growth sorely in need of infrastructure. One critical area of demand are exploding growth corridors to Melbourne’s West. They need vastly improved public transport if they are not to become the nightmare dormitory suburbs condemned to three-hour car commutes. Why this matters to Ballarat is major investment in the track infrastructure to the metropolitan fringes is vital to ensure the future efficiency of the system where more and more regional trains compete with a burgeoning and hopefully growing metropolitan network to suburbs like Melton and Toolern Vale.
For our city the priority transport infrastructure will be the projects that heighten Ballarat’s advantage over a highly congested Melbourne but also ensure its commercial and professional opportunities for the next fifty years to come. A big part of this will be connectivity; efficient and rapid routes to shift people and large-scale goods to where they need to be.
The State Government came up with the goods in the last State Budget for future Ballarat rail commuters but this is another opportunity to think long-term and overcome fifty years of public transport neglect. It is most encouraging that almost a billion dollars of this sale revenue have been earmarked for regional development. Everyone wil be clamouring for these funds. Is it too much to ask that political expedients be ignored for some genuine long-term thinking?