Relief is on the way for congested Victorian roads and public transport.
That’s the message from the state Labor government’s budget, to be handed down on Tuesday afternoon, with $13.7 billion earmarked for an infrastructure splurge.
Treasurer Tim Pallas will deliver his fourth budget surplus, this time expected to be $1.4 billion, as the economic boom continues.
It comes a week after the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) named Cranbourne East in Melbourne’s outer south-east the fastest-growing suburb in the country. Melbourne’s population is expected to overtake Sydney within eight years if trends continue.
That population will need to be serviced by much more infrastructure. And Mr Pallas said the government was ready with a budget all about “getting things done”.
“We’re talking $13.7 billion in one year’s spend on infrastructure. It’s a pretty clear sign that this government is serious about making a dramatic change to the way this society operates, how our roads and our rail networks connect communities,” Mr Pallas told reporters on Monday.
Here’s some of what we know to expect from the budget.
Roads and rail
The government has already announced $2.2 billion in Tuesday’s budget to upgrade 13 arterial roads across north and south-east Melbourne suburbs.
Country roads will also be bolstered by $941 million, $333 million of which will go towards fixing more than 1000 kilometres of road across the state.
The government has also committed to fast-tracking the North East link with $110 million, while safety at school zones will be tightened with $23.9 million.
Cranbourne, Pakenham and Sunbury rail lines will get $572 million upgrades to cope with rapid growth.
An additional $600 million will add car parking to outer suburban train stations.
Nine News also reported $926 million would fast-track the level crossing removals.
The government has committed $50 million to consider a fast rail line from Geelong to Melbourne Airport via Sunshine.
Shadow Treasurer Michael O’Brien said the government splurge was “quite bizarre” after Labor spent more than $1 billion tearing up the East West Link contract.
“Labor seems to have finally cottoned on to the fact that we’ve got a congestion crisis here in Melbourne,” Mr O’Brien said on Monday.
Education and health
Mr Pallas also foreshadowed school and health spending on Monday.
A few education projects funded in the 2018-19 budget have already been announced.
Labor last week committed $353.2 million to build 12 new schools in the outer suburbs, and add facilities to seven others already under construction.
Regional Victoria will get $180.8 million to build, plan and upgrade schools.
The budget will also include $43 million to build and upgrade early learning facilities.
Wonthaggi Hospital will get a $115 million expansion, and rural and regional health infrastructure will get a $50 million upgrade.
Sunshine Hospital in Melbourne’s west will get a $29.6 million emergency department upgrade, Premier Daniel Andrews and Health Minister Jill Hennessy announced on Monday evening.
The budget will include $124 million for electronic medical records across Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne Health and Royal Women’s Hospital.
Hospitals across the state will also get $50 million to cope with the flu this winter, after a horror and deadly season last year.
A new bone marrow research centre will receive $2.1 million.
Law and order
Mr Pallas did not raise law and order when he spoke to reporters on the eve of the budget.
But crime has remained at the forefront of the opposition’s agenda after sustained reporting on home invasions over the past six months.
The government will build a 700-bed maximum-security men’s prison at Lara, near Geelong, with $689.5 million.
A $115 million police and crime-prevention package will include $36 million for a new police station in the CBD, $25 million for specialist training and $24 million to tackle cybercrime.
On Monday evening, ABC reported $285 million would fund the recruitment of more judges and prosectors to ease pressure on the justice system.
Mr Pallas rejected the cash splash was connected to the state election in November this year.
“This is not a process of me conjuring up money, this is the economy growing,” Mr Pallas said.
Debt has reduced to 4.6 per cent, down from roughly 6 per cent the government had inherited.
“We’ll also be reporting $2.5 billion worth of surplus on average across the forward estimates,” he said.
“We have the strongest economy in the nation, we have the strongest job growth in the nation.”
He attributed the surplus to a booming property and jobs market and an increased share of the GST.
“All the economic settings are solid and sound, however, of course we do need to be conscious of the fact that governments, good, prudent governments, need to make provision for any external shocks that might impact on the economy,” Mr Pallas said.
The budget was based on conservative predictions, he said.
Mr O’Brien said Labor’s splurge would burden Victorians, as cost of living concerns increase.
“Whatever Labor announces [on Tuesday], it will be funded by higher debt and higher cost of living burdens on ordinary Victorian households,” Mr O’Brien said.
“When Tim Pallas boasts about the size of his surplus, it’s a surplus built on higher taxes and higher costs of living.”
Mr Pallas insisted more treats would be unveiled on Tuesday.
“We’ve got plenty left,” he said.
“I haven’t done much media, the Treasurer at least deserves the right to give some good news and we’ll be spreading some good news [on Tuesday].”